Saturday, November 8, 2008

"Junk" Horses!

I know that title may sound a little harsh. I do not believe that one horse's quality of life is any more or less important than any another, regardless of the monetary value of the horse. Whether you have a $500 Heinz 57 or a $150,000 Grand Prix jumper , the same basic care is required to maintain the basic health of just about every horse..... Clean hay and water, (and an adequate amount of it), worming, shelter, dry ground, vet care, etc.. While it is true that your expenses can vary drastically depending on your discipline or how you use your horse, the survival needs of any horse, no matter how it is used, remains the same. I am infuriated by people that think that just because your horse is cheap or you stop using that old or unsound horse, it somehow means that its needs are diminished as well. The older horse needs MORE care, not less. But I digress....

My point behind this post is "junk" horses. This is a term that sadly I use and thinking of it now, may have actually developed. It has little to do with the quality of the horse and everything to do with my mindset.

Here is my problem with my mindset; I lack confidence in my ability. More than anything else, I hold myself back by not having the conviction to ask my horse to do something with authority because I am afraid that I am doing it "wrong" and I do not want to punish or screw up the horse with my own lack of skill. This problem stems from knowing that I am doing is wrong but being unable to do it right. You see, I have a passion for reining but for a number of reasons was unable to ride, take lessons, or compete. So I did what I could from the sideline to educate myself on all aspects of the sport, from judging, to training, showing, breeding etc.. So I have a very clear idea in my head of how I want things to look and how I want to do things but I lack the skill or experience to execute what is in my head. This leads to a tremendous about of frustration and that frustration inhibits what ability I do have, and then nothing works and I get mad at myself and so the vicious cycle goes. What I hear more than anything in my lessons is "get out of your head!! and just do it!!" All of this is compounded by my mare, Abby. Is it because she is so hard to ride or so volatile that I could screw her up? No! It is because I think she is so amazing and so talented and I know she TRIES so hard to do what I ask that I end up feeling like such a loser when I rider her! is the truth. I feel like in acting that scene from Wayne's World, wherein I would bow down and chant, "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy!" at her feet. How stupid is that! My trainer insists that I can "screw her up" but I just cant help it. I digress yet again....

On to "junk horses"!! What is a "junk" horse? A horse that I do not feel like bowing down to and saying, "I'm not worthy!" A horse that I can actually feel competent to ride! A horse that is athletic, well conformed, good minded and willing! What is "junk" about that?? Nothing! The only difference is that these horses make me feel like I can actually help them learn! Some horses have so little basic training and foundation on them that as lowly as I may be, I can still actually help them become better horses and I can do nothing to screw them up because they have no training in them to screw up! Lastly, right or wrong, these horse are not "valuable". As much as I would like to live in an alter universe where money doesn't matter, in this world, it does and taking a $2000 and "playing with it" is not nearly as intimidating as taking a $20,000 horse home to just fart around with in the arena and hope that you are doing things right!

This whole post stemmed from a comment I left on BrownEyed Cowgirls blog this morning. You wont find it there because the blogger gods don't like me today and stole my post! Grrrr.... I had suggested, in my very long winded comment yesterday (sorry BECG), that she learn to train reining maneuvers on a horse that she could afford to screw up on. I never meant to imply that she actually WOULD screw it up. I seriously doubt it. But training a horse or trying new techniques on a horse that you don't feel is your next world champion is a hell of a lot easier and different IN YOUR OWN MIND than doing so with a horse that shows a tremendous amount of promise and that you feel responsible for in allowing them to reach their full potential (ie- that delicious little Shooter!))

I also feel it necessary to point out that, as much as I respect what top trainers can get their horses to do, reining is not rocket science. IMHO, the key to reining is understanding HOW a maneuver works and then knowing, inside and out, how it is judged. HOW IT IS JUDGED. It doesn't matter how fast you can spin or how long you can stop, if you don't get how reining is judged, you will not win. Learning the techniques to getting a horse finished is difficult, but again, not rocket science. There are many different techniques to training a turn around. I could suggest a few. But what I cant do, and I am pretty sure that BECG can do, is employ her SKILLS to utilize a training technique.... the SKILLS that every good trainer has, no matter what the discipline! Those skills come from experience and good foundation of equitation...things like body awareness and control of the rider (knowing where her hands, feet, weight etc. is and being able to adjust it), horse body control (being able to feel what your horse is actually doing, where its weight is, etc. and being able to adjust it), knowing when to push, when to stop, consistency, timing, rate, all of those countless variables that you need to have mastered in order to train. What technique you are using to train a specific maneuver means nothing if you don't have the skill to employ it! I am still trying to develop them and BECG is trying to figure out how to put hers to use!

That "junk" term is really not right, is it? What a horrible way to talk about an animal! I hereby promise to not use that term again. What is another term that I could use to refer to a horse that does not make my heart go pitter patter but that is still something I am attracted to and could use to build my confidence in myself?


  1. You know, another way to think about it is to consider how we all began riding. I certainly didn't start on a "junk" horse, but my first few horses were seasoned veterans. Then, as I gained experience and confidence, I moved on to more challenging horses. There have been times with all of them were I have felt completely overwhelmed. But once you work through that, it can be twice as rewarding!

  2. Perhaps you could refer to these horses as your "paving stones to confidence". Some stable trainers refer to them as "lesson horses".

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  3. Not in a million years did I ever think that you were implying that I might actually mess a horse up and I completely understood what you were saying about taking "less than ideal" subjects and perfecting techniques on them. Girl...we are so on the same page!!

    What an awesome discussion we have going. Now I gotta go write some stuff too. Thank you for your insight and inspiration.

  4. I agree with BEC...I never thought that you were insinuating anything about her ruining horses. Sometimes things look different when we go back and read them though, huh?

    Yes...tomorrow should be interesting! I used to occasionally pen and sort on my old Arab, but he had absolutely NO desire to cut, nor did he show any inclination towards being cowy.

    I am sure that Amber and I will be the only rider's there on!!!

    I now know to investigate a little further into what my sister is signing me up for!!!

  5. Hey Girl I don't think you give yourself enough credit. I have watched you ride and progress over the last few years. You are a very good rider you are way more capable than you give yourself credit for. I would have no problem giving you one of my not so junk horse to use. I find the only way to learn is to make mistakes and I have made more than my share. Horses are very forgiving, you just have to change your attitude don't be so hard on yourself.
    Cowgirl up

  6. I am going to comment along the lines of Rodeogirl.

    It doesn't sound to me like you are lacking skill - I am going to be blunt here but not mean so i hope I don't tick you off.

    Reining, Western Pleasure - I know what you are going through and I think you need more experience. More riding time on your "own" horse and definitely more competition experience.

    Joe has a habit of letting me ride around on Stretch or Pat during lessons alot of times unsupervised (he is paying attention and watching me but he pretends he's not as he works with another horse or talks on his phone) He gives me a chance (after some instruction) to figure it out on my own. He says "yes it is possible I will mess up my horse, but that's why you have a horse trainer - I will get on and fix it IF it needs fixing"

    When you get to know your horse (this takes alot of time TONS of time - I know) you will know when to do certain things, when to push when not to, and all those things you mentioned. The way you can learn is by listening to your trainer tell you how to do it and going out there and doing it - OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

    If you go buy a "junk horse" and learn all his ins and outs at home, it will only help you with your mare to a certain extent - after that point you will be back to square one and it won't give you the show ring confidence that you need to win on your mare.

    I think you are stressing yourself out too much. I do the same thing. A friend of mine once said "It's a horse show, not chemotherapy,just go out there give it a shot and have fun. Learn and next time you'll do it better.

    So in a way accept that you will fail - but not every time and next time will always be better.

    For a beginner for any discipline but especially for reining or pleasure (both highly technical events) I will always recommend matching up a beginner rider with a really broke horse of good quality. that way you can learn all the ins and outs of a discipline in competition without the fear of "messing up" your horse. You have a chance to learn all the finer points to an event - the polish so to speak - the stuff that makes the difference between 1st and 2nd. As it is now you may have to get only the basics down with your mare now and as you two master all of that together then you can add the polish.

    With a really broke horse you also don't have the time lag where you are waiting for the horse to be "broke enough" for you to ride it. Ex: Patrick has been good enough for Joe to show successfully in the show ring (if he would wear tights and show English, which he won't) since beginning of Sept - but not broke enough for me to do the same thing. So I wait and wait and wait.

    The way you are going about things is not wrong at all, it's just different, and takes time. Please don't stress yourself out too much I have been there - you two will learn, you will come together and you won't ruin her.

    If you want a good trail buddy at home go buy one - if you want a reining practice horse, go buy a really broke (but not ring sour) one. One that could stop and look at you in the arena and tell you "that's not the way you do it" - maybe take him to open shows and do the reining and stock horse patterns there. Build competition confidence (the kind you only get from going in and out of ring over and over and over) and use that to help your mare. But don't expect the exact same buttons to be on your mare.

    Basically to me it sounds like you need lots and lots and lots of riding time. The first year I rode with Joe he told me I needed to go in and out the ring at least 32 (?? I know, weird, why not 33 or 37?) times - and then we'll work on winning. So I stopped thinking about winning and just was counting how many classes I was doing so I could get on to winning and well.... somewhere between 15-30 I started winning.

    Of course this is just my opinion I have a habit of just saying what I think - direct brain to mouth I was born without a filter so I hope I didn't offend you.