Do We Need More Toughness, or More Softness? With JJ Tate

Do We Need More Toughness, or More Softness? With JJ Tate

Most riders desire to develop a horse who is a happy, willing participant in whatever task or discipline they’ve set out towards. But where the training narrative used to revolve around making sure the horse knows who’s the boss, newer methods value give and take and making sure your horse is heard in the conversation. 

The balance of toughness vs softness in riding has never been more at the forefront of discussion. We want our horses to respect boundaries and listen to our requests (especially for safety’s sake!). We also want our horses to learn from a place of mutual respect and understanding, not fear and retribution. The line isn’t always an easy one to walk, especially when preparing a horse for a results-focused competition. 

To help walk us through this landscape, we talk with top International Grand Prix Dressage rider JJ Tate. JJ has been competing at the highest levels since her junior years and has vowed to herself to train without shortcuts, with integrity and principles that are aligned with how horses think, move, and learn. She runs a USDF University Accredited online program called Team Tate Academy so anyone can access her expertise regardless of where they live, and was also mentored by the great Charles de Kunffy (she shares with us some of the wisdom she’s learned from him along the way, which is particularly special). 

In this broader conversation, JJ and host Caroline Culbertson discuss hardness and softness in training, and why it’s possible (maybe even necessary) to have both. They also dive into:

  • The concept of “rider merit,” and how it should be assessed beyond just the competitive accolades a rider achieves

  • What is “horse sport” really about, and what universal qualities does it share with other sports?

  • Riding as character growth for both horse and rider

  • The sort of rider you need to become to have the horse volunteer for you, and why it’s something we should all strive for

  • How science is backing up the classical methods that have always worked

  • Why being clear with your horse is actually in the long run being kind

  • The “Growth Mindset” and how to achieve it as a rider

  • How methods of horse training in the EU differ from methods in the US, and how both have their strengths and weaknesses

Listen in the podcast player below, or listen on: