Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Right Horse

I follow Denny Emerson's page for his Tamarack Hill Farm on Facebook. He tends to focus on a few topics at a time, and lately he has made several comments about riders who keep trying to work with the wrong horse.  The horse is too spooky, not suited for their discipline of choice, not mentally sound, the horse may be too green for the rider, there can be any number of reasons why a horse and rider are a bad match. Denny's comment today was "Trying to get a rider to give up the wrong horse is about as likely as expecting rational decision making from North Korea. It`s THE frustration for riding instructors all around the world, in the planetary system, and in outer space." This comment certainly made me reflect on my history with my horses. I've been very privileged to have owned horses that were the perfect match for me. I've also owned, and refused to sell, horses that clearly were not a good match for me. In hindsight it is easy to see that both the horses in question and I would have all been happier if we had found new partners.

Sometimes it is hard to know if you are working with the wrong horse, or if you just need to change the program to make it work with a particular horse. Some would argue that working with the "wrong" horse makes you a better horse person and that these are the horses you learn the most from. Others would argue that you learn more by having a horse that is a good fit, that gives you confidence, and that allows you to simply have fun in this expensive and time consuming sport.  I know that for where I am in my life right now I have decided any horse I intend to own and ride has to fit in my life.  I have too much else going on to make my life fit around the horse. Some might consider this a harsh attitude, but I view it as simply being realistic given how overwhelmingly busy my life is these days.  Where do you fall on this spectrum?

And on the subject of having the right horse, there are ample opportunities this weekend for viewing some amazing partnerships online. If you click here you can have your choice of live streams this weekend:  The Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Finals and the Rolex FEI World Cup Showjumping Finals.  Since I won't have time to watch any of these this weekend I thought I would share the link and so someone else can annoy their spouse, significant other or roommate over the weekend. "You're watching horse stuff again?" You can tell them it is my fault!


Asterik, Gus and George (Lotus is the bay horse hiding behind the greys)

Apollo, Hemi and Thomas

Africa and Sebastian

Snappy, Fabrizzio and Thor grazing in some morning fog

Chance, Elfin and Leo

Johnny, Wiz and Dutch

Tiny and Johnny



RuckusButt said...

Amen to that! I leased a horse whose owner refused to believe they were a bad match. She eventually did sell him after switching coaches. I'm no better, that horse wasn't really a good match for me either but I stuck with it for 2 years!

The hardest was the horse who *was* a good match on many levels except he had many physical issues. That one only took a year (and to be fair to me, the issues didn't all come at the start...only one major one :-/)

I still thank my luck that Armani & I seem to be a great match. Which is not to say there aren't challenges, he is only 4, but the challenges are interesting and fun to work through. Now that I've had this experience, I don't think I would spend much time on a horse that wasn't right for me.

Clancy said...

I was 49 and had only been learning to ride a couple of months when I met my lovely Jerry, and even I could recognise he wasn't a good match for me in practical terms -green, 8 yo, stubborn, spooky and prone to Olympic quality shies. He didn't seem to like anybody much but he liked me, and I bought him because I couldn't stand the difference between how he was with me and how he was with other people.

Initially we got on really well and I was careful to make sure I had his permission for everything I asked him to do, but then all the experienced people told me I had to 'be the boss' to really have a good relationship with a horse, and I listened to them, and our magic relationship began to disappear. After 18 months he was getting very difficult and I was becoming afraid of him, and my riding instructor was concerned he would end up hurting or killing me.

By luck I found out about a wonderful program called Friendship Training which is based on training using positive rewards (treats, scratches, etc) rather than pressure and release. It's been nearly two years since we started that and the change in him and myself is enormous, we have a way to go yet but we trust each other and understand each other much better than we did, and all the fear I had of him has melted away.

:) My 'bad match' is turning out to be a wonderful match, we just needed a different way of being together. I enjoy the companionship of horses, so am happy to do whatever kind of riding they like, or play with trick training, etc if they don't like riding - for me it's about finding what we enjoy doing together and doing that, much as I would with a human friend.

EvenSong said...

As you may remember, I'm struggling right now with my Maddie--I bred, birthed and raised her, started her under saddle (all right alongside my steady mare Kate). Now we are trying to find a trainer that can help us through two years of "scary". I'm not sure I will ever be able to trust her again, but I won't let her go anywhere that isn't capable of working with her safely and fairly, so she may end up a pasture ornament for life...

Anonymous said...

I still have my hunter mare that was a great match for me at the time of purchase and the disapline I was interested in. As she grew older she started to get a little ring sour and I wasnt going to be able to move up with her. I had to decide, sell her or change disaplines... I said I still have her! She turned out to be the best trail horse! She need a mental and physical break from showing and turns out that was just what I need too! I did buy and STILL own another hunter horse but when he needed a change of pace guess what I did??? Yup, still own him too! When the time comes I will look for another that "fits" my needs/wants, but after you fall in love (and you will) you just have to decide what's the best for everyone involved. Im not against selling a horse that doesnt work out for their best interest but I am against trying to force a horse to work for you.