Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the importance of having fun

Life is too short to always be serious. Life is also too short to try every form of entertainment and fun there is to be had. And some people enjoy doing things that don't excite me (squaredancing, bungee-jumping, mountain biking and that sort of thing spring to mind..)

I try to be broad minded and I want everyone to have fun. So my personal yard stick I apply to determine if something counts as a desirable activity (regardless of whether I like it) goes something like this:

Where one, two or more consenting beings enjoy an activity and entertain each other, and it's not at the detriment of other parties, it's good value. 

I don't care something of value is created, because the enjoyment in the activity itself is of imeasurable value. Fun and enjoyment are such a necessary part of life. Without it, a creature withers emotionally. Fun is balm for the soul.

As usual, you will ask - well, what does this have to do with horses?? As usual, it does!

There are countless ways in which we can interact with horses. Within the spectrum of what is good for the horse and person, there is room for many different ways of doing things. There is no one correct way to do things. One shoe doesn't fit all. No one method works for all horses or all people. It is good to try new things, to experiment, to keep the daily interaction live and interesting. And we must not forget to have fun.

So if someone thinks of ways to engage their horse, to have fun together and does it in a way you haven't seen, or don't normally do, should you encourage it? OH YES.

If there is no harm in it, but it challenges your view of the world, should you tolerate it? DAMN RIGHT.

If you would have never thought of it, and you can't take the credit for it, or you can't do it yourself, should you belittle it? OH NO, unless of course you are a stuck up, selfish ignoramus.

And here is a fabulous example of someone and her horse having fun. They didn't set out to study a liberty routine, it just happened, she's got her Mojo working ;-)

May I present for your viewing pleasure: Elyane and Mojo Man:

Of course, there is a little bit of pride involved here. You see, I bred Narrawin's Mojo Man. He's a purebred Saddlebred gelding, and a nice one, if I may say so myself...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Xmas!!

So it's that time of year again. Most of the year is behind us. The holidays are about to start.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

too old?

So I've just been told that a 14 year old mare is too old to ride and breed.

This mare grew up in peace, had a few foals and was started under saddle late and ridden on and off for about a year. She is sound and has a pretty nice and laid back temperament. She sure doesn't believe in over exerting herself. Obviously, with only a little bit of work under her belt, she can't be called an experienced mount, but with a little bit of regular work (after a reminder session or two), she should come along nicely and be a good pleasure riding horse for another 10 years or so.

But the answer was:
"as she would need a bit of work to get her going etc and then by the time she became a good riding horse(fully trained) she would almost be ready for retirement."


"she could be a good broodmare also but with her age a foal may take too much out of her"


Have we come to the point where the stupid habit of riding two year old horses has littered the saleyards and knackeries with so many broken down horses in their early teens that this is now the accepted norm??

Oh dear!

I will admit that if I was offered a 14 year old mare that had been ridden every day since the age of 2 or earlier, I'd probably baulk, too. Of if she'd had her arse worked off inbetween popping out foals every year from that age.

But holy crap, if I were offered a sensible, sound, horse of good breeding, and I knew it hadn't had the arse flogged off it, I would most definitely consider it.

Of course there are no guarantees in life. The fourteen year old might break down in a couple of years. But hey, so could the 4 year old you buy. A pre purchase vet exam is still the best way to get an educated third party's opionion on a horse.

I just don't accept that on principle a fourteen year old horse should be considered "too old" to ride or breed. That would be like like refusing a job to a fourty year old person on the basis of age.

(..shakes head in disbelief...)

Update 7.1.2012:

The mare was sold to someone else last year. The new owner just sent me photos of her riding the mare, doing jumping, winning a ribbon at a gymkhana and having fun. She is totally happy, and the mare looks beautiful: fit, interested and relaxed.

Someone put the time in and is reaping the rewards. Makes me happy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

noblesse oblige

From Wikipedia:

Noblesse oblige is a French phrase literally meaning "nobility obliges".
The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines it thus:
  1. Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
  2. (Figuratively) One must act in a fashion that conforms to one's position, and with the reputation that one has earned.

Question: What does that have to do with horse training?

Answer: A lot!

In my opinion there are two facets to this.

1. human to horse

In a human-horse relationship, the human (has to) have the leadership position. More on this in a previous post titled training, respect and public perception. As I indicated in that post, this leadership role entails responsibilities. To me, that also means that I must conduct myself towards the horse in a fashion which conforms to that position. Good leadership boots are hard to fill.

2. human to human

As someone who is consulted as a person with knowledge and experience (sorry, I refuse to use the term "expert"), I have a responsibility towards other people. Specifically to people who bring me horses to train, people who pay for coming to clinics or who pay me for my horse related know-how in any other shape or form. To me, this means that I must stay true to the ethical foundations upon which my horse training is based. I must stay true to the principles I proclaim to adhere to. I cannot speak of lofty goals and high moral principles without actually striving constantly to follow them. I cannot ask people to do as I say, but not do as I do. With other words, I need to lead by example.

Ok, I'm only small fry. I don't have a huge fan base, public appearances and a method with a name. I don't have people who orient their whole horse interaction on my methods, and I certainly don't have dedicated defenders of my named and patented method of horse training.

So, to those who have a big public profile, who can woe and influence many people, I say this:

Practice what you preach.
Stay true to your creed.
Speak up on horse welfare.
Your journey is never over, you are a student of life and a a student of horses - for life!
You are only human - it is ok to admit to errors and to make changes
Be honest to others and to yourself.
Be kind to man and beast.
Be conscious of your responsibility.
Lead by example.
Don't be blinded by your own importance.

Noblesse oblige! 

Monday, December 6, 2010

what on earth????

... are they doing riding two year olds?

I know this is going on. Not just in the racing world, no, it's endemic among the stockhorse people, the western people and in some of the dressage/hacking crowd as well. Hello, guys & girls, are you for real?

I know you're in a hurry to get those promising youngsters out there and competing and winning money, ribbons and other glory for you. But is it so important to you that are willing to damage your horse's health and long term future? Or what else is your excuse?

They aren't ready. Not in the brain and not in the body. There is a reason why child labour is banned, has it maybe occurred to you that a two year old horse is also a juvenile?

It's damn sad to see this happening. But I get even more furious when people who supposedly dedicate themselves to the correct handling and riding of horses, big names in horse circles, go along and even support this crap. I thought you guys and girls are supposed to be role models. You preach the fair treatment of horses, good relations between humans and horses and gentle methods. Yet you condone the damage riding usually does to young horse bodies and minds. How can this be??

If someone comes and says to me: help - I have this issue when I ride my two year old colt, then my answer is to get the .... OFF that horse. Wait until he's four.

Oh, and then I had the joy of looking into Horse Deals (online, as I don't buy it any more). And found a picture of a yearling (!), saddled and bridled, and the description proudly commententing on this. Oh yes, it was a crappy pictures, horse standing like a lean goat, partially obscured. Real good advertising... But what on earth is a saddle (and bridle!) doing on a yearling??

What is going on? How can this be stopped?

I know this is the age of impatience. We want it and we want it now. Instant gratification. Instant fixes for problems. Immediate results. Waiting is old fashioned and slow.

But guess what - some things cannot be hurried, and the maturing of horses is one of those. For good reading on this subject, visit equinestudies.org and read the excellent piece by Dr.Deb Bennett titled Timing and Rate of Sceletal Maturation in Horses.

And take it to heart.