Horses and People Matching

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Chapter 6

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Chapter 9

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Excerpts from the book.

Chapter 9

{Page 55}

While spending many years at the school one thing that I have noticed though is this; riders don’t always assess themselves correctly. A new young rider who has had little horse experience outside of my school may plunge with both feet into the program and make giant strides of progress, while another student who may have kept horses in their very own backyard for years is nonchalant about being around the horses and stagnates. The new rider may be full of self doubt and question everything about their riding from their basic position to their fundamental understanding of balance and rhythm. The rider who has developed riding patterns in the backyard has to be very careful to listen to input because bad habits can develop and become a comfortable place to remain. A “chair seat” or “sawing” at the horse’s mouth or perching forward in a permanent jumping position are a few of the things that I try to address in riders that have established behaviors on horseback. Very often riders who are rank beginners, yet full of enthusiasm target a beautiful horse in the barn as an object of their affection. They ask without justification how soon or if they’ll be able to ride the horse they so admire. Little do they realize that what they are requesting is in essence to take a fall! I try hard to find ways to deter them politely without discouraging their enthusiasm or bruising their tender egos. I want them to strive toward a goal and be able to ride horses of every caliber, but the truth is that a novice rider may not be in complete control of every movement that their legs make, or of every pull that their hands inadvertently inflict upon the horse’s mouth. These things take time and practice. If a horse were to comply with each nuance and weight shift and subtle signal that a new rider gave a horse by accident….how surprised that rider would be! They would suddenly find themselves going forward …fast…and then stopping…abruptly! These are the mistakes that a beginner might easily make and the things that a beginner might signal the horse to do without intending to, therefore it takes a wise and generous lesson horse to sift through the static of conflicting aids that the rider is unintentionally giving and somehow conclude the intended meaning of the apparently random gestures! A wise instructor also realizes that just because a rider looks great on a sweet trustworthy and solid lesson horse, that is not necessarily an indication that the rider may move on to a greater equestrian challenge. It’s remarkable and true that people really don’t see themselves “as others see them.” It is a good idea to have someone assess one’s riding who is nonpartial yet knowledgeable individual who can gently give you useful and true information about the level of your riding ability (your mother is NOT a good person to ask about how you look on a horse or what could you do better in any venue… because if she’s anything like MY mother she’ll say “you were the prettiest/best/most talented _________ out there and I don’t know why you didn’t win…they must have been jealous…or…they knew the judge” this is most likely NOT accurate nor is it helpful. It is very sweet though, and it’s at least nice to have one unconditional fan). So make sure that your teenager (or yourself for that matter) doesn’t give oneself more credit than you deserve. Overconfidence in the field of equestrian endeavors can be dangerous or fatal. Sometimes lack of exposure will lead to being unable to gauge one’s own ability, and overestimate one’s level of skill. This is a sure way to put oneself in danger. Teenagers do tend to feel immortal because of the strength of their youth, sometimes this courage is completely warranted other times it is reckless, use thought first before any action.

If indeed the teenager is a fine rider with years of experience under their belt and a history of accolades at horse shows then perhaps they could lend their youth, strength and talent to a horse that could use what they have to offer. A thoroughbred off the track might be a spectacular match for the right teenager. These horses are born athletes. They have excelled not only on the race track where the public most often sees them, but also on the hunt field, in the dressage arena, at stadium jumping, eventing, endurance riding, and even in the Olympics! Think about this as well, when a thoroughbred is through with his racing career what happens to them then? Well, a select few who are the very fastest go on to reproduce and make more potential racing champions. But for every winner in a race there are a half dozen or more who don’t win. What becomes of these horses? Picture the small local tracks all over this country where horses run day after day to move up to bigger and better purses. Now think about the “also rans.” They go back to their stalls get their supper may run again for a while but if they are consistently not the fastest, then the racetrack is not where their future lies. They cannot stay and take up stall space that a two year old Preakness potential needs to sleep in. Where will our slightly older (4 year old), slightly slower thoroughbred go? This horse is sadly a byproduct of the racing industry and doesn’t have bright prospects very often. There are folks who regularly take them back to training barns to reschool and resell them and to them I say “thank you.” I hope that they are making a decent living and clearing a bit of a profit. This is the place that a teenager with high mileage, solid riding skills and a deep seat should venture to look for a horse. A place where thoroughbreds are taken from tracks, schooled a while and resold. Sometimes the horse may only have just arrived when the teenager spies this shiny beauty. This is when the adventure is highest, the satisfaction potential is greatest, and the cost of the horse is the lowest. This would be the very WORST horse to buy for a timid or beginner rider or a first time horse owner. If you allow your head to be turned by the glossy coat of these beauties, and the unbelievably low price that is asked (sometimes they can be had gratis!) but you are not the high mileage, high energy rider that these wonderful creatures require initially, you will certainly wind up looking at a horse in your field and a saddle collecting dust. Please do not misunderstand me; thoroughbreds are not fast and crazy…it’s just that their initial training on the track is simply to move fast and forward and they have no more information than that to start with. I have currently at the public school barn two thoroughbred mares, one of which I would comfortably put your grandmother or a four year old on without hesitation. It’s that introduction to the world of communication heretofore unexplained to these lovely horses that takes time, talent and a degree of courage.

Laurel and Ruby

© 2007 Twombly Publishing.
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