Friday, July 18, 2008

Where Have All The Good Horses Gone?

When I was a kid, there was a group of girls from my neighborhood, that all had a horse. Our ages ran between 12 and 15. We came from the vast sprawl of a suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of town, that had a lot of little stables close by.
Most of us showed in the local day shows, and belonged to the riding clubs in the area.
For the most part, we hung out, rode in the near by park, and out in the prairie, and spent a lot of time goofing around.
We would get together with the girls from the next neighborhood over, and ride with them. They kept their horses at their homes on little 2 acre lots. Us neighborhood girls were wildly jealous of them.
Some of these horses were registered, some not. Most of them were kinda, sorta, quarter horses.
I'm not sure how old they were, but the younger the horse you rode, the higher your coolness factor.
Prices ran from $100.00 to $500.00. Cheap enough that I could save up for my wonderful Mort by babysitting.
Lots and lots of Fuglies.
What stays foremost in my memory, is that these horses were broke. All of them. We didn't get hurt, they packed us around, went where we wanted them to go. Which believe me, when you're talking about a bunch of loose teenage girls, can get pretty dang inventive.
They were only trained to do what we taught them. It was a rare deal when one of our group got to ride with a trainer. If she did, that lucky soul rode her own horse, she didn't send him off to get fixed.
Most of us kept the horse we started with. I can only remember one or two people that sold horses in order to upgrade, and then they passed on a nice horse that had been out grown. They weren't dumping something they couldn't cope with.
Where did these horses come from?
They were gentle enough to be ridden by a bunch of unsupervised kids. They were broke enough that we all had a blast across the boards.
We bought them out of the paper, from sales, from other kids. Some came from local breeders.
There were lots of these horses. The classes at our little shows often had thirty or forty kids, in each age group.
Accidents were rare. If we fell off, it was usually because we were hanging upside down under their neck, or trying a flying mount, or dismount at a dead run down some dirt road.
Who trained these horses?
They rode in halters, grazing bits, and mechanical hackamores. They pretty much rode in what we had. Macrame bridles and string bits were a fad for a while. (Yes, I'm a 70's girl) Anybody remember a tack rein? It was a leather strap with studs in it that sat at the base of ol' Blossom's neck. Those worked pretty good.
My point is Ol' Blossom came that way.
Now I stay busy with horses that aren't broke, even a little. They buck, and bolt. They run over their owners, they don't load. I mean, my goodness, we jammed our horses into those tiny, straight loads, or the back of a friends pickup truck (shudder) and took them all over the place.
They should have been bucking and bolting. They should have been running for the hills.
But they didn't.
They dealt with the hand given them, or we dealt with them.
I'm not saying they were perfect. My own Mort was a shining example of imperfection. But his problems had been created by an uneducated first owner. Mort was basically a kind, good minded animal. He had started life as a well broke horse.
On my way to work, there is an endless sea of 5 acre lots with a couple of horses in each corral. I never see a rider on them. Local clubs have five or six entries in each class. Most of these are people schooling for the upper level shows.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Trained isn't broke. I turn out a pretty nice horse. But it won't be broke unless the owner rides it.
A lot. For many years.
So who was making these horses when I was a kid? Somebody was making sure even the fuglies were broke enough to ride around on.
Is it that our society is too busy to ride horses any more? Is it the disappearance of big ranches?
What about the east coast? There weren't many ranches out there, but my cousin had no trouble finding her pony club mounts. Sound, sane, broke little ponies.
Is it the over structuring, and over scheduling of our kids?
Do they not have time to really ride their horse?
I don't know the answer. But I think it plays a big part in the flood of unwanted animals hitting the rescues and sales.
Where's the guy who turned out all those broke horses?


