Horseback Riding on the PBS Nature TV Show

I know some horseback riders were confused about a couple of things in the recently aired PBS Nature show.

Specifically, it looks like I’m clicking and treating the mare who is  “behind the bit wearing a drive rein contraption”.

Also. it seems like I used the clicker to reward the gelding while he was blowing up.

The problem with TV is that stuff is edited so people don’t get to see that both horses were a work in progress.

Both horses had a very bad history. In Europe, the mare was being ridden in a double bridle PLUS draw reins and 2 whips. She was held on the spot and beaten with the two whips until she was so revved up, they let her lengthen. That was their system for  teaching extensions.

She is definitely too curled in the neck in the work in hand pictures…but she was being rewarded (clicked) for “trotting in diagonal pairs” toward what will become piaffe. She wasn’t being rewarded for her short neck. She’s being worked in long lines. The sidereins aren’t there to bring her neck in. They’re there for straightness…to control the outside shoulder.

For the gelding, the PBS Nature TV show shows “part” of his evolution from a horse that used to bite his chest to one that eventually comes into a more normal outline. So when you hear me say, “better in the neck”, it’s relative to what he used to do. I did hear the click when he reared and was puzzled by it. The tv people must have added that. I didn’t even have the clicker with me that day!!

I hope this clears up some of the confusion about what was aired on the recent PBS Nature TV show.


  1. Thanks for the explamnation. I am the one who made those comments and I was very puzzled but trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. Still wish the mare had not been overbent tho! Thanks, I admire your work tremendously.

  2. Hi Janice,
    I appreciate your passion. It’s upsetting to me to when I have no control over details like the editing. I fully explained to the PBS people about the history of both horses, but much of it got cut out in production. They even added stuff like whinnying when it wasn’t happening. I guess they thought it was “artsy”.

    I wish she wasn’t overbent too, but if it makes you feel better, both horses ended up (over time) happily working in normal frames and balance. I absolutely do not advocate rollkur, but both horses were projects that needed to be “reclaimed”.

    I took the mare on because even though she had been severely abused, she had a great brain. So, I thought I could help her. She learned everything in the GP, and now is a happy First Level horse for a lady who likes to ride her bareback. The lady is even trying to get some of the dressage shows to offer bareback classes because she has so much fun. So the story has a happy ending. (By the way, she has a white eye…You can see it when she’s in the stall.)

    The gelding became so confident and trusting over time that he actually was a school horse for Ruth in her riding program! He’s now happily retired on her farm at 28. (Although he felt it was his “job” to take care of a neighboring mare prior to and during foaling this spring!)

    Oh, yes…She has a white eye. You can see it in the stall.

  3. Lovely to find people reclaiming horses – and wonderful to know how well it’s gone for you with your two!

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