Not just a boarding stable; it’s our

August 2016 Tip

September 11th, 2016 by admin

You have the potential to mold your horse into whatever you choose; so what are you doing with that potential?

 

Because I own a boarding stable I’m privileged (perhaps it’s more of a curse) to watch owners interact with their horses in all sorts of ways. Now before you start thinking that I’m some judgmental horse trainer who thinks my way is the only way to handle a horse, take a deep breath and just hear me out.

I deal mostly with women, all ages and personalities of women and most of the time I absolutely love my job as a trainer and instructor. But there are days I’d just like to go around the corner and pull my hair out. In fact, sometimes I think life would be a lot easier if all my clients were men…sorry ladies, but it’s the truth. Men don’t baby talk to their horses. They don’t cry at every little spook. I’ve never witnessed a man take full responsibility for why his horse just stepped on him.

The majority of women buy a horse for all the right reasons but within just 3 short months they can take that horse, who with the right leadership could have made them the perfect mount, and turn them into disrespectful, 1000 pound monsters. Your horse is not a Golden Retriever and can’t be treated as such. They can be dangerous, not because they wake up every morning with a list of ways to hurt you but because we teach them to be dangerous. Yes, I said it: WE TEACH THEM TO BE DANGEROUS.

I will even go as far to say that I truly believe that the majority of horses who end up in slaughter houses are there because of the humans who owned them. Humans, who had the very best of intentions when they purchased the horse but due to lack of understanding, instruction, knowledge, and leadership skills, forced their horse to become the leader even if he wasn’t fit for the position.

My intention today isn’t to pick on women but if the shoe fits we must own up to our short comings and make changes that will ensure we become the very best leader that our horse longs for us to be. If we don’t accept the roll of leadership then our horse quickly will. They need us to be their leader, they want to trust that in every situation we will get them through safely….because if we don’t they will come up with a solution that we probably aren’t going to like. Where does it start, it starts the very second you go to catch your horse. That moment you attach a lead line to his halter and take him through the gate. Your intentions may have been to have a nice, enjoyable, experience with him on the limited time you set aside that day. Your horse however, really had no intentions at all until you allowed him to start thinking with the reactive side of his brain.

Women approach their horse experience with tunnel vision. They have a 2 hour window between going to Walmart and when they have a dentist appointment. They decide to run to the stable, grab their horse and go for a short trail ride. Women are planners and don’t like when their plans get rerouted. So Stormy (fictitious horse) is grazing with his friends and sees his owner coming with the lead line. He knows the drill so today when owner approaches and has to fiddle with her tangled lead line Stormy decides to walk away. Owner walks toward him still trying to detangle her equipment. Stormy starts to trot, shaking his head in a circular motion as owner strides faster toward him with an “I don’t have time for this” attitude. Horse finally stops, allows owner to catch him and they head toward the barn. Stormy spies taller grass outside the gate from what his pasture affords so he instantly puts his head down. Owner pulls but is not strong enough to pry his lips off the dandelions. She gets drug several feet before horse finally relents and heads off to the barn once again. Suddenly, Fluffy barn cat runs up along the side of the isle and Stormy jumps, nearly knocking over his owner who does nothing but stroke his neck and tells him, “silly boy, it was only a cat.” Now Stormy is on high alert because there could be more fluffy monsters running around. Owner tries to start grooming but Stormy’s head is up with ears forward, he is on major cat patrol. Owner drops a brush and Stormy, who was ground tied, runs out the end of the barn dragging his lead line as he gallops back to his friends in the pasture. Owner heads after him grabbing a pan of grain just in case he decides to run toward the main road where all the traffic is.

Once caught, owner is covered in sweat and Stormy is pushing on her because she is carrying the empty grain pan that he is sure still contains some food. Instead of throwing the pan down and working her horse by moving his feet and engaging the thinking side of his brain the owner decides to continue walking toward the barn. This is when things can get ugly, Stormy is certain that the grain pan has one more morsel so he steps toward owner, clipping the side of her foot with all his weight, causing her to drop her lead line and the pan which Stormy quickly inspects before going back to eating grass. Meanwhile, owner is in excruciating pain, sitting on the ground trying to pull her boot off discovering that her little toe is bleeding under the nail. She is crying but her horse is relaxed, head down even as Fluffy comes running to inspect what just happened. So that is my question: What just happened?? If you honestly don’t know the answer then you shouldn’t be trying any of this without first getting yourself some lessons and instruction on how to handle your horse.

And while this may be a bit exaggerated I could certainly continued on with the story until we got to the end of the two hours that the owner had allotted with her horse only to discover that she never even made it to the point of mounting and going for that ride. And dare I say, “Thank God,” because if you can’t handle your horse on the ground then it is my belief that you should never throw your leg up over the saddle.

Now to steal a famous line from the late Paul Harvey: Now for the rest of the story. Three months earlier Stormy had just come out of 90 days tune up training and was listed for sale. He was perfect when the owner went to see him. The trainer was reputable, known for turning out great horses and Stormy was everything the owner had dreamed about. Trainer could see that the new owner needed some lessons to ensure that the two got the best possible start together and offered to give a couple free lessons which the owner took. Owner seemed open to learning but in the weeks that followed her life became busy and she only got to the stable once a week. Feeling guilty that she had neglected Stormy she began giving treats when catching him; she slowly began to allow him to get away with small things like eating grass while walking to and from. She didn’t correct him once he started creeping while ground tied….you get the picture.

So after owner get’s stepped on she decides that her new horse isn’t safe and isn’t the horse she thought she had purchased. So she picks up her phone and calls the trainer and begins to unload about how the horse isn’t what she thought she had bought. He isn’t right for her and she made a mistake in purchasing him. So Stormy is put on a trailer and sent down the road before the trainer can even suggest buying him back. Where does Stormy end up? Who knows? But what I do know is that his owner had potential to continue to mold that horse to be her perfect horse. Had she taken some helpful advice, had she given more time in those first 3 months to bonding and allowing the horse to know he could trust her then things would have turned out much differently. Had she decided that he was worth the effort and that it wasn’t so important to just jump on for the ride but to do some ground work first and establish solid leadership. Had she been firm instead of rewarding his undesirable actions; had she realized that owning a horse is a big responsibility…..

I’m going to end with how I began: You have the potential to mold your horse into whatever you choose; so what are you doing with that potential? That is a question that only you can answer. If you are unwilling to do your part then the blame does not fall on the shoulders of your horse or the trainer who trained it. And this my friends, is why there are so many horses being slaughtered every day, horses who had great potential!