by Laura Crum
OK, maybe the title should have been, “There is No Perfect Horse.” Because what I am going to discuss today is a spinoff on my last post about “Choosing the Right Horse.” (And thank you, Shanster, for giving me the idea.) Just as its important not to set oneself up for failure by expecting to train a sensitive reactive horse into a bombproof trail horse, its important not to expect to find “Mr Perfect.” As in husbands, all horses have their quirks and idiosyncracies. You will not find a horse that does everything exactly the way you wish he would. We need to focus on what’s important, and let go of the idea that every single thing must be exactly right.
Take my bombproof trail horse, little Sunny. He’s a bombproof trail horse, all right, which is what I needed. He’s also a clunky mover, not all that well broke, and constantly tries little dominance games. If I had required that my bombproof horse be sweet and cuddly, well broke and smooth gaited, I would have rejected Sunny.
We all know those horse people who are constantly swapping their current horse in for something “better”. No horse is ever quite right. I, for one, don’t know one of this type of horseman who has as much success as those of us who find a horse that fits our needs and stick with him, tolerating his quirks…as long as he is basically the right type of horse for us.
Just as you don’t want to persist with a horse that is the wrong sort of horse for you, you don’t want to give up too easily on a horse that is the right sort. The best partnerships between people and horses are forged over time. In a way, it really is like a marriage. You need to pick the right kind of guy, but once you have, you need to hang in there when the honeymoon is over.
Two years is the basic window. Once you’ve owned a horse for two years, you pretty much know what he is and whether he’s the right sort of horse for you. If you think that he is, then its time to hang in there and deal with what comes up.
And when you’re looking for a horse, its really important to sort out what counts for you. For me, when I bought Sunny, it was bombproof trail horse who is sound, not too tall, and has no dangerous vices. It didn’t hurt that Sunny was cute. I did not add into my equation that the horse needed to be a particular breed, or age, or color, and it is very helpful to finding the right horse if you do not focus on these things. If all you want to do is look at your horse, by all means select a pretty one of the color you like. If you wish to ride your horse, put the traits you need in a riding horse first. (See my last post on “Choosing the Right Horse.”)
Anyway, those people who go after the perfect horse always remind me of a story my friend told me. She worked at a nursery and knew just about everything about plants. She said that novice gardeners invariably showed up at the nursery wanting “planta perfecta”. It was evergreen, bloomed all the time, came with flowers in the color of their choice, was easy to care for, draught tolerant, disease resistant, could deal with shade or sun, long lived…etc. You get the picture. There is no such plant. If you approach choosing a horse this way, you will never be satisfied.
Lets face it, if you must have a (name your color) mare who is sixteen hands, pretty headed, can win at (name your event), is a registered (name your breed of choice), is sound (of course, we all want that), perfectly straight legged and with no confirmation issues, is no more than seven years old, is safe for a beginner, smooth gaited, very well broke and responsive, and doesn’t cost more than (name your price)….you will be looking a long time. And when you find this mare (if you do), by the time you have owned her awhile you will discover that she (like all horses) has some issues. And you will have to decide if you can live with those issues.
As I said earlier, a lot of people never figure this out and are always convinced (once they discover said issues) that they can swap their current horse for something better. Something that will be “perfect”.
You can find perfect all right. My trail horse is perfect. Not because he doesn’t have any flaws. No. Because he consistently and reliably does the thing I need him to do—he goes down the trail in his steady, unflinching away, taking me (and giving my son’s good horse a lead) on well over two hundred trail and beach rides to date (in two years), without once getting us in trouble. (Knocking on wood here—horses are horses after all, and stuff happens.) I know what perfect is. It’s a horse who does what you need him to do. I can put up with Sunny’s little attitude and his rough gaits. He’s perfect for me.
So, how about you guys? Anybody have any stories to contribute on this subject? Do you have the perfect horse?