Horses are at our mercy, and we have a culture that “knows” everything without actually learning anything.
We do so much backward, and we create a lot of harm and hardship in the process.
For instance, let us use this fictional account that actually describes what happens all too often with events we’ve heard far more than once:
A person decides she wants a horse, so she purchases a 4 year old “registered” something or other who has a lot of promise for a sizable sum.
She doesn’t need lessons. On Anything. Not on how to feed the horse. Not on how Tack should fit. Not on what one uses reins for, either. Not on equine behavior. Not on ground work (What is THAT?). Nothing.
She has natural talent and an ability to “just know” what is right. She remembers a guide telling her that very thing the last time she rode in 2011 at Mammoth Cave’s riding stables in Kentucky. A real natural way about her with the horses, he said.
Until the horse dumped her when she wasn’t wearing a helmet (because those are for less skilled riders, right?) and while her reins were way up there about her ears.
It was the horse’s fault. The previous owner wasn’t honest, she realizes now. The seller said the horse was “green broke.” What did that mean, anyhow!?
Surely feeding the horse 2 flakes of hay and 12 quarts of sweet feed a day without any ground work, pulling him directly out of a stall with a $2 curb bit that came with the bridle from craigslist in his mouth or giving him a real big smooch when on his back that first time wasn’t setting him up for a disaster, was it?
He hasn’t been gelded, yet, but she read the Black Stallion once as as kid, and she remembers Alec riding bareback on the Black on the beach and really wanted that “full horse experience.”
Now the horse is for sale on a Facebook buy and sell page truly misrepresented, thinner than he used to be and far worse for the wear and a mouth that expects to be jerked all over the place. . .when he started out 4 months before as a horse with 60 days of training, a good head on his shoulders and with a lot of promise in the hands of the right person.
We need to do better. We, as the equine community, need to try to Make more Horsemen and fewer “casual owners.”
We need to tell people before buying or adopting to invest a lot of time in learning as much a possible. Horses are complex. They are huge. They are Fragile. They aren’t casual.
This is not just about how to ride, but it is about how to care for the horse. Do they know the costs? All the feeding and supplement options? All the health issues that can come up? What are their long term goals? Do they want to take lessons and become a better rider before buying a horse later on that is more advanced or do they want to buy a truly been there, done that type after learning the basics, instead?
We see far too many good horses turned into problem cases because folks JUMPED in before being truly ready. The horses are blamed, yet it is always the person at fault. We find folks create a mess and pass the horse on down to another person who will cause the horse further issues and so on until he ends up at auction, in a kill pen, with a rescue or worse (and it can get even worse).
If you can’t handle the horse, friends, it is YOUR failing, not the horse’s problem. But the horse suffers the consequences. You wanted the HORSE to know. You didn’t want to take the time to learn yourself, sadly.
People become disillusioned about horses when it isn’t all they hoped because they went about it the wrong way, and then they give up all together.
We need more long term horsemen and women, not more fly by night owners. We as equine industry leaders, be we trainers, 4H leaders, rescuers or otherwise, need to propose this as a goal: To see that we are being educational points of contact to help people who want to learn before jumping in, as well as redirecting those who believe they know everything they need to know to buy a 4 year old, green broke stallion for their family’s first horse.