The Horse You’re Building
By: Hanna Powers
Ours is the sport of kings. Recently in History class we were discussing the early settlement of our country and the enormous role that the horse played. About 100 years ago nearly everyone had a horse. It was a necessity for daily life, certainly not an extravagance. Horses are no longer an integral part of our survival, except for a few holdouts like you and me!
Now, to ride or to own our beloved creatures is a luxury in most cases. Whether accurate or not, many people assume that anyone involved with equestrian pursuits must be privileged. Yes, often true, but it is usually not that simple. As young riders we learn at an early age what exactly goes into maintaining our passions. I remember the important lesson I learned in the short stirrup ring when I had not won at a horse show because another rider had a “nicer” pony. I was offended by this premise and I assumed a protective instinct to defend my animal, spare her from the indignity of being thought of as inferior. I was her person after all, and I had accountability for our performance too. Not long after, I could start to see what made certain animals better and why those performed well in the show ring.
We have all suffered from horse envy; we’ve looked dreamy eyed at the lovely flawless specimens just imagining what it would be like to ride them. What makes those animals better is exactly why we continue to train, practice, and perfect. The promise for improvement is limitless; we all just start at different levels, both riders and horses alike.
I am fortunate to have ridden some of those amazing creatures whose skill and talent are remarkable; I enjoy every minute of pushing my boundaries on the horseflesh perfection. However, much of my saddle time has also been joyously spent with decidedly lessor animals. They might be horses with a unfortunate past, poor training, lack of care, youngsters, untalented, lazy, mean, poorly bred, unattractive, slightly broken and backyard beasts that would have you know that they are not truly inferior, but simply more complicated. (As an aside, please never forget what a clip job and curry comb can do for every horse!) I think at times it can be complicated coming to complete ease with the caliber of the animal you ride unless your barn is filled with Grand Prix veterans. Particularly as young riders, you might feel as if you need to make excuses and justify. A true horseman would never make anyone feel this way, so beware if they do.
Think of the horse you are on at any given time as the horse you’re building. Your task and duty is to uncover whatever greatness he has in him. The only measure is how you manage your job. I know it can be frustrating when every horse in YOUR division is an auto-changer, seeing-eye-dog to jumps, daisy cutter, push button and ex-national champion. But it’s all about the horse you’re building. Start with good flatwork and each day set small goals such as one lap of a properly collected canter. All horses can learn and all horses are worth teaching. They might just surprise you.
We all will get out-horsed at horseshows. Smart riders find ways to achieve success in the rings best suited for the horse they’re building. Longing to be elsewhere in other rings is not fair to your partner. So the next time your trainer asks you to get on “Frankenstein,” “Piranha,” or “Dragon” just rider up and collect your reins! The horse that you’re building deserves the very best that you have in order to uncover his greatness.
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