While this applies far, far beyond the horse world, I sincerely believe our pride and lack of real knowledge lead us, and as a result, the horses we have, into murky and even dark waters.
- People end up hurt, often children.
- Horses end up with psychological and physical distress that sometimes cannot be undone.
- People leave behind the idea of Riding and Horses.
- Horses end up cycling through homes.
I rarely meet a person who learns I am an equine advocate where they do not search back in their childhood memories to tell me of their one or many horse encounters. I enjoy this. It is a chance to encourage them to learn more, re-visit horses and to simply appreciate the magic of horses to one and all. But sometimes these stories leave the teller as something of a horse aficionado. On some occasions, the folks truly are vastly skilled, too. But sometimes, though in the storyteller’s mind, she is both expert in care and in the saddle, the truth is something quite different. These particular folks frequently feel they know just what all horses, even the wildest of feral stallions, require, but under the watchful eyes of a basic riding instructor, would fail to truly be capable of handling well the most forgiving of gentle mounts, let alone giving all the care a horse actually needs.
One of our volunteers calls this phenomena “BLACK STALLION SYNDROME.” She often recalls growing up in Michigan on her mother’s Morgan Horse farm where they would try to hire knowledgeable help for grooming, stall upkeep and so forth. This job meant handling the horses. She said it was not uncommon for someone to now show up certain they needed no training because they had tons of horse experience. During their interview, they would be asked to simply take a halter and lead out of a field and bring a horse in. This frequently resulted in halters on upside down, backward and twisted all around with a bawling person being dragged from the field.
Essentially, from childhood, the magic of horses and the sweeping tale of a small boy riding off on a beach on a rogue horse that chose him as his person, though he never had a lesson or previous encounter before, has skewed the minds of otherwise very sensible people. These are people that might, if they didn’t have “BLACK STALLION SYNDROME,” do research, become skilled riders and move forward with horse ownership. These are horse lovers, in theory, that just need direction, but they often REFUSE it.
On some level, it is as if those who have no real foundation in horsemanship feel so compelled by desire and pride, they sometimes cannot think clearly about the fact a 1,000lb sensitive, intelligent animal requires a lot of skill to handle well. It is skill we all should take seriously. It is a skill set that we learn through out lives with horses well into our 80’s, if we are lucky enough to still be out and working with horses then. These people also do not think about what damage they do when that animal is mishandled, even if they mean well in their efforts to become riders, owners and horsemen. It is no joke when we say, as we’ve talked about in blogs before, you can turn “a beginner safe horse into a dangerous animal” if you do not know what you’re doing.
As I’ve mentioned before, people would not ever assume to hop in a random jet at the local airport and just take off, hoping for the best flight and landing possible, positive all would be fine, without ever having worked with an instructor for a long time. Yet, many people think nothing of buying a green horse of age 4 without any idea a horse not only costs thousands of dollars a year in care alone, eat 3% of his body weight a day, need teeth floated yearly and require a farrier every other month, that they also should have an educated (dare I say, an empowered?) person to handle and ride him. Why does that happen? Because they went to horse camp as a child, their uncle had horses for years or they read all 20 books in the Black Stallion Series. I have heard all of those reasons and more, actually. I probably gave those reasons myself as a younger person. I had “Black Stallion Syndrome” hard in years past, especially as a teenage girl. I get it. I am glad I realized the error of my ways a long time back, though.
Admittedly, everyone cannot afford a one-on-one personal trainer and lessons multiple times a week forever. We understand. But horses are expensive, so folks might first consider if they can afford a few thousand dollars a year (and in many places, much more) to care for a horse they want to buy, before jumping in and bringing a horse home (one that might be the wrong fit), spending a year investing that money into knowledge and skill could make a lot of sense.
This will also help a person chose the right horse first, and it helps one keep that horse the RIGHT one year after year.
Afterward, YOU can always build friendships for advice and help that costs little to nothing but friendship in exchange. You can also boost the knowledge you gain from personal instruction and help, by solid reading and viewing. And frankly, all of us should be able to afford to take part in a clinic or two a year, if not as rider, by budgeting the $15 to $50 to AUDIT (watching in person) for these horsemanship seminars. People may and should always reach out to trainers for one time help if they feel uncertain, but it is important people admit when a time comes and they need, not letting pride get the better of them. Also, always check with rescues, as they should be happy to assist you in gaining skill and help.
Please, just be willing to admit, none of us have all the answers, starting from the ground up is nothing to be ashamed of. . .and just be happy to learn. It will do HORSES a world of good, and it will make you a true horseman or woman, as well.