The Jamaican people have a well-deserved reputation for being laid back, which is expressed in the motto: “No Problem Mon!”
This relaxed approach to life is evident in their approach to horsemanship. At the stables, there are 10 members of staff of varying levels of skill, from experienced instructors to very new apprentices. The cost of horseback riding is well beyond the means of the average Jamaican, so the majority of the staff have little or no horse experience before joining the stables, and they are trained from scratch by Trina and the more experienced members of staff.
It amazed me how quickly the inexperienced apprentices developed into competent riders and trainers, a phenomenon, which I believe is largely attributable to the laid back Jamaican approach to life. The “no problem” attitude rubs off on the horses, and they respond with a relaxed attitude in their work.
Most of the horses at the stables are ex-racehorses, which are sometimes stigmatized as difficult and certainly not recommended for beginner riders. Yet the majority of the horses at Half Moon are incredibly calm, safe and willing riding horses, ridden predominantly by beginner and inexperienced riders. There are very few ponies on the island, so many of these ex-racehorses are also ridden by children, in some cases so small that their legs hardly reach past the saddle flaps.
That these happy, calm and infinitely generous horses are a product of training from individuals who haven’t come from an equestrian background is nothing less than remarkable. The effectiveness of the training despite the trainers’ relative inexperience taught me an important horsemanship lesson: the effect of “thinking Jamaican.”
Technical knowledge and ability is important in horse training, but it’s equally important to pay attention to the influence our attitude has on our horses. Horses act as a mirror to the people around them. A nervous, tense rider creates a nervous horse. However technically accurate someone’s horsemanship is, if he or she lacks a positive attitude, then the horse won’t respond positively. If, however, you approach the horse with a confident, empathetic and relaxed attitude, then even if you make mistakes, the horse is much more likely to respond well.
The horses at Half Moon prove this. Even the apprentice riders, who have less than six months equestrian experience, happily canter and gallop newly off-the-track ex-racehorses bareback to exercise them. None of the team ever expects things to go wrong, the horses respond to this outlook, and as a result things rarely do. No Problem!