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Friday, January 17, 2014

In which I edit a meme to make it more satisfactory

Who likes this meme?

Don't be bashful!  Raise your hand! 

Do you believe this? Would you actually repeat this to someone?

I've seen this meme go around a couple of times. And each time I see it I do my best to ignore it. It absolutely pushes my buttons and makes my blood pressure rise to unhealthy levels.

Now, in general I'm not a fan of meme's, and if you want to facebook me as your friend - I can guarantee you I won't fill up your newsfeed with a bunch of them.

But most meme's are innocent fun, and worth a laugh.

This meme frustrates me because I think it perpetuates a stereotype among horse people that I think is detrimental - that one should not give up on a difficult horse because you will learn so much and earn the dubious non-existant-award of "better horseman". 

Here's the problem with difficult horses.  Most of the time I see the following three scenerios in regards to the "difficult horse".

1. An already "good horseman" "fixes" the difficult horse and makes it better and it becomes a horse that is less difficult.

2. A newbie or "not yet a horseman" gets the difficult horse and they are both unhappy - and the newbie often is NOT having fun and has to work through frusteration, fear, and guilt.

3. The difficult horse kills or severely injuries either the experienced person or the newbie.

Maybe my definition of "difficult" is different from the meme's definition of difficult.

So....Let's change the word difficult to "flawed". 

That's better!  I think we can agree that most horses are flawed?

Farley is basically good, but she didn't just give me a canter on a platter - I had to learn how to really ask.  And Minx - she was a b*tch to bridle when I got her and I had to learn to deal with a horse that had been severely ear twitched. Goldie was the first mare I ever bonded too and I learned how to catch a horse that didn't want to be caught on 40 acres.

I'm not thankful for difficult horses that made me scared to ride when I was a beginner.  But I'm thankful for basically good horses that had flaws that taught me to ride without trying to kill me at the same time.

You know the best thing about flawed horses?  They are everywhere. Which means every single horse that you or I are likely to own is going to teach us a lesson and make us a better horseman. No need to hang onto a horse that makes you scared or is going to seriously injure you just because "by working through their issues" you can be a "better horseman" - I guarantee you that if you get rid of that horse and get another one that is perhaps more suitable to your ability or personality, there will be flaws in the new horse that will still help make you a "better horseman".

(Of course, if you find you have the same "unsolvable" and "deal-breaker" issues with multiple horses, it's time for some self reflection - are you drawn to a certain type of "bad boy horse" and perhaps need someone to intervene in your horse choice and help you find a more suitable mount?  Or do you need professional help like riding lessons?)

My biggest pet peeve is watching a relatively new rider get into a situation where they are "over-horsed" and they are scared, and nervous, and reactive, and defensive.....and yet the only advice they are being given is that they should work through their issues because "they will learn so much". This situation was especially prevalent at boarding stables.  Guess what.  A horse that makes them feel comfortable and safe will ALSO teach them horsemanship lessons (because every horse has their quirks and flaws) but will ALSO introduce them to the JOY of riding - something that I struggled to find in my riding for a very long time.  Longer than I should have. 

Are you happy with my revised meme?

I'm not.

Let's take the first statement
I disagree.

We've already stated that most horses are flawed.

Are there horses that are not?

I would argue that the closest thing we have to the "perfect horse" is the schoolmaster.

Have you ever ridden a schoolmaster?

I have. 

I learned more about horsemanship riding dressage on a schoolmaster for 3 months, than I did in 12 months of learning and training dressage on Farley. 

I had to push the buttons exactly right on the schoolmaster - and if I managed to coordinate my seat/hands/legs/pelvis/hips/keeps/balance ALL AT THE SAME TIME to ask for a specific movement.....he gave it to me. If I didn't push the right button, he didn't. He was PERFECTLY willing to do WHATEVER I said, I just had to ask.  He had no "issues" I had to work through.  I didn't have to "make" him do anything.  He literally was ready to do my bidding as long as I could enunciate my request. 

Those months on that schoolmaster were invaluable to my riding and I was able to ride at a MUCH higher level much faster than if I was having to work through a flawed horse.  Instead of wondering whether it was *me* or them, or if I was pushing the right button and they weren't responding, or whether the "feeling" of the movement was correct or not or if they were "cheating" .....I only had to worry about *me*.

It's been extremely easy for me to transfer that knowledge I gained on the schoolmaster to the normal "flawed" horse.  I've learned to "push the button" and I know what the response to the "button" should feel like.....and since my body and cues are in the right place to allow and help the movement I can help guide a "naive" horse through the cue. 

I could not have achieved this level of "horsemanship" as efficiently without the help of the schoolmaster.

That's better.


  1. Love your perspective on this - and I totally agree. There is nothing worse than to be over horse'd. At best, you lose a good deal of confidence which you may or may not get back, at worst, you or your horse or both of you get injured and/or killed. It's just not safe!

    Like you said Mel, it's not like you can't have a safe horse that teaches you stuff! I personally feel that every horse has something to teach us, we just have to shut up and listen. ;)

    bonita of A Riding Habit

  2. Love your meme edit! Very true, and I wish more trainers would think like this.

  3. My watchword on this subject is "appropriate." Being appropriately-mounted, whatever that means for that rider and his/her situation, makes a better horseperson. Inappropriate horses, whatever that means ditto, are a disaster for all concerned way more often than not.

    I will admit that I totally kneejerk on "perfect horses don't teach you anything" claims. I have never ever ever heard anyone say that who wasn't engaged in a scary horse/rider relationship at the time.

    1. ^^^^^^^^^ EXACTLY. Usually it's someone trying to justify why you should keep riding the horse that scares you. Or to justify why they should keep a horse that scares them.


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