  1. No Kidding!!! That was my childhood too. Too lazy to put on the saddle so ride bareback, ride along the roads, no problem with horse freaking out due to traffic, dogs, noise, people etc. Ride only on weekends any way and anyhow -- my 10 year old mare was broke, broke, broke. She was my first horse so I just assumed that that's what all horses were like.
    Now as a midlife re-rider it has taken me 4 years (and several purchases of "too much horse" (all of whom I still have and am waiting for my skills to grow into)) to find my broke horse to ride and learn again on and regain my abilities - with 2 to 4 lessons a week with a trainer of course.
    Looking for a pony/horse for my daughter was the same thing -- they could walk, trot, canter, and jump -- but they would also buck kids off, have terrible ground manners, rear, wouldn't tie, refuse to load in trailers, fearful of new places, and would revert to the wild with even a week off work.
    It all blew me away! The good part about it is that it made me realize that as a kid I was relying on the exceptional temperament and broke nature of my horse but my riding skills were really just very basic -- jump on and go. So I have started to learn all over again - with much less confidence but at least the knowledge that I need to learn alot more. It sure helps that I have finally found a broke horse to help me -- but amazing that it took 4 years to find. Like you said -- where is this guy??? where did the guy go who made all the broke horses that seemed to be everywhere a few decades ago?

  2. What a great blog entry today Mugwump. It makes me think. I agree, it was the early 70's when i first started riding w/ a bunch of little girls and the horses were all how you describe them.

    I think maybe today, people are too busy, too lazy or too scared of their horses to ride them enough. Or maybe too many of the trails are gone now. Areas too surburban?

    I totally agree though, there is no better way to get a broke horse than wet saddle blankets. Nothing works better.

    Love your blog. And like everyone else, (I've said it before) should you decide to write a book, I will be purchasing it!

    Have a good day today.

  3. I think that many of these horses were BYB horses by people who wanted good working horses. I have a memoir on my bookshelf about the life of just that sort of BYB--papers were not a concern, but working and performance quality of mares and stud were a concern (rather than color). Then again, these were people who'd ride their mare 17 miles to the stud to be bred...but they used their horses for transportation and ranch work.

    Thinking back on it as well, my older parents (they were in their 40s when I was born) had real-life working horse experience and were farm-raised. I think that when we were kids in the 70s there were a lot more of these folks around than there are now. Plus, you used to be able to pick up a decent horse for a cheap price--no papers, but if you weren't looking for a show horse in breed shows, it didn't matter.

    I also think that the big explosion in the breed show market, and horses as an investment killed the broke grade horse market. Instead of looking for something that was good to ride, pedigrees and color became much more important.

    At least, that's my 2 cents on the topic.

  4. What a wonderful post!

    I don't know your answer, since I'm still mostly a kid myself.

    I do know that my horses have changed to suit me. Bailey, as crazy as he could be sometimes, would still go for a bareback canter in a halter, would stand still for me to leap up from the ground, would ride around my high school and then down the sidewalk and through the local DQ drivethrough (now there's a story for the blog!).

    McKinna tolerates damn near everything I throw at her, even though when we got her she was as good as green.

    I wonder - does it have something to do with the way the horses were handled as they were growing up, do you think? Just, you know, HANDLED. Treated like horses. Expected to do their job and be treated fairly in return, but not handled like fragile glass? And then when they were put under saddle, they were just RIDDEN?

    Just a thought. I myself have no experience whatsoever in that area, and when you were growing up with horses I was not born yet ;)

  5. I'm from the same era, I think, as you just described a lot of my childhood. 4-H classes at the county fair where I grew up were packed - 25 or 30 riders wasn't unusual. And most of them on grade something-or-others. Nobody had a fancy trailer, and most of us didn't have "show clothes" - we showed in nice jeans, scuffed, but newly polished boots and a unisex western shirt. Not glitter, paint and rhinestones.

    It's been my experience today that in places where grass hay is $16-$20 a square bale and you have to board if you want to own, horses are much more apt to be a rich person's indulgence, or an investment opportunity, like jocyemocha said.

    I'm not saying that they're not nice horses. They're well bred, attractive, and trained. But those horses don't get "broke" in the same way we were used to growing up because they don't get the chance. You don't "play" with these expensive animals, you own them to win things with and impress people (some of these people appear to have kids for the same reason).

