Saturday, June 28, 2008

You Should Sell That Horse

Considering the previous subjects of this week's posts and the fact that I went to a horse show last weekend and had lousy performances, I thought this would be a fitting subject for my blog this week.

When I finished my last class on Sunday, I rode out of the arena with those prophetic words ringing in my ears. You see, I've heard them over and over in the past several years from friends, trainers, and casual acquaintances. Though, my very best friends never say those words to me, nor does my current trainer. They all love my mare and understand her.

My previous trainer did, though, which is why she's a "previous" trainer. In fact, she announced during a lesson, "This horse is too difficult. You should sell her and get something easier for an amateur to ride."

Then you have those railbirds and armchair trainers who offer their expert opinions, sometimes to your face, sometimes behind your back but in front of your good friends. "She should sell that horse. She can't ride her. She's too difficult." Truthfully, if I wanted their advice, I'd pay for it. They are still riding as amateurs, right?

Okay, my mare is difficult but not in the way you're thinking. She doesn't buck. She doesn't rear. She's so easy to sit, everyone who rides her thinks she's like sitting on a couch. She doesn't do anything bad. She's great on trails and generally unflappable.

So what's the problem?

She's big, a huge mover, and she uses her movement against me by falling on her forehand and going faster and faster. I respond by pulling. She responds by pulling And so it goes in a vicious endless circle neither of us seem to be able to break. Not a good recipe for winning dressage scores.

And from that comes: You should sell this horse.

I can't sell this horse. Aside from the obvious fact that she and I have a bond forged over ten years of going through all kinds of experiences together, I can't sell her because no one else would understand her idiosyncrasies. If you've read this blog, you know about her trailering traumas and issues with small enclosed places. Would anyone else understand how very real these issues are to her? Would they realize that she isn't just being stubborn?

How about when she gets worried at a horse show and tries too hard by second-guessing what I want next? Would a new owner understand that she wasn't being belligerent, she was actually being the opposite?

And who would look at me with those big doe eyes and nuzzle around for hidden treats in my pockets? Who would wait at the paddock gait for me when she sees my truck coming up the driveway? And who would be there when I just needed a big chestnut shoulder to cry on? Or someone to listen without making any judgements?

So, no, I'm not selling this horse. Not today. Not tomorrow. She's mine. I love her, and I have a responsibility to her to see that she doesn't go to someone who doesn't understand her history or her fears. Owning her has humbled me, and I consider that a good thing. I, too, was once an armchair trainer of the worst kind. Now I know how hard it can be and have sympathy for any rider who is trying their best to do right by their horse.

So that's why I have this talented, though difficult, mare that I don't win ribbons on and don't seem to be able to do her justice. You know what? She doesn't care if we win ribbons. She doesn't care if she scores 50s or 70s. She just wants to be understood and treated fairly. That's all she's ever asked.

There is more to riding than ribbons.

So needing a break, I brought my mare home this weekend from the trainer's and let her be a horse. This is her working hard at eating down my overgrown pasture.


tierra said...

I, for one, am glad you're sticking with her. You'll probably learn so much on her that when you do get another horse, it'll be a piece of cake to get him/her collected and working off the haunches. :)

I have a 20-year-old TWH mare that at least 3 trainers told me was just plain dangerous. Nobody likes her but me. I don't show her (well, I did once last year when she was 19--and she was really very cute), but I love trail riding her. She doesn't seem dangerous to me... and I adore her.

Sometimes, the connection is everything. :)

horspoor said...

Keep your mare. Enjoy her. I have my personal "fruitloop" that I love perhaps more than my other sane horses. She's hot, stupid, worried, very talented and sweet. Tries too hard and anticipates..oh well...I like her. I'm keeping her. The 'experts' can go kick rocks.

Laura Crum said...

What a great post. Jami, your mare is lucky to have you (I know I said that before). Its inspiring to hear your stories about her.

Jami Davenport said...

Thanks, everyone. I am keeping her. She is perfectly safe to ride, in fact, can be a joy to ride. Her and I just don't do well at shows. She was to be my dream show horse, but that's never materialized.

The truth of the matter is that I care about the showing part of riding less and less each year. With showing fees going through the roof, I am seriously considering calling it quits on showing. It's just not a priority of mine anymore.

LolaJ724 said...

I feel you Jami. My TB cross came from a girl that wanted a competitive hunter that would bring home the blue ribbons. He was young and green when she had him and wasn't progressing with his training as quickly as she wanted. She had another gelding that only needed to be asked once when he was in training and she didn't understand why River wasn't picking up as quickly. So she would frequently lose her temper with him. This led to him being overly sensitive and he would often get anxious and anticipate her next move before she asked for it. Around the barn he got to be known as unruly, high strung and basically schizo. She ended up selling him for a song, she just wanted to "get rid of him and get a good horse" Now I have little patience for people, but when it comes to horses I know that something has happened or something that needed to happen in their past didn't, and they can't be held accountable. I got him two years ago and found that what he really needed was soft hands and a soft voice. He's very responsive to voice commands. Between when his previous owner put him up for sale and when I got him, he was used by some of the other advanced riders for groundwork. A lot of the riders were men (River is 16.3hh so he gives the impression of needing a lot of muscle to get him to move)and they were really forceful with him. He'd freeze or act out when he'd get anxious. When I got him he would still over-anticipate and I was told more than a few times to 'get rid of him' I'd rather give up a kidney than be parted from my boy. He has too many River-isms that I don't think anyone else would understand. He has his bad days when he gets too worked up and we just wind up lunging.
So props to you for sticking it out with your girl :) It takes a lot of patience and a big heart to understand these less-than-push-button horses. She's a lucky girl.

Jami Davenport said...

Lola, I'm glad to hear that River has you, too.

I've actually been offered a lot of money for this mare over the years. Almost without fail, everyone who's ever ridden her has dismounted turned to me and said: What do you want for this horse? But I couldn't do it. I knew, I just knew, they wouldn't understand her trailering phobias or small spaces issues.

She was so talented that I worried that a new owner would push her and break her down, which is not uncommon when you sell to trainers with wealthy clients. They don't care, there's always another horse.

So here she is with me, not realizing her potential, but so what. That's life. Perhaps, someday she'll have a nice baby for me, and I'll be able to put to use all those things I learned on her.

Anonymous said...

As long as you are safe there is no reason why you should sell her. There is no such thing as the perfect horse but as long as you are happy with her, she is the perfect horse for you.

Ms. Chelsea said...


Sorry, I couldn't resist!! :)

Ms. Chelsea said...

In reference to the shirt- in case you were wondering.

Jami Davenport said...

You know, I didn't even realize I was wearing that t-shirt until I saw the pictures later. And yes, i am a Cougar.

Go Cougs!!!


Grey Horse Matters said...

I could have written this exact post, as I went through the same thing for years. Well I didn't care, okay he was too big for me, okay I couldn't ride him as well as a professional could, so what. I loved him and he loved me, we did a lot together but never cared if we got ribbons, I gave him off for a few years and we just had fun. It was the best time of my life and I think his. I am happy I did this for him and for me. Sadly I lost him to colic after having been owned by him for 15 years. I still miss him, and feel I will never find another horse like him, enjoy your mare and just have fun, I'm glad to hear you don't listen or care what anyone else has to say.