Monday, July 13, 2009

Quiet Sunday

Pondering the Perfect Horse

I guess I wore myself out on Saturday as I had no ambtion on Sunday. I watched the Tour, worked and played on the computer and finally, towards late afternoon, went for a swim.

It was rather hot during the earlier afternoon, but no excuses, because there was a lovely breeze blowing. Once I'd swum and taken a lovely hot shower at the pool--the water just blasts out there--I didn't feel like doing anything else.

I did some thinking, though, and began to consider the concept of "The Perfect Horse." I have never been blessed with such a creature and wonder if anyone has. When I watch Steffen Peters's ride on Ravel, I am amazed at the horse's composure and absolute willing obedience. But then, Steffen is an incredible trainer, and surely, he too must have met some "glitches" along the way in training Ravel to Grand Prix.

But, he also never would have ended up a World Champion if Ravel had a bad temperament, work ethic, or physical problems.

I have always had far Less Than Perfect horses. While there are times when I wished things were different, I also wonder if I have been better off and learned far more as a rider/trainer/owner.

There is a famous hunter/jumper/equitation trainer here in the USA who used to tell his pupils to sell their horses if he felt they were not going to be top competition mounts. I rode in a clinic with him once, but it was not a situation where he would have said that as it was at my riding school. Once, however, at a show, I came out after my class to find him at the rail, and his, "Well done, very nice ride," was some of the most important feedback I'd ever received during my hunter career with Russell R. (This guy has one of the biggest reputations in the nation and is considered one of the best masters may know him.) But Russell and I had had as rocky a road as I've ever had getting to that point. (I think he and Tucker have some of the same bloodlines as the "I'm going to buck if you kick me," was the "prime directive" when I started him.)

But, rocky road or not, by the end of his career, Russell was a multiple show champion with hundreds of first places at nearly all levels and to me, he was the "Perfect Horse."

I cannot even begin to tell you the things training Russell from a two year old green Thoroughbred to a show and eventing champion taught me. Nor could I begin to list all the skills training PJ's Folly, To Be Or Not To Be, Doitright Tobe, and Romantic Chance have given me in what I like to call my "Training Bag of Tricks." To me, there is never "only one way to ride," but a myriad of approaches to improve a horse.

I don't think I'd have it any other way. If the Perfect Horse is out there, give me another year or so before you send him my way.

In the meantime, I'd rather puzzle out Doitright Tobe's (that Tucker) strange behavior until I find a way to train him well enough so to me, he too becomes my perfect horse.

It's a lot more interesting to me this way.


  1. I think "perfect" is a very subjective term. I think my horse Gennyral is perfect, but he is not even ridable and only has about a dozen ribbons to his name. He is the horse where I would just think something and he would do it. He was also perfect for me. If I was stuggling with a movement, he would pick up the slack. He made me a better rider by forgiving some of my faults and pointing out others. His gaits were perfect for my body and so it felt like I was riding air when I rode him. When I close my eyes and dream of the perfect horse, I see my horse (in black though...not white :P). I know pleny of top dressage horses that are jerks and would not want to ride them even though they are "the best".

  2. Sometimes going for a swim followed by a hot shower is so relaxing that it's just not right to work after!

    I think the perfect horse has many forms. Although Tetley has bone spavin and is uneven, I think because of a sacroiliac strain at a young age, he has the best temperament. That is worth so much more to me than being physically perfect. I am not a great rider anyway - so it makes sense to leave the physical specimens to the better riders. I learn just as much on him, maybe more, than if I had a perfect horse.

  3. Well, you speak as a trainer. But I think ANY good rider/trainer had a horse who taught them.

    IMO it is first the horse that teaches the rider (i.e. a TRAINED horse ( not old, but trained) that teaches a beginner rider), then the rider/trainer can teaches the horse.

    Green on green give blue and black ...

    I read people on internet struggling so much with their horses, any of the partners are happy. In this case, it woudl be better that they find another horse to teach them, before they struggle with their own horse.
    For example, I know that when Teena does not get it right, it is *me*, not her, because she knows how to do it.

    So tell me Jean who was your horse-teacher?

  4. i certainly agree about learning a huge amount from a difficult horse, whatever the difficulty... i've certainly learnt a lot (including patience) from molly, although we'll never go anywhere, i doubt...