    Case in point: a friend of mine in college used to envy me all the candid shots with my pony & other horses from when I was a kid. She grew up with horses, too. Her first pony cost $5,000; mine cost $400. I fooled around playing in the creek bottoms; she took weekly jumping lessons. Her pony was too expensive to risk injuring on a trail ride; I got lost in the woods daily, on purpose, and let my horse bring me home. My pony slept under the stars, and got rained on; her pony lived in a box stall under lights so it didn't get scuffed or fuzzy. She rode (and still does) miles better than me, but I had fun; she had to bring home trophies, or her pony got sold. That's just sad.

    I will say, attending play-days now out here where entry fees are still $5 to ride all day, you still see a lot of horses that will put up with anything and everything. And a lot of kids still having fun with their horses. These aren't generally expensive critters, either. Most of them probably never see a box stall, blanket in the winter, clippers or hoof oil, haul in a stock trailer used for cows the night before, and run their hearts out. They're mostly not bred to the hilt, or if they are, it's for cow work. The kids get "lessons" from a parent, older sibling, or 4-H "instructor" or learn by trial and error.

    A good broke grade gelding out here will still usually outsell a papered know-nothing, especially a young one, at most sales - but I'm in cow country, too.

  6. I think people just didn't worry about lawsuits and safety and JUST RODE THE HORSES. They got on and hung on until the horse figured that was life.

    Now, we train and train and train but rarely leave the arena.

    I say this despite being in training to be an instructor. All my riding is in a ring.

    When I was a kid (in the 70s) we didn't care what breed our horses were. We just wanted something we could ride. I said that I rode western, but only because it was a western saddle.

    I was raised by a generation who still remembered work horses on the farm in the 50s. I think that made a difference too. Our ponies and horses weren't "special" either; they lived in the hog barn and were expected to work.

    They were good at what they were good at and didn't know anything else. Do you think horses are so special now that we have to bond with them and be their alpha and read the books and watch the videos and all of that is making us afraid to use them? Mine weren't "trained" when I was a kid and I realize that now. But they did what they had to do.

  7. I think that manymisadventures might have the right idea here. I remember when I was a kid, about 13 years old, I bought a green broke POA from a BYB just outside my neighborhood. I went there a couple of times to ride him, the sellers wanted to know where my saddle was, I didn't have one. They offered theirs for me to ride in, I turned it down as I was a bareback rider. I think they were holding their breath, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. I didn't really have a good grasp of what green broke meant, but I liked the horse, he was pretty. After a few rides in the corral on their property it was time to bring him home. My mom knew nothing about horses, less than I did, we had no way to haul him home. I had mom drop me off and I rode him home, with a bareback pad, alone, about 3 miles. I remember thinking what a goober he was as I was riding along El Camino Real. I would turn his head one way and he would blindly walk off, falling through his shoulder in the wrong direction, silly horse. I was not worried, I didn't know any better, so I guess he got confidence from my confidence, who knows. He was a bit bratty at times, probably due to the green horse green rider phenomenon, and he would rear up at me on the ground from time to time. I, not being afraid, and not willing to give up any ground, would stand there rock solid, and he would slam down on his front hooves right next to me, but never came down on top of me. What a good (bad) pony. Later when I finally started working with a trainer (a backyard eventing trainer) we were working on picking up the right lead. That pony was having a heck of a time, and I was in no way qualified to be helping him to learn. After 2 hours of attempting to get that right lead I finally fell off somehow. Not one of those nice off to the side falling off episodes, but one of those slide right under the pony ones. That tired pony just stood there holding up one hind leg for me, so as not to step on me, until I got up.

    Even not knowing what I was doing, I put miles and miles of trails on that pony. I was riding, I was trail riding my pony just about every day. I don't remember him ever bucking me off, and if he ever bolted that was probably okay with me because back then we liked to RUN.

    It probably also helped that we didn't have over protective parents back then. If we were gone all day riding all the better.

    When I outgrew him my trainer upgraded me to a Morgen Gelding. A few hears later I saw my old pony boarding at a stable where I was grooming for my trainer at a show. He belonged to a little girl, and she loved him SO much. I remember she want into his corral and gave him a huge hug, his ears laid back but he stood there quietly and took it. I think he took good care of her.

