I’m a levelheaded person. It takes a lot to get me worked up, especially things that don’t directly impact me. I tend to follow the mantra of “whatever floats your boat”… do whatever makes you happy and I’ll do the same myself. With that said, there are a few things that immediately raise my blood pressure, and a lack of concern and consideration for our equine partners tops the list.
For example, the Ice Bucket Challenge on horseback… are you kidding me?! Why in the world would you even think this is a good idea? Your poor horse certainly doesn’t appreciate a bucket of ice water being dumped on his back- he has no idea it’s for charity. Honestly, when these videos were crossing my news feed, I cheered for the horse in its attempt to rid itself of the inconsiderate moron on its back.
That’s old news though, so let me get to what prompted me to write this post.
I’m not that old, just entering my mid-twenties, so my teenage years are still fresh within my mind. Did I do stupid things? Heck yes! Stupid things with my horse? Yep! Thankfully though, it all worked out with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises both on my body and on my ego. A very honest and bold fellow, Traveller was willing to do just about anything for me- he was a true partner and only wanted to please. He certainly knew how to throw some attitude, but overall put blind faith (somewhat literally- the one eye thing and all) in my ability to make good decisions. Thankfully I was and still am a bit of a chicken, so things generally ended before they got too ridiculous. With that said though I sill shudder at some of the things we did, or correction, some of the things that I decided to do and make my poor partner withstand.
That is not what this blog post is about though, it’s just a place for me to base my opinions off of.
The fact of the matter is that most horses put faith in their riders. Every animal differs, but we always need to remember that we are undertaking a great responsibility by working with these great beasts. We are on the hook for their well being, and always need to keep this in mind. I’m not saying that accidents don’t happen, because they absolutely do, but it’s all about risk mitigation and basic sensibility. Equestrian sport is dangerous, very dangerous in fact, but we have to do what we can to keep it as reasonably safe as possible.
Just because you can (well, kinda can?), doesn’t mean you should… especially with horses.
The thing that spurred my emotions and got me writing this post was a seemingly innocent video on Facebook. A rider jumping a much larger fence than they normally would. Nothing dramatic happened, but the only positive thing that I saw was that they made it to the other side alive. The approach was off, the jump was awkward, and the recovery was barely accomplished. It was clear that neither horse or rider were prepared to jump a fence of that size. Maybe I’m being a little too critical, but this is not something I have seen time and time again. Also, I have seen cases where things do not workout, and the horse ends up paying dearly for their riders misjudgement. Honestly, if the rider falls off I don’t have a ton of sympathy- it was their idea, but when the horse suffers it is another matter.
Why do we do things like this? It’s fun, sure, but considering myself, it was more of an ego thing. I loved to tell people how high I jumped, and have the biggest fences in the arena. I get it, I really do, but it is a conversation that needs to be had before our dear equine friends have to suffer. When I teach my pony club kids, they always groan when I tell them to drop their stirrups, and they continually ask me to raise the fences. In reply I always explain that it is all about the basics, and that it is not a race to raise the poles. Once the basics are in place, the poles naturally go up. I’m not saying that you should never leave your comfort zone, because it is important in order to grow, but there is a difference between that and leaving the realm of ability for both horse and rider for the sake of a Facebook post and a few “wows” from whoever passively watches it.
Always consider their mental and physical preparedness when undertaking a task. Will it benefit their training? Is it part of a carefully thought-out program? Is it a logical next step? Dose it compliment other things that you are working on? Do you have experienced eyes on the ground helping you? Then go for it!
Is it for the sake of beating Johnny or Sally? Do you really want that Facebook post? Want to impress someone? Please, please, please… think of your horse and the faith that they have in you. If you need to set the fences higher after you are done in order to make it look impressive, be my guest because, as long as you are not harming your partner, I’m good with whatever floats your boat.