Tuesday, January 11, 2011


In the last two weeks I have discussed this more than once so I thought it might be a good post. With new years goals comes all sorts of riding goals for ourselves and our horses at this point we start to re-evaluate things in our life. We re-evaluate what we want to do with our horses and why.

Everyone has a different reason for owning their horse. Some just want a hay burner that they can look at out the window, others look for a horse that can be of a specific discipline.
Personally when I look at a horse I want to be able to pursuit driving even though I started out with horses riding western. I love driving, it brings upon so many different things you can do with your horse. Once your horse drives there's room for so much more in the world because lets face it, driving is not an easy thing for a horse to take on mentally. There's all sorts of straps, noises and pressure in all sorts of places once the cart is attached that should make him want to get the hell out of Dodge but when we train them properly they learn not to fear all these noises and take it in stride. Once a horse has mastered driving, riding and all sorts of other activities can fall in place. Now I am not saying a riding horse cannot become a driving horse. In my experience a driving horse is much easier to train to ride than vice versa. By the time you go to ride a driving horse the saddle is just another piece of harness and the verbal cues and trust are already there. Of course not all driving horses make good riding horses and not a lot of riding horses make driving horses.
Having said that I also want something I can ride. I want a horse I can trust to put in new situations that isn't going to panic first and ask questions later. I want that horse to approach a new thing with an open mind and try for me not put on the breaks and say no way Jose. This could be everything from some dressage, trail riding, learning some reining moves etc. I want a horse with some try that tries honestly in everything I ask it. Every horse has a different purpose, it's up to us as owners and riders to either find a way to bring out the best in them or hand them to someone else to help them on their career. Some of us are better at evaluating this than others.

For example last week I was tacking up to ride a 6 year old I broke in the summer. He needed a little tuning up for his owner before I leave. Another boarder at the barn was tacking up his horse too. We discussed why he had his horse and what he wanted to do and why I was riding the 6 year old and what the owner wanted to do with it. He has his horse to ride dressage. He wants and needs a horse capable of working 6 days a week on sometimes 3rd level dressage movements. His horse has to be sane and personable, not difficult.
The 6 year old is also for a career in dressage. He has the movement and ability but he knows when his rider is unsure and plays with that. His owner with a bit more experience on him is going to take him to 2nd level dressage but needed the foundation from me as a more flexible, knowledgeable rider at teaching an unbroken horse. Though I find no matter what discipline I am riding, I always come back to dressage.

As we tacked up and talked another horse owner came in. She used to ride dressage, she was a pretty competitive rider at one point. She had owned some very nice horses but as she aged they outgrew her. She now has a young warmbloody (absolutely batsh*t crazy), gorgeous (but completely insane) talented (but might trample you if something scares her), is going to go incredibly far in dressage (yeah, right across the border to the US of A), mare. She has what we summed up as "dressage queen mentality". Riders who have huge horses that are capable of doing fancy movements but are not trustworthy or rideable. They would turn their noises completely up at the mention of a quiet level headed horse because they want the "big warmblood movements" which are hard to come by in say a quarterhorse that might have a more easy demeanor. I wish I could say I have seen it but I do not think this women enjoys her horse. She wants to ride, and will hop on any other quiet horse but still talks about the horse doing great things wile she makes sure the mare does not spook and kill her in the cross ties. Of course this is not simply a dressage stereotype, it is in all horse disciplines I just happen to see more dressage riders than any other discipline here in my county.

Most horses could become better with consistent work. Of course we need to evaluate the horses energy plus the horses mentality plus the ability of the rider (if one can admit to their abilities) plus time of the rider plus what we want the horse to be able to do equaling the proper horse and rider combination. If the equation's answer is incorrect you will likely end up hurt, or at the very least staring at a horse burning hay you wish you could do something with.

So if our horses are not doing what we have them for we need to re-evaluate why we own this animal. Would it be more wise to sell the horse and find another suited to the discipline, ourselves? Or perhaps change our path to something more suited to the horse, for example going from dressage to jumping so to make the horse more agreeable and happy in his work. Or are there some of us simply doomed to stare at our horses mowing grass because we cannot do either? Some of us are better at re-evaluation than others. Have you ever had to sit back and think "why do I have this horse" or perhaps you went from a horse that gave you the correct equation answer to one more suiting? Why do you have your horse and do you two make up the right equation answer in the horse and rider evaluation?


Jessie McCandless said...