    I think it is amazing what we get away with when we don't know any better.

  8. heidi the hick said... "I said that I rode western, but only because it was a western saddle. "

    Me, too - lol! And you have a good point about being raised by the generation who remembered work horses, as well. Horses aren't transportation, field workers, or daily use animals much any more - used to be the average person knew at least a little bit more about horses, if only because they had to.

    Now, well, how many people change their vehicle's oil themselves, let alone maintain a horse!

  9. OMG.. I LOVE LOVE LOVE This blog. I periodically read it at work and started yesterday. I am caught up to the end of May so far. I found it off of training the VLC. I am adding this to my favs right away. I was going to email you but you dont have a link.darn. Anyway, heres my EXTREMELY boring (compared to yours) blog that I started awhile ago as well.
    Would LOVE advice if you ever have time. I will keep reading and hope to get caught up soon!

  10. I think I can answer it, well at least this is my idea of what has happened (was never around then so I can't say for sure).

    Theres this guy around here. Great trainer, one of the first quarterhorse guys. Some of you might know him by name. Hes getting up there in years. Amazing horseman, the end of an era really.
    He always tells me stories about when he was young and the milk mans horse and the percherons pulling wagons of gravel from the quarry.
    Those were work horses. They were needed to make a living. They were mandatory for each family in the county to have one or two or a whole herd of working animals. The people who grew up on these farms learned how to train these animals not by trainers or instructors but trial and error. They drove or rode them until they were tired and the next day did it all over again. It didn't matter that you didn't want to ride or drive one day, you HAD to in order to get the farm work done.
    These people for the most part don't live on farms anymore. They are in nursing homes or retirement facilities. Tractors have replaced what was horsepower. The farmers kids don't need ponies to play on because they have dirt bikes and ATV's. After all, you don't have to feed (well gas) and take care of a machine like a horse.

  11. I wonder - does it have something to do with the way the horses were handled as they were growing up, do you think? Just, you know, HANDLED. Treated like horses. Expected to do their job and be treated fairly in return, but not handled like fragile glass? And then when they were put under saddle, they were just RIDDEN?

    I agree with you 100%.

    Horses (and kids and dogs) seemed to have just been expected to behave. And so the norm was a bunch of horses (and kids and dogs) who did behave.

    Today it seems like children and dogs and horses are expected to be unruly little devils - and what is it they become? No discipline, no correction, no stick-to-it-till-they-get-it.

    Just "oh, honey, why don't we go for a nice little ride today, it will be fun and sunshine and flowers!" And when the horse says "um, no, I'm going to go over here and eat grass and you can go F--- off," the human says, "well, um, I guess that will be OK" instead of saying "heck no - we're going for a ride, Trigger."

    I was that way for a while. Too long. Bad fall, scared out of my mind, still refusing to give up horses. So I "rode". Which basically meant that I would sit on him and get off the second things went south. Rinse and repeat for 2 years and wa-la, I've got a disrespectful nicompoop of a horse. Well howdayalikethat.

    The *second* I started to expect him to do well, wouldn't you know it, he DID WELL. He started to try something different, I said "hey Trigger, we're going THIS way" and that was that. He went, no sweat.

    I think expectations have a LOT to do with it these days.

    We EXPECT younglings to behave badly - and they do.

    We EXPECT studs to be outofcontrol monsters - and they are.

    We EXPECT to have to put a lot of professional training into our horses before they're "safe" - and then we do.

    We EXPECT them to spook at every last thing on the trail, EXPECT them to be delicate little flowers afraid of their own shadow, EXPECT them to take off bucking when things go wrong -- and then we're surprised when they do just that.

    I for one am going to continue to expect that my horse behave himself, expect him to listen to me, expect him to try his hardest, expect him to be well behaved on the trail. And I'm guessing that he'll start doing just that.

  12. I think it's because 30-40 years ago the horses were coming from breeders that were also horsemen, that came from families that had been involved in breeding, raising, training over the long term. And there were more people with the skills to train horses floating around. Now there is a higher percentage of BYB, and dilettantes involved in the production.

