A Great Horse Will Do Whatever You Ask, A Great Horseman Will Never Ask

I read some equestrian news yesterday that Sinead Halpin retired one of her top mounts, and she quoted her husband, Tik Maynard, as saying, “A great horse would jump through fire for you if you asked, and a great horseman would never ask.” I can think about this for hours. It might be one of […]

via Never Ask — Patently Bay

I’m sharing this because I love the quote-I love the wisdom in it.  I think you will, too.



The Curse of Perfectionism


First of all, a reminder-these are my opinions and they are based on 50+ years of working with all kinds of horses. However, if you disagree, feel free to keep on going. I know not everybody is going to agree with me. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life out of  step with the rest of the world so it is nothing new to me. But do not attempt to change my viewpoints by charging in and ‘correcting’ me. It simply will not work. I’ll ignore you.

This photo is on top because I see a lot-no, make that TONS-of horses wearing snaffles and flash nose bands. I did it, too, for awhile with a young horse until he made it quite plain that the arrangement pissed him off to no end. (Always pay attention to what your horse is telling you, folks. My riding instructor kept telling me to do this or that, but I listened to HIM. He was shaking his head, pulling on the reins, opening his mouth, not listening, dropping his shoulder, etc. The problem lay in the bridle-it hurt.) So I set about learning about bits, nosebands, hands, and why they are used. It isn’t pretty the majority of the time.

Nose bands were originally nothing more than a way to tie your horse without using the reins in the military/driving days. They had a ring underneath and were always fairly heavy leather worn loosely enough that the horse could chew his ration in a nose bag. Some person somewhere along the line got the ‘brilliant’ idea that they could force a horse’s mouth closed by putting a few more holes in the thing. Why did they want to?


This is why-if you put something into a mouth and it can be steel, plastic, rubber, leather-you can find ways to create pain. Now I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t use bits-but you should understand that ALL bits are capable of creating ENORMOUS pain. There is no such thing as a ‘mild’ bit. All that varies is the knowledge and skill of the hands that use it. A thick snaffle in the hands of a fool can be the instrument of extreme torture to a horse. By the same token, there are some people who can get horses to perform world class dressage bridleless. I’ve ridden a finished spade bit horse that could be handled with a feather’s touch on the reins and the nose band was for decoration only.

People want the end-without the work involved to get there. 

Now I’m a perfectionist myself-and I  can get as frustrated as the next person about my horses’ performance as anyone else. So don’t even start down that road with me. You do have the time to work with that horse-you just don’t want to take it. You’d rather take the shortcut of hurting your horse-causing pain-and justifying it to yourself as ‘but everybody else does it’, ‘my trainer recommended it’, ‘my horse wasn’t listening to me’, blah, blah, blah. Go ahead-add any you wish-I’ve heard them all-and they are all EXCUSES FOR POOR HORSEMANSHIP. That’s unacceptable.

The third photo is another type of nose band being marketed. Notice that it is supposedly more ‘humane’ because it avoids the jaw bones covered only with skin. Well, isn’t that nice, folks? But now we have a strap higher on the jaw to help hold the jaw closed and better bracing across the nose bridge. The horse loses even more. (Actually, you do, too.
The thing is pricey.)noseband





I didn’t put any Western, endurance, or other disciplines in this-mostly for space reasons. They are just as much at fault as the English branch. If there is a way a human can inflict pain and suffering on a horse, by golly, they’ll find it and do it.

Am I one of those nuts who thinks horses shouldn’t be ridden? Oh, heck, no. I do think that a great many of the gizmos (chambons, draw reins, martingales, gambons, tie downs, etc.) should be recognized for what they are and thrown in the land fills. If you think you need something like that-get a motorcycle or ATV and leave the horse alone. As one person puts it “If you keep getting the wrong answer, then you aren’t asking the right question.”  See the last photo for an example of that-the rider isn’t getting the ‘frame’ that was desired so rollkur was resorted to to achieve it. The wrong question was being asked so the wrong answer was given. The horse is paying the price for the humans’ quest for perfection.


Searching for Harry’s History

If you know anything about Harry-  his owner wants to hear about it. Apparently, Harry’s a really nice horse-one of those that has training that you really didn’t expect when you first bought him, but you find out later. The kind of horse that makes you wonder-‘gee, I wonder if maybe this horse has somebody looking for him?”

So take a look-I promise there’s no nasty bugs attached-and see if you recognize Harry’s face. If you do-give the guy a call.

That Feeling…

You know that special feeling that I guess all little girls-and quite a few big ones-dream about having when they walk out in the pasture to see their horses and it seems like the horses can’t seem to get enough of them? Yeah-that one. The one where they actually run to meet you instead of the catching game?

Well, after 50 something years of having horses, I have that. All seven of them will come-the more agile ones galloping and the more reserved more slowly. But they come-and I have to give individual attention to each or feelings are hurt. The sisters are always first-insistent on being first and there is no such thing as enough. Then the warmblood-proud, imperious, and yet oddly juvenile in his begging for attention. The older mares will stand back and wait their turns for scratching. Then comes the pony-who knows he is lowest on the pecking order for all his vain attempts to prove himself.

It’s been a long, long road to get to this-so I savor every moment I spend with them. So very few people get to experience this magical experience-and here I have it each time I go out there. How wonderful and how blessed I am. If only relationships with humans could be so incredible!

Character Judgment

I have a theory-one of these days, I fully expect some major scientific funding back me up on it. My theory is-if you are really good with animals, any kind of animals, then the reactions of the animals in your life to the people you bring around them will tell you all you need to know about the people.

The Sports Model Jackass taught me a great deal about this-of course, he was something of a special kind of guy, too. He loved to play pranks. I’m serious. He didn’t like my sister-but then she didn’t care for him much either. He ran away with her at least twice. He bit her arm so hard she passed out (not nipped-BIT). We were riding side by side one day and she changed the words of The Old Grey Mare to The Old Brown Pinto-he nailed her foot for that (don’t tell me they don’t understand our speech!).

He also had opinions about farriers-loved to drive them crazy. Until a funny little old guy showed up who would work on both fronts then the hinds instead of going around the horse. Whatever worked.

Boyfriends were an issue with him-he never gave even a lukewarm response to one. None got bit, stepped on, or kicked, but he made it very clear-‘if you’re going with THAT-you’ve got a problem picking out boyfriends, toots.’  Sour ears, ugly looks, and The Butt. If it was really awful, he’d walk off.

Subsequent equines did the same-Zhivago, the Tarpan stallion, was particularly expressive in his opinions. ‘Dad’ adored me-and would actually walk between me and someone he did not care for. I sometimes wondered what would happen if somebody did try something with him around. He was a feisty little s*** on his best days.

Madam, my crabby long-haired tortoiseshell cat, was the one who gave the seal of approval to the guy I eventually married. She spent most of an evening upside down purring in his arm while we played a board game-something she never did. Then the horses ratified it. (I met him in ’89-seven years after I lost the Jackass.)

These are but a few of the examples. If you wish to post yours in the comments, please feel free to do so in WordPress. I would enjoy reading them. Animals enrich our lives in many ways-I believe they can make it easier and more worthwhile as well if we will but pay attention to what they try to tell us.