First, let me give a big Congratulations to the participants of the Prodigious Fund’s 100 Day Thoroughbred Challenge. Paige Wagter did an amazing job with the lovely gelding, King of the Sky. She took a horse with a lovely personality and athleticism and showed helped him find a new niche in the sport world. That is exactly what the Fund’s mission statement is. Ive already heard from two young trainers that they might want to apply for the Challenge next year. The more the merrier!!
I had a lot of feedback about my last video blog for Mats Mats Bay. And while it was hard to not finish the race in the final home stretch, I knew that it was best to make a decision that was right for Matty. If you missed the video, here it is. But the brief synopsis is: going around in any sort of circle makes Matty’s panties twist into a knot. He is not a horse who is able to find relaxation in an arena. And despite our best efforts, he showed us that his favorite part of every day was when he was either jumping or was on a trail ride. It’s not my job to make football players into ballerina dancers, in fact I don’t even possess that skill. But it is my responsibility to help horses be in the best job that suits their personality and skill set.
And now to a related subject:
I often get asked by riders to evaluate their horses for the job being asked of them. And my first question to them is “What are your personal riding goals?” Their reply is essential to incorporate into my answer. If your goals are to compete at beginner novice and novice level, and you are sitting on a horse who can bolt and cause the rider to get nervous and visit their worst fears on a frequent basis…. then No, that might not be the best horse for you. And my honesty puts me in a terrible situation. The rider usually doesn’t want to hear the honest answer (if its to the negative). If all is well with the horse and rider pair, then they usually don’t ask the suitability question in the first place!
To be specific, a rider that I used to teach, was paired with a horse who frequently unseated her. This horse caused her to become nervous (a valid response) and then her nervousness further compounded the behavior of the horse. There was a trip to the hospital, and lots of moments with potential to become trips to the hospital. When I told her that she might consider a horse that was less sensitive and explosive, all she heard was “You don’t like my horse, or me.” And that message overrode the discussions about safety and health. I know a lot about how to communicate with horses, but apparently I still have a lot to learn about people. Here is my take home message: riders don’t see the safety matters the same way that the trainer does. When a rider causes the horse to become a neurotic mess because of her fear of riding it, it’s apparently easy to get offended when I suggest that perhaps a slower, non-OTTB would be a more suitable horse for their goals. OR they should change their goals.
This rider now thinks that I just tell people to sell their horses for grins, and I’m a little annoyed. Should I just suck it up and watch the rider get unseated on a weekly basis? Apparently, they are not paying me for my advice. They are paying me to make them feel good and put lipstick on a pig. The ability to communicate well is an incredibly important skill for both riders and trainers. And I realize that I can’t make everyone happy all the time. But you should expect that I absolutely WILL tell you if I think that there is a safety concern with you and your horse. Likewise, you should find another trainer if you believe that my straightforward approach is, in any shape or form, a personal attack. Riding is a dangerous sport, and too often, riders put aside the safety concerns in order to accomplish their goals. And if you are a delicate ballerina wanting to go head to head with the Seahawks, then you should expect me to tell you to find a new career.