    Not to mention that a lot of property that had been horse/cattle ranches is now tract housing. You don't find many horse trainers in housing subdivisions.

  13. I grew up in a suburb of a suburb of Boston, and managed to find a guy in town with a bunch of horses and ponies who you were allowed to ride if you cleaned the horse and the stall. This was in the 60s.

    The guy was a drunk and a reprobate, and people nowadays would have probably been looking hard at him because he was always surrounded by pubescent girls (hey, he had HORSES!), but he cared about his horses (they were always well fed, and we couldn't go out until he inspected their coats, stalls and especially their tails to make sure they'd been thoroughly brushed).

    In his way he cared about us: we had to ride bareback (he didn't want us falling and being dragged), and we could only ride the better horses or ponies if we proved our mettle first by riding the pukes and coming back.

    His mantra: Get back on that goddamned horse, you goddamned farmer!

    For years I hated ponies because of the "deal-breaker" he put us all on first: this little pinto stinker (named "Zero", pretty much summing up his charm), probably all of 13 hands: he would be biting you as you chased him around in circles trying to jump on him; once you managed to get on him he took off at a bucking gallop. I never knew a horse could gallop and buck at the same time; Zero proved it to me.

    If you survived him, and kept coming back, you graduated to a less lethal mount. :) Needless to say, my years riding Buzz's horses taught me not to fear falling off. :)

    But once we survived Zero and got someone else to ride: we used to ride those horses and ponies everywhere; down busy streets (we were forbidden to trot or canter), down to an old abandoned airport where we would gallop full-out, racing and then swim them in "the Pits", adjacent to the old airport, basically big holes that would fill up in the spring.

    The horse I graduated to, Jetty, was a former track pony at Rockingham. He was older, but the minute you got on him he pranced and never stopped until you got off again. We'd take him in the water and swim underneath him as he was pawing, or I'd ride him, laughing and sliding back over his wet back until his hip stopped me, and the other girls would grab his tail and he'd drag them through the water. We thought it was great fun. What a good horse.

    Our parents had no idea.

    It's amazing we survived (particularly as this was all pre-helmet-use days), but I'm sad for horse crazy girls now who don't get to be as wild and as wanton as we were. I don't regret a single bruise.

  14. I just thought of another factor. Back in the day when we were all rampaging around our neighborhoods, our parents weren't afraid that we were going to get scooped up by some crazy abuser person. It was acceptable for kids to disappear all day, even more so if they were off with Ol' Babysitter horse and a pack of other kids on their own Ol' Babysitters.

    We just don't get that these days.

  15. I know what you mean Mugwump. From my perspective as I approach 40, it comes down to this: your horse (child, husband, etc.) becomes what you "expect" it to be. If you have the attitude that it can be traded in for something easier, better, etc. then it will never work out.

    My neighbors continually trade in horses that come to their homes well-trained, but mystically become untrained in short order from sitting around a pasture and not being disciplined. Once in a while I play crash test dummy with them just to see what they are like, and you know what? They're always wonderful once they know you mean business - just as I expect them to be.

    I grew up on the East Coast. My palomino quarter horse mare was all I was ever going to get, so she had to work out. She came to me as a 2 year old barely broke horse when I was a 13 year old kid. I had been riding since I was 2 on a free pony. All of today's odds are against that match.

    Before too long my mare was the envy of everyone because she could, and would, do any job I asked her to do - and do it very well. Not doing something wasn't an option. She turns 30 next year and still lives at my mom's barn.

  16. MugWump -- I look at your blog every day hoping for more! You are the best!
    Could you sometime define more trained versus broke? And what makes a horse broke? Are some born with a tendency to be more broke? Can you "unbreak" a horse? -- eg by spoiling it? Is being broke about being submissive? What is the best way to keep a horse broke?
    When buying a horse how can you tell a broke one from a "trained" one?
    Thanks again! Please write a book -- we all want more of your stories, tips and insights!!

  17. Clara,

    Check the bottom of the May blog list.
    "Trained, or Broke?"

