|Smart Lil Poppy|
Copyright (c) 2013 MJ Miller
As I often do when I spend time with truly great horses that I did not personally raise, I reflect on how much of an investment someone, somewhere, made in those horses. It takes a lot to make a perfect horse: among other things, it takes time, knowledge, experience, patience, timing, consistency and good old sweat-inducing hard work. It means not cheating and not skipping steps, no matter how mundane, because it all makes a difference.
Making the perfect horse is a commendable effort. It is a gift you give not only to that horse, but to every person who handles that horse in the future -- the majority of whom you'll never meet. It is a gift to the child who might run behind the horse waving a balloon; to the veterinarian who has to sew up a wound on his back leg; to the middle-aged woman who buys him, wanting to rediscover the relationship she had with horses thirty years prior.
It's an incredible thing to make a perfect horse. The building of a perfect horse means developing trust, so he can conquer those fight-or-flight instincts. It means demanding perfect ground manners so he doesn't trample someone walking beside him, or rub his head on their back and knock them down. It means ensuring his nutritional needs are met so that he is physically capable of a productive, long, healthy and sound life. It means teaching him what he must know to be safe and pleasant: stepping freely and voluntarily into a trailer, just because you ask; standing tied without setting back; lifting his feet politely; tolerating certain unpleasant things, such as painful veterinary procedures, because they must be done for his own good. All those things, and so much more, are tedious parts of the training process -- but they are so necessary.
Much of what makes the perfect horse are things that were NOT done to him, though. Thank you to those of you who don't put the horse in a no-win situation so that he doesn't learn to freeze up because he is smart enough to realize he'll get punished either way. Thank you to those of you who don't ruin the most talented and capable horses by continually jamming on them, forever wanting more than they can give. Thank you for not making them head shy, barn sour, or just plain mean. Those of you who don't cripple up your horses with ignorance or neglect deserve praise. You -- yes, you -- the one who went without new clothes during that rough financial time, so your horse could have ample feed and veterinary care? Thank you.
For those of you who spend time every day with your young horses, teaching them to lead properly and without resistance, bless you. For those of you who show affection to your horse with praise and kindness, but don't spoil them with hand-fed treats or by letting them get away with bad habits, thank you. Did you teach your horse to lower his head when asked, or the "over" command that is so essential when working around your horse on the ground? You're my hero.
Special thanks to you who register your horses. No, I'm not a believer that horses have to have papers to be of value. But I am a believer that a registered horse has a better shot at a happy and long life, because they are important to many people. Those registration papers may make the difference between a horse going to auction or going on to a new life as a broodmare. Thank you for investing in registering your registrable horses -- and more importantly, thank you for breeding good quality horses.
That's where the perfect horse begins, of course -- at conception. If you refuse to breed that high-dollar horse that carries a genetic disease or disorder, thank you. If you refuse to breed a horse that is dangerously crazy, mean, or terror-stricken despite being handled properly from birth, thank you.
And for those of you whom don't own even horses, but handle them well -- the trainers, horseshoers, veterinarians, grooms, and riders on borrowed horses -- thank you. Horsemen know that it takes just one idiot to ruin a horse that was years in the making. If you care enough about horses to do the right thing even if you only handle a horse once, you're deserving of great respect.
Thank you to all of you whom contribute in some way to those perfect horses. It is, ultimately, the horse who benefits most from your care and expertise. They can't thank you -- and I can't thank you enough.
Copyright (c) 2013 by MJ Miller. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be used without the express permission of the author, but links may be freely shared. Thank you for commenting, sharing, pinning, liking, and otherwise helping grow my readership.