Over ten years ago I was fortunate enough to come across Tom and Sarah Widdicombe. It was at a time in my life when I had a horse I couldn’t do much with, and they showed me a way of working with horses that opened my eyes to a whole other world of possibility. They were two of the best horse people I have come across. The subtle art of horsemanship they exposed me to, where feel was developed between you and horse down a simple rope, or every time you placed your hand on your horse (or were near them...) well, my goodness, this was something different.
However, even they had come across a horse that horsemanship alone couldn’t provide the answers for. They had actually bred her, a small, round, black and white cob, called Bullet. They sold Bullet and her life under saddle started really well, but somewhere along the line she became anxious about being ridden, and despite her diminutive stature, she started to scare some people. She had extreme separation anxiety, with the capacity to spray riders off sideways as she span round in ever decreasing circles. It’s surprisingly hard to sit on a short wheel based, highly mobile horse as its legs go ten to the dozen, wizzing round at high speed. I know, because I sat on her during this time, and it was quite a disconcerting experience. She would go behind the bit, tuck her nose in and rush around. You had no way of communicating with her, as if you picked up any contact she just made her neck shorter and shorter. No one had taught her to overflex, but no one knew what to do about it either.
Tom and Sarah really wanted to help the person out who now owned her, so they took her back to see what they could get sorted. They both recounted long, interminable sessions using every cowboy trick they knew to try to get Bullet to relax, and change her ideas about being back up in the field with her friends. Sarah recalls many a sleepless night wondering what on earth they might be able to do. Then one morning she read this in ‘Racinet explains Baucher’ - ‘ The big discovery one makes when one starts studying and applying Baucherist techniques is that once light in hand, that is relaxed and mobile in his lower jaw, a horse becomes disciplined’. At the same time, they had a copy of ‘The Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage’, so armed with these two texts, they headed out to see what they could explain to Bullet through the bit.
The first few attempts were a little challenging for all involved, as Sarah stood in front of Bullet and asked her to open her poll, mobilize her jaw, and stay with the bit (and her hands). To begin with, this seemed like complete insanity to Bullet, but as they progressed it began to have a profound effect on her body and her brain. Much to their amazement, it began to change Bullet’s entire understanding of riding and being with people. When she felt worried they were able to ask her to mobilize her jaw, and this reached right into the inside of the little horse, and she was able to relax and focus on what they were asking her to do. Bullet is the horse that lead us to really investigate Philippe Karl and the school of Légèreté, and ultimately for me to end up training with Mr Karl. Bullet is now 20, and having had several years off, she has now come back into work as my second horse for the course. She is totally marvelous and I am very grateful for the places she has brought us to.