  18. Ok so im not a 70's girl ;) But I do know that my both my grandfathers grew up on farms and both rode and 'trained' horses from the time they could walk. And they grew up in familys of 6 to 8 kids! And they all rode and drove horses. How much would it cost now a days to get your kids that kind of education?? That isnt an option for many people these days. Back then my grandparents didnt have a choice. Although one of my grandfathers didnt ride when he was older my other grandfather took lessons with me and my dad in the 90's. My other grandfather vet checked my horse (he was a vet lol but cows were his specilitly)

    Want to know which is the best broke, quiet, rideable horse of my clients?? The one that spends 2000+ a year in a trainer or the one that trail rides, shows and has fun riding his horse. (and shows everything but english, but the pony can jump!)

    Its the morgan/QH cross!! The parents sprung for a month of training to finish up some trail skills (lead changes lope overs ect) And the trainer couldnt belive how quiet and eager to learn that pony was. She rode out the in the front ring with dump trucks ect going by without blinking an eye. Now were in the position to buy areg. QH that is taller than the pony that could show QH, but how can we get better than that pony?

  19. WOW. Another thought provoking blog and comments. "Where's the guy who turned out all those broke horses?" Iknow him, I know him!! The fellow that helped me run the boarding stable specialized in BROKE horses, not broken horses, which I almost wrote, but in getting them broke for ppl. Now, not everyone could stand his methods, which basically revolved around what misadventures and lonesplanesman said..the expected the horse to do what he said. Horse won't tie? Tie it up high to a light pole and leave him until it becomes second nature. Horse won't cross water? Head down to the bay and stay there until ya'll are cantering up and down IN the water. Lots and lots of miles, beside the highway, over railroad trestles.

    Sad to say, he doesn't ride anymore. When you ride rough stock, its not a matter of IF you will get hurt, but WHEN and HOW BAD? He rode someone's bad actor that bucked him so high that he came down, crotch first on the saddle horn, and did some serious damage to something unmentionable. He has to work a regular job now. The passing of another era.

    I see him now and then, hugs and catching up on 'where ya been and how'r ya doin'?' Thanks for making me think of him.

  20. I am a "90's" kid. Early 90s enough as a young teen that I escaped the generation raised in front of a computer. My brother was only born 6 years after me but we could not have had more different childhoods. He will never know what it is to go to the park all day and play horse because you didnt have one. (I could make my invisible horse any color I liked!)I paid my due mucking stalls to ride some fugly for a half hour. I rode every chance I could and harvested a special brand of hate for the girls that whined because their Mom forced them to ride. I heard the expression, "if you want a kitten, ask for a horse" and so for the next 3 christmas's begged my Mom for an elephant. I got my first horse at 13 and spent the next 4 years either in the saddle or counting the minutes till I could be. I was also a suburban kid on the edge of farm land and would ride my bike to the barn every morning before school and after to "do" the horse. I didnt have time for drugs, booze or boys. I had to babysit for hay money. Thank God!! I was SO fortunate to have caught the tail end of the era that allowed me to run wild and free. There is a special Patron Saint or Guardian Angel for horse crazy teenage girls because I did the stupidest, hair brained things you could imagine and never had a serious injury. Where are the broke horses, they are still there but what is few and far between is the hardworking teenage girls that would give their left arm for a horse. The girls that sleep at the barn on the weekends so they can ride all the next day. I know of two. Their horses would be a trainers worst nightmare but they would do anything for those girls...anything. It is a bond bred from countless hours of riding, grooming, or just sleeping on their backs while they graze. You can buy a whole virtual stable at Walmart for $20 but my memories of riding as a girl are truly priceless.

  21. That IS my childhood mugwump, 'cause I'm still a kid/teen, with exceptions. But I'm in the minority. My first horse is the still the best horse I have, but he isn't a horse of my generation. He's 37. Yeah he bucks a bit sometimes, but he knows I can handle it. I still jump him some, he doesn't have arthritis, he's the fastest horse on the trails, a bit stubborn, but very wise and I'd trust him with anyone. But still you're right. Sometimes I board my babies, (my parents were and are still pretty clueless, the 37 y/o was and is the only horse I have ever gotten that had ever seen saddle, bridle or rider) and the stables are often full of horses. I know a mare who was trained and started so well, she was just awesome to ride. But I don't know anyone my age who actually rides their horses anymore. Not daily, not weekly, barely even monthly. That mare is a monster to ride now because she is never ridden and when she is it is for the occasional lesson and she just won't move, she's too smart and has no respect. Her owners never come out to ride her or even just see her. They've even moved her to a new stable since the old one closed, but I don't think they've even been to the new barn, they just told the owner of the old barn that "wherever you go that's where we'll take her".

