The horse search marches on. I’ve sat on five horses now, and am setting up trials to see four-ish more in California later this month (if they don’t, you know, sell before I get down there), and have some excellent leads on a few horses up here too. I’m not too stressed out about it just yet. Why? I’ve been insanely busy, and hardly even made my riding days on Fergus in the last few weeks. So while I can wish and hope for a horse of my own all I want, I have to face the harsh reality that I wouldn’t be spending all that much time with said horse anyway.
I wrote a few weeks ago about what I started out looking for, but to recap:
- something to go Training on in the next 2ish years
- a horse who wants to work with his rider, not somebody who has to be convinced to play every day
- has to pass a comprehensive PPE (this is what I get for having a sports medicine vet as one of my best friends)
- age/sex/breed not important — but small is great, love me something under 16 hands
- please not grey
In accordance with #1, I’ve tried a couple of lovely schoolmaster types. Different from one another, but both sweet, kind, and fun to ride. Both horses that I could come out at Novice on next year and actively work toward Training level. And at the end of the day, I can’t commit to the frequency of riding, work, and training that either those horses needs to be their best. Sure, I could take on either of them and ride them 3-5 days a week and maybe 6 days on good weeks, and make intermittent progress forward and back and hammer away at Novice for a while next year. But I’m not sure that’s something I’d enjoy, and it sounds like it’s not something those horses would love either. Even sweet, kind, forgiving horses have limits.
When I was complaining to L about this, she (annoyingly accurately) asked “Do you have the time to keep any horse Training fit?”
L and I have talked a lot about what it takes to move horses up the levels. Even though we compete in different disciplines, the big move up gaps are pretty similar. And it takes time to keep up a horse’s confidence and a rider’s skills, not to mention the time it takes to prep for shows and go to shows and recover from shows. I’ve spent plenty of time looking over the Area VII calendar, and there aren’t a lot of weekends that I can give up for events. I could give a weekend by weekend accounting, but it’s not worth the characters — in short, there’s 3-4 weekends in Area VII that I could show. Am I going to try to move up from Novice to Training on four show weekends?
Is that even realistic?
So. We re-evaluate.
What do I love about riding and what horse will make it so that I have more of that in my life?
I love learning. I LOVE LEARNING. And I also love teaching. So I’m going to need a horse I can learn on, and something that enjoys learning from me. I’m going to throw all different types of teaching at Horse (clicker training, horsemanship, cowboys, pressure/release training), so they have to be game to learn.
A huge part of the learning/teaching relationship is the bond and the process. I am hesitant to say “I LOVE THE BOND” because it’s not just about having a Precious Ponii who I can pet upon and fawn over and love on. I want to do those things too. But part of what I value is the teacher/student bond, where both me and Horse are teacher and student at different times.
I love horsie adventures. I’m a kid at heart and since I didn’t get to have horses as a kid, I want to make up for lost time here. Trails (there will be trails ON MY PROPERTY soon it’s going to be magical), beach rides, XC schooling, bareback rides, games, fox hunting maybe? I need a horse game for adventures and some shenanigans.
I love a personality. I’M JUST GONNA SAY IT OKAY. I love a horse who has a sense of humor, who is independent, who can take a joke, who can make a joke. I LOVE WEIRDOS OKAY.
I enjoy showing. I want a horse I can get out to a couple of shows on and have a good time — no need to be perfect (standards are low thanks to showing a Murray for five years), but Horse can’t need weeks of prep just to get out and show. I already have to pay for a veritable shitton of active, full memberships for show management (USEA, USEF, USDF), so heading to one rated show is pretty affordable to me.
I love not sharing. I have a weird schedule, I need flexibility. Leasing has been great, and I would absolutely consider a full-time care lease. But I don’t want to be beholden to anyone else’s schedule any longer.
I love not cleaning up other peoples’ messes. Let me put this the real way: I don’t want to have to clean up other peoples’ training messes.
Maybe I’m overly judgmental, but there are a lot of horses out there who don’t have great learning skills and I think a big part of it is how they were trained early on. I don’t want or need to spend time fixing that.
I love a horse who “matches” my mechanics. This is part a horse-intrinsic thing (I think) and part a training thing. But when you can get on a horse and steer it and move it around, it’s more than just “well trained”. Maybe it’s that “feels right” thing people often talk about. I’ve felt it a few times in horsey trials, and I like it.
That’s a few things, and a good place to narrow down my search. It’s stupid for me to pay Training-packer money for a horse I’m going to ride Beginner-Novice-level often. I don’t need that much horse. But I do need to figure out what I want in a horse and how I can maximize my chances of getting that.