When I handle their horses, people often say “It’s ok for you, you have a special gift.” This isn’t true. I wasn’t born with any gift for handling horses. I know what I know from a lifetime of riding and handling thousands of different horses.
Every horse taught me something and a lot of owners made me wonder.
A neighbour who sounded very upset rang to ask if I’d help with her mare. “She rears when I ride her and I’m very scared. I’ve tried everything but she still does it. Will you ride her and see if you can fix her?”
The mare didn’t rear when I rode her because I corrected her before it happened. As soon as she slowed down to set herself up to rear, I did something about it.
The lady seemed a little disappointed to see her mare trot and canter around the arena without a rear in sight. “How come she doesn’t rear with you?” she asked.
“This is the first time you’ve had a horse that rears,” I told her. “It’s probably the hundredth time I’ve dealt with a rearing horse and I know what to do.”
With my experience, I could see what was coming. Immediately the mare thought about rearing, I did something about it. It’s too late to correct a horse for rearing when his feet have left the ground.
Here’s another phone call from a local fellow years ago: “There’s a four-year old colt running with Hank’s buck-jumping string. He can’t buck, so Hank doesn’t want him. Guess what, he’s a registered thoroughbred. We’ve bought him for $300 and we want to race him. Can you break him in for us?”
I didn’t think I needed money that badly but I knew everyone in the syndicate, so I took the job. The horse wasn’t taught to lead and didn’t trust people so I had to spend a lot of time gaining his confidence. They named the horse “Nice and Black” and after eight weeks he was sent to the racing stables. Nice and Black was no champion but he ended up winning a couple of provincial races.
I’ve handled and “broken in” many four and five year old horses like Nice and Black. I’ve had many horses sent to me that other trainers had given up on –horses labelled bad, mad and wild. Not once have I ever seen any need to use hobbles or ropes. Not once have I ever seen any need to exhaust a horse by chasing him or harassing him with tarps and flags.
Believe me, over the years I’ve seen and heard it all. So I don’t take much notice when someone tells me “I’ve got a horse at home that you couldn’t handle like that. He’s mad. He’s four years old and hasn’t been touched. You couldn’t do that with him.”
People often tell me long winded stories of the time that their horse tripped/stumbled/fell over/ jumped sideways/reared/shied or kicked up.
I’m afraid these things happen on a daily basis when you ride horses for a living. When we were first married, my wife Christine was washing and saw that one of my shirts had dirt on the shoulder and back. “What happened to this shirt” she asked. I told her that one of the young horses had stumbled and fallen over. “You didn’t tell me” she said. Well, to me it wasn’t worth a mention. It was just a bit of a stumble.
When you ride hundreds of different horses all day every day for years on end, you come across all sorts of stumbles, falls and problems to deal with. This is called experience.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you experience. What I can give you however, is the benefit of my experience. Hopefully you won’t have to make all the mistakes I’ve made. More importantly, perhaps you’ll realise that you don’t have to put any horse through stressful experiences to achieve your goals.