I have my 3 horses out of my stallion because I loved him and he foals he threw. They all have terrific temperaments, and easily trained and have a lot of personality. They all have different talents, though, and I like to do different things so it's fine with me. The two mares have western pleasure movement, while the gelding rides like a jackhammer (but he can run and turn like banshee). Then the other two project horses are to show and get into good showing homes some day.

I think a lot of people get caught up in what they think they should do, instead of asking themselves what's really important. A lot of horses that will win in high-level competitions are high-maintenance and not that much fun. Ultimately a blue ribbon and 15 minutes of fame is not that important to me. My horses are my family, so we'll just have fun doing whatever we find out we have a talent for, even if it's going out for trail rides. In the end, they're so smart, willing, and easy to get along with, it's so much more fun than winning anything I can think of!! :)

Shirley said...

For me it's not about what I can accomplish with my horse, it's about the relationship I have with him or her. Beamer and I are really close, and if he never gets shown again, I will still love him and ride him.With Chickory, I'm not so sure- she needs to be a cowhorse, and I'm not sure if I can be the one to take her there. We'll see.

achieve1dream said...

Very interesting post! I got Chrome because I was very, very unhappy without a horse. My goals are simple. I want a sweet, sane horse that I can go trail riding on. If we happen to do some dressage or learn to drive or play with SCA jousting that's just icing on the cake! I have no desire to compete or win so that's not even part of the equation. I got a weanling because I was having some fear issues and wanted a horse that I would have years to spend gaining trust and learning together without the pressure of riding. A weanling was easier on the pocketbook too as far as upfront price. He has taught me so much and even if I never did another thing with him besides feed him I would be happy and he's been so worth every penny I've spent and every tear I've cried. Thanks for such a thought provoking post.

Mare said...

Very interesting post!

When I bought my mare, I bought her for no other reason than the fact that I loved everything about her. She was sweet, sane, pretty young, and my dream horse...oh and she was in my buget :)

At the time, I had no goals at all, and honestly I still don't have any specific ones. I just wanted a horse that would do some arena work, but mostly enjoyed the trails. So that's exactly what I bought, a trail horse.

It just so happens that while she is completely ignorant (as am I in a lot of ways) in any specific disapline, she's got a will to learn and takes it all in stride. So while we are experimenting and trying some different things, she's completely sane and smart about the whole experiance. She's the farthest things in the world from a dressage superstar, but then again, so am I. Like I said, my dream horse...

Sydney_bitless said...

Wonderful thoughts guys. I don't think enough owners think about why they have their horse and what they want to do with them so they get stuck in a rut. Having a solid idea of what you want to do can keep you focused in your horsemanship.

Rising Rainbow said...

I think for me horses seem to be a calling. Ever since I can remember that call has beckoned me and it was never about just owning horses. It has been about them being my life, my love, my passion and the calling seems to include advocating for the horse as well. That part of the calling I am equally as passionate about as the ownership part.

Mellimaus said...

This is such an interesting post.
There are neighbors in our vacinity with a very nice Appy gelding that's only 12 and was once very well trained...that is just a pasture pet with no companion and has been for at least 5 years now. They put him up for sale in October. The ad is sparse and gives little information. Things like that make me so mad.

I got Daisy to use as a pleasure horse...but she's turned into a horse that can literally do anything...in my eyes anyway. I know I'm borderline too big for her...but I'm so bonded with her, and she has such a funny quirky attitude and is so easily misunderstood, I can't part with her. I've resigned myself to do things she can do verses things I would rather do...luckily, she can do most of what I want to do, so I'm happy.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Good thought-pondering post, Sydney.

I've always loved horses and wanted one of my own. But ever since I discovered I have hip dysplasia about 20 years ago, I've knew I just wanted a good trail horse. A horse to carry me down the trails exploring new places together. A horse that enjoyed the trail, just as much as me.
I made a mistake with my first horse, believing that any horse could be a good trail horse. My first preferred arena work or a serious job, like working cattle, instead of just mosying down a trail. The result wasn't pretty and we argued a lot, until I ended up in the hospital.

When I discovered my current horse, I made sure before buying her that she enjoyed trail riding. She is truly happiest while out on the trails. She is also very brave, willing, confident, curious, sensible and sane. Everything a person would want in a trail horse.

In the process of getting to know one another, together we discovered the fun challenges of Competitive Trail Riding through ACTHA.

Working on the obstacles gives us challenging goals while riding the trail. What I like the best about these competitions is seeing and feeling my horse's satisfaction when she does well. We may not win, but that's not the point. The goal is to spend time together, learning new skills, while building a relationship of trust....and having fun in the process while doing something we both enjoy. :)


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