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}

Thoroughbreds are born and bred for English riding sports. It would be unusual to see a thoroughbred in a western pleasure class, although of course it does happen, what they are built for is the discipline of English riding and jumping, as this comes most naturally to them. What if your teenager is not interested in Dressage however or Hunt Seat Equitation….or Stock Seat Equitation for that matter… What if your teenager is thinking about all those miles and miles of trails stretching out in front of them beckoning to be ridden upon? What if you are thinking the same thing? Have you considered that a Standardbred has the same future as a thoroughbred once it’s racing days are over? A Standardbred (we have talked about briefly as a talented driving horse) may have a lovely temperament yet not be the fastest horse at the harness track. What should become of this horse? There are Standardbred “adoption agencies” and Standardbred “rescue agencies” all over the country. It’s such a marvelous era that we live in when at the touch of a keyboard or the click of a mouse, all of the information of the internet is instantly accessible at our fingertips. Finding Standardbreds that need homes (very often for a low price or free) is just that very same mouse click away. A Standardbred will of course face the same situation that a thoroughbred will as it enters the “domain” of the riding horse. It has only been trained to move forward and fast and subtleties other than that will initially elude it. A teenager may have the time, patience, confidence, strength, and talent to reschool one of these lovely horses. I hate to make generalizations (although I find myself doing it fairly often) but I have had a number of Standardbred horses pass through my life and each one of them was a reasonable individual with a generous spirit and a bright mind. What a person must decide before committing themselves to spending time with a Standardbred as an equine partner, is….are you able to cope with the rolling gait that they possess? They are trained to pace and some of them pace by their own nature it seems, so it can be nearly impossible to get one into a canter. (If you are unfamiliar with the term pace let me explain what it is; a pace is when the front right leg and hind right leg are moving together in synchronization, while the two legs on the left side of the horse move together as well. The feeling while riding is as if you were in a boat with two sets of oars on each side, and one side would pull, then the other, but it would be done in close enough succession so that you would not turn to the left or right… but you would certainly feel the left pull… then the right pull. It is somewhat of a rolling sensation.) If you are persistent enough to accomplish the task of getting a Standardbred to canter it may take yet another lifetime to collect or engage the canter into something with three recognizable beats. If you are quite sure that cantering is an overrated gait, or you would just as soon pace or trot to cover miles, (some Standardbreds trot instead of pace as their racing gait) then a Standardbred might be the very horse for you! I know that the state Veterinarian in Massachusetts is a rider, and she engages in mounted “search and rescue” activities when called upon for help by local and state law enforcement agencies. Her horse of choice is a Standardbred! She usually has more than one and she is quite an enthusiastic advocate of the breed. Endurance riders might find this a useful mount, and I would love to hear from anyone who may have found that the pace was more comfortable for a back with aches and problems than the trot of other horses. This information wouldn’t surprise me at all!

My last thought about teenage riders (or any rider heading out alone) is this; in this day and age one would do well to carry a cell phone. It can always be set on vibrate so as not to startle the horse (although I jump more at the buzzing “insect” in my pocket than Gabriel notices the ringtone). It may not always be practical in areas of the country where cell towers are not common in every town, but where a cell phone functions, this is a wonderful way of allowing a teenager freedom to spend plenty of time at the barn, while still staying in contact so that dinner need not be rewarmed at 9:30 P.M… It is also of course a great device not just for the sake of avoiding inter- family frustration, but for being able to contact someone for help in the event of any unforeseen emergency. At the risk of starting a heated family debate, I believe that every teenage equestrian should have a cell phone (even if it’s borrowed from Mom) at least while they’re at the barn and with their horse……for safety sake. A cell phone will never take the place of good communication and a good plan on a day to day basis (batteries die, phones get dropped) but if you consider that your teenager is a vigorous bundle of enthusiasm mixed with curiosity you will soon see the need for a barn with a wholesome reputation, a horse which is level headed and kind enough not to be dangerous, yet energetic enough to keep a teenager’s attention, and subtle adult supervision; your young adult may be well on their way for a lifetime full of four legged friends and the rewards that follow such unconditional love.

Laurel and Ruby

© 2007 Twombly Publishing.
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