Friday, February 12, 2010

It's All A Matter of Perspective

How Deep Is The Ocean? Etc.

Callie, at Midwest Horse Blog made a comment that they'd had a foot of snow out there too, "Really nothing for us." I had to laugh, because around here in Central New Jersey, a foot of snow is a rather big deal. Well, it was, although this year the concept might change a little.

I remember visiting some friends who had moved to South Carolina years ago. They told the story of how they'd awakened one winter morning to hysterical newsmen on the radio warning people to stay in, that all kinds of businesses had to close down, and how treacherous the roads were. When they opened the curtains, they saw just an inch or two of snow on the driveway.

It's all a matter of perspective.

It's like that with horses too. Every horse I have owned recently was over 16 h. Russell was 16.1, as is Toby. My PJ was 16.2 and Tucker is 16.3 +, nearly 17.0h. So when I got Chance, I started calling him, "Little Man." He now is nearly 15.3 h, and a nice solid chunk of horse. Yet he is still, "Little Man," to me. Yet when I put a young rider up on him--she's maybe all of 5 feet tall, maybe--he looked like a huge draft horse under her.

A number of bloggers I read ride Western and often Quarterhorses. One blogger commented that her horse, at 15.2h was really big. Meanwhile, when I looked at pictures from Caroline's Smarties Diary, her big boy, Radar, looked like a little guy compared to the hunt master's horse. Radar is 16.3--perhaps a big more now that he's fit and muscled--so you know how big the other horse must be.

But size isn't the only issue of perspective with horses. The most unremarkable looking animals can often be the best performers. I can still remember seeing one of the greatest US racehorses of all time, John Henry, race here in NJ. As the horses paraded out to the track, one very plain bay, with a very laid back attitude, looking less like a racehorse than any of the other competitors, walked along as if he were out on a hack in the country. He was actually a bit common looking in the crowd of flashy Thorougbreds. But, it was John Henry and when he exploded from the back during the last few furlongs of the race and pulled away to win, he didn't look common at all.

I remember once being at a horse show after the competition was over. I was up at the secretary's stand and we were all just talking when a flurry of excitement broke out in the trailering area. There, a group of people were trying to load a absolutely gorgeous big, chestnut warmblood into their trailer. The truck windows were full of ribbons, nearly all blue, from the three day show. The horse, however, was not only unruly, but he was downright dangerous, rearing and battling every attempt to get him to load. I'm not sure how long we watched--there was no point in helping as they already had a whole collection of handlers there--but after a good half hour, I said, "He may have won a ton of ribbons, but as far as I'm concerned, that horse isn't worth anything, right now." Shocked expressions on the faces of people around me made me shrug my shoulders, "What good is he if you can't take him anywhere?" The trailering debaucle went on for nearly and hour more before, somehow the horse surrendered. I'm convinced proper loading training would cure him, but at the moment? Worthless. What if he had to be transported to the vet for some kind of emergency?

And think about horses like Theodore O'Conner or Lendon Gray's Seldom Seen, just two "ponies" who competed with the "big guys" on the International Stage and won. I've seen beautifully conformed horses who can't move worth a darn, and strange looking critters who take your breath away once they start to move.

Like people, each horse is an individual and needs to be looked at that way. There may never be a perfect horse, but somewhere, there is the perfect horse for every job and every rider.

Like the foot of snow, it's all a matter of perspective.


  1. It really is all a matter of perspective. I went from 16'2 horses to a 17'2 horse and now I'm down to a horses that are between 15'1 and 15'3. When I first started riding Dusty last year I felt like I was on a pony. But she's got a very sturdy build and takes up my whole leg. I'm 5'5" so really Erik at 17'2 was too big for me but amazingly we did fit together and got the job done.

    I realize that there are no perfect horses.But right now I'm lucky to have two horses to choose from that are perfect for me right now and on the flip side I think I'm good for them. At this point in my life I'm feeling safe and confident on Dusty and Blue. (I probably just jinxed myself by saying that of course)!

  2. I fondly call Izzy "a behemoth of a horse" since I found out she's 16.0hh. Most people don't think that's big, but most horses I've worked with were in the 15.0hh range, so she's big-ish to me.

  3. My Maisie is about 16.2, and is the largest horse in our barn. I bought her that size when I was showing because she fits my leg really well. Noble is at most 15.1, but he has a big barrel - he wears the same size blanket as Maisie. Dawn is about 15