    Anyway, I've always treated all of my horses like they were trained and broke, and they don't let me down often or without good reason, even if they haven't even been saddled. My mom is extremely overprotective, it's shocking how she can't watch me jump a trained jumper over a little 18" jump but has no problem with me starting all my horses bareback (yeah, with halters) and in general buying the horses that are unhandled basket cases or way dominant beasties who will charge you down for a flake of hay. But the sad part is, when I go to sell said horses, they always are better than expected. My project from last year went on to become some kids horse and win tons of western pleasure events, but I didn't really know what I was doing I just rode her. The problem that I see today is that no one rides anymore. The woman who gave me my first horse rides all of her horses pretty often, and she's a trainer, but other than that I don't actually know anyone who rides their horses more than maybe once a week. It's like horses have become some kind of status symbol and it isn't neccesary to ride or learn to ride them anymore, if you have a problem just send it to a trainer and after a month when you're back where you started send it off again or just forget about it at the stable/in the pasture. It seems so hard to find a good broke horse anymore unless you're going to make it yourself. I'd really love to find some broke horse that I can trust with my mom (who rides but is terrified) but everything decent that I find is all "was started and ridden as a two/three year old but hasn't done anything in the last couple of years or has been a broodmare in the last couple of years"
    I get magazines and there are always issues with articles on how to find a good broke horse and how hard it is, but evidently it wasn't always like that, and somehow I think its going to get worse.

  22. I agree with your observations. I do think it is that we all spent the whole day on horses when we were kids. Now kids have the Internet, the Playstation, way more homework than we ever had, and 300 other kinds of lessons. Kids are overscheduled. They don't spend the whole day at the barn.

    And neither does anybody else. Every once in a while I will spend twenty minutes just hanging out with my VLC...the other night I sat on the fence reading my e-mail on my phone while he rested his chin on my knees and occasionally tried to untie my shoelaces...but honestly, I usually feel guilty about doing it. I should be sleeping, I should be doing laundry, I should be riding another horse, I shouldn't be "wasting time"...hell, I'm so sick of being this busy. I wish I could just win the lottery and spend the whole damn day in the barn with my horses. But then, don't we all?

  23. Great post! As a child of the 80s I remember pretty much the same thing. One of the girls had a crazy little morgan, but the rest of us had rock solid mounts.

    I wonder whether part of it is the over breeding problem we're seeing in North America. In the old days temperament (breeding a good solid horse to another good solid horse) might have been more important than color etc.

  24. I've pondered this question myself. I think they've bred the reliability and soundness out of the (mostly coldblooded) muttly fuglies we rode in the 70's. My horse had ears like a mule that moved back and forth when she walked, razor sharp withers, a rat tail, and a beer belly....she was the best horse ever.

  25. one more thing, I don't know how your horse was, but mine was a deadhead. She didn't love me or hate me, but tolerated me. Same with my sister's horse and all the other kids we rode with. No one had a registered horse. The horses today are more like dogs, they're so sensitive. I think we are selecting for a type of horse by breeding, but much has been lost

  26. You know, we've also become so much more safety-conscious that it's affecting the horses and horse training. I just sold a mare and filly to a 12 year old. Well, to her mom but you know the deal. So the 12 year old and friends come out and want to hang out in the field and play with the mare and filly and, honestly, I'm on high alert the whole time. OMG someone could get kicked, OMG what if the mare spooks? What if the baby spooks? OMG they are standing right behind her. But you know, this is part of how those horses DID get so hanging off of them willy-nilly like they were playground equipment. Where do we draw the line between safety and having fun/getting the horse used to all this stuff?