I was planning on a "Mort" story today, but I'm too cranked up to visit memory lane. I have another subject burning a hole in my brain.
Difference of opinion.
The horse world tends to be wildly opinionated. I have heard raging, screaming arguments about the best way to do everything from feeding them to catching them. Round pens and longe lines. Whispering and just getting her done. Grass Hay or Alfalfa. Grain, no grain, supplements or none. Blankets and no blankets. Western or English.
I'm sure we've all been caught up in the maelstrom of what's the right way to care, protect and ride the horses we love. I have developed my own ways and ideas over the years. I try to be open and listen to new concepts from anybody, no matter their background, no matter how long they've ridden.
I had a student once. She was timid. She consistently bought really bad horses. She had no riding ability whatsoever, natural or trained. She had only owned horses for two years when I met her.
I was telling her about a horse I had that was consistently a nut job in the trailer. (yes, it was Sonita) I had tried everything I could come up with, including lots of input from the Big K.
"Have you tried slowing down?" She asked.
"I drive like a Grandma. That can't be it."
"It doesn't matter, if it's the speed she's used to travelling at, it might still be scaring her. Maybe just slow down 5 miles an hour."
I'll be darned. I slowed down and the ruckus stopped. Which meant I drove up Ute Pass in the emergency lane with all my blinkers flashing, but it worked. It is a tip that I have used ever since. It still works.
I have learned that if I don't form an opinion too soon or snap to a judgement I may regret later, it always benefits my horse, myself and my clients.
My best example of learning by shutting the hell up comes in the form of a Morgan trainer I barn shared with once.
He trained the Morgans with the giant feet and set tails. His horses lived in dark stalls, (to keep their coats dark) spent half their life in training rigs that employed check reins to tie their heads up and back, and were exercised maybe 15 to 20 minutes at a time. His horses only had turnout in blankets, neck sweats and check reins.
He represented everything I hate about the professional horse world. Everything.
I also had to share a barn and arenas with him.
I thought long and hard and decided "Know thy enemy" was a better approach than "Vengeance is mine."
I started talking to him. Told him I knew nothing about his world. Explained mine a little.
We began to visit. We found we could share an arena just fine. I liked to work the middle, he liked the rail, it was all good. My horses learned to function with a foaming snorting train wreck dragging a carriage around. His learned to keep going when I slid my horses down his throat.
We began to relax and have fun with each other. I found I liked the guy. In many ways he was a smart and savvy horseman.
I learned why and how they shoe them the way they do. I learned about soring and ginger. I learned that when they retire these horses they have muscle deformities and weakness in their neck and tail they often never over come.
I never offered criticism, although sometimes I cried on my way home.
I learned that these people actually loved their horses. They truly didn't seem to get what they were doing. They asked me about my training methods. They watched me turn my horses out, leave them off when they were sore and develop the horses I had.
They asked about the mechanics of a spin, the hindquarters that create the best slide. They had me ride a "western" type Morgan that came in and teach him some basic reining maneuvers.
I let him ride one of my cowhorses. He let me ride ride a Country English (?) something or other. It was like going to a foreign country, but what a blast!
I learned a bunch about drive and forward from this guy. Things I still do today. I learned how to grow and preserve a long beautiful tail on my horses. I learned about the benefit of menthol braces. I learned that Morgans are a sweet, generous breed. I wouldn't mind having one some day.
He began turning his horses out twice a week without anything on them but their big happy expressions. If you saw how he would lean on the rail and watch them play you wouldn't have been able to hate him either. He began to see that a horse being "cowboyed" was something he should probably try once in a while. It turns out when I "cowboy" them they're pretty happy and healthy.
Now if I condemn any of these practices, and I do, I come from an educated background. I can rant about the injustice of treating a horse this way because I truly know the reasons and mechanics behind each cruel twist.
The Morgan Guy knows how I feel. He also knows that I like him. I was invited to his wedding. He told me that he has started a rehab program for retiring show horses to slowly decompress them, in hopes they can have a future as a saddle horse. He's making some serious money doing it and helping a lot of the horses he almost destroys during their show career.
So bring it on. Tell me about your dressage and jumping and pleasure horses. Talk about feed and blankets and breeds of horses. I promise I'll listen with respect. I may not agree, but it won't be from ignorance. If you think it is, feel free to call me on it. Any time.
Because I truly respect anybody who is trying to do their best by their horse. I love reading your stories and thoughts.
I'm done spouting for the day. I'll try to get back to Mort this week-end.