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?