Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Right Horses?

Golden the Pony Girl asked a good question yesterday in the comments to my post - "What are you looking for in a horse at this stage? . . . Both of these horses seem like high maintenance rides . . . are either of these mares the partner you need . . .?" I guess the answer to this is that they are the horses I have, today, and I want to work with what I have even if it isn't ideal. I'm no longer in the business of trading horses, and each of the horses have their own characteristics that make me unwilling to pass them along. There also seems to be a strong possibility that they are the horses I need today, in order to take my horsemanship forward and continue learning. Sometimes I miss the days of "just get on and ride", but mostly I find the adventure we're on exciting. I also need to think more about how to bring out the best in these horses by being creative in what we do and how we go about it.

Now as to why I keep them. Maisie is a beautiful horse, bred to be a competition hunter. But she's not reliably sound - she needs regular chiropractic and she has long, low pasterns with weak suspensories - she's an accident waiting to happen - she's already had a low suspensory injury once. Because she's so pretty, if I sold her she'd end up back in the show ring, and she likely wouldn't last long from a soundness point of view, and you know where that leads. I've had her since 2002, and she deserves better than that - she is a sweet, kind horse. I would retire her before I would sell her. She's the horse of mine that I've had the hardest time developing a real connection with - she knows me and is mostly glad to see me (it took us a long time to get to this point), but the real bond is missing and we need to see if we can develop that. There are lots of things we can do besides riding that may help with this - I've always thought of her as my "riding horse" but perhaps my perspective needs to change.

Dawn is my younger daughter's horse, and is her "soul horse" - I could never sell Dawn as she has a special place in my family. We've had Dawn since 2001. My daughter, who's just started college, may never live in a place where she can have Dawn near her, so she's now "mine". I've also quickly begun to develop a strong bond with her, and I think she's very special - she has personality plus and great intelligence and determination. She also is a challenging horse to work with, and does not take well to coercion or rough handling - I can't imagine her being passed along to others. If I can keep working with her, I think she may develop into that special partner I am looking for. We've already made a lot of progress on her attention and relaxation, and that encourages me to think we can go a lot farther.

Neither horse is one I can just get on and ride, and I do miss that - Noble, and Promise, were horses like that, and those were the horses I needed then as I got back into riding as an adult. And Breathe had a very insightful comment yesterday: ". . . we pressure ourselves right out of Joy, sometimes . . ." I'm working every day now on learning to see where the joy is in my life, including my life with horses, and I think that "just get on and ride" may not be where the joy's going to be for me at this point in my horse life. While we're taking our winter break, I'll be thinking more about those things, trying to discern the right path for us to take.

Please enjoy your winter day! - the colors and light are lovely this time of year.


  1. Your journey on the ground or on their backs, seems to me, to be shaping Maisie and Dawn into the right horses for you. I love the idea of that because it is on-going. Having the "right" horse from day one is a little static, and honestly, probably not possible. You seem too intelligent to be content with not thinking deeply daily. Dawn and Maisie give you that opportunity.

  2. They sound like lovely horses , and you will make it right for you

  3. Yeah I could not agree more! Thanks for the response though I wanted to know how you felt about this. I see horses as part of the family too and I like your attitude of developing the horses you have into the horses you want. That is the journey right?

    Reminds me of the recent post from Grey Horse Matters "Love the One Your With". Love it. My goal is to never sell a horse again unless it is to an upgrade. In other words a situation that is better than what I can provide. I had to sell one horse in my life because I was not in the position nor did I have the skill to provide the adequate training that this horse needed.
    Mugwump Chronicles recent post fits in well with this thought process and I though I would share it in case you did not see it.

    Your horses are so lucky to have a home with you :)

  4. Kate...I love the way you think and are able to express yourself. You take on the responsibility for their lives and yours in a way that is so right.

  5. I love your posts, your explanations, your descriptions. I am so glad I found your blog - I have learned so much! thank you.

  6. Kate, I love your attitude about your horses. I also think that as much as you might sometimes miss being able to just get on and ride, it seems to me that you also enjoy what you do with Maisie and Dawn.

  7. Your horses are very lucky to have you as their advocate. As you know, no everyone is as patient and caring to their horses. I admire the time and effort you take to bring out their best.

  8. I hold a special place in my heart for the "high maintenance" horses. They have the most to teach. When I was young, I wanted to be able to just get on and ride, but as I mature I find that I like a bit more of a challenge. It sounds like you're in a similar place right now. Good luck finding your path!

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about working with what you have and enjoying what each horse has to offer. It has me looking long and hard at what Trix and I are doing with our own journey.

  10. My horses are far from perfect as well, but like you, I believe the horses I have are the ones I need. I have never been able to shop to spend the money to find the "ideal" horse, so I have always dealt with the horses I have been able to buy. Thus, I've always considered it my responsibility to make them into horses I want to own.

    All three Boys continue to be works in progress, and I intend to enjoy every minute of it.

  11. Lovely post, you are very considerate of everything you do with your mares. It sounds like you have a great rapport and understanding with both mares :)

    I have a sharp, smart little horse. There are times he's had me in tears but I call him Professor, he's here to teach me. Very hot-headed but very forgiving!

  12. A well written post, you express your sentiments so eloquently. All of your horses are lucky to have you as a key person in their life!

    I will say that I do not think there is any shame in selling a horse to a good home, either because we can no longer provide appropriate care or because we are admitting that the match is just plain bad. After all, if no one sold horses it would be very hard to add to our horse families (unless we all kept a mare for breeding purposes). That being said, given the type of farm I have I think it goes without saying that I tend to see myself as the 'forever home' for my horses!

  13. Great post Kate. My feeling has always been that we have the horses we have at certain points in our lives for a reason. Although, sometimes figuring out that reason can be just out of our grasp. Maisie sounds like my Dusty, she's a hard horse to get a connection with, but I keep working toward that and hopefully some day she will actually be happy to see me. I think the mares are more of a challenge than the boys.

  14. Given your new goals, your desire to stretch in a new direction, it seems like you have the right horses.

    When it's not about ribbons, and not just about riding, it all gets so much more complex... and (hopefully) fulfilling on a different level.

  15. Your post speaks to my heart more than I can even explain. I am feeling similar feelings, too, but am in an entirely different place.

    On one hand, I do have a close bond with my mare. We've been through a lot together, both good and very very bad. I'm familiar with her and know the worst that she will do. That should make me feel safer, but it doesn't.
    I know she can hurt me and I know she can be unpredictable and spooky. And I know how much she demands a leader because of how stubborn, independant and an alpha mare she is.

    I don't think I can be that alpha mare, even though she has taught me a lot. I've only owned her for 2 1/2 years and she is my first horse. She is a challenge and one I don't think I'm cut out for. I don't think I can ever fully trust her a trail again.

    Is she the horse I need right now in my life? I think she was the horse I needed in many ways in the beginning.

    But sadly, she has caused me way to much sadness, frustration and pain, and has taken much of the joy of riding away from the way I had dreamt it would be.

    She is my heart horse and I love her so much it hurts to the bottom of my core and I've cried oceans of tears over the thought of giving her up.

    Maybe this is the way it's supposed to be. We've come full circle together. I loved her in the beginning, and then after my injuries, I wanted her gone and could barely stand the sight of her.
    And now we have built back that bond and affection for one another again.

    Which only makes it harder saying goodbye.

    But maybe that's the way it supposed to be.

    I'm coming to the realization that I'm not the only person who can provide a good home for my horse. And I know it is selfish for me to think that way. Keeping her because I love her and don't want to give her up may not be in her best interests.

    She requires a confidant, strong alpha to ride her and I don't know if I can ever be that kind of rider for her. It hurts to admit that, but the truth often does.....

    Thanks for this post. It got me thinking.


  16. thank you for a great post Kate! for me my horses are like dogs, they are part of my family...we grow's about a journey and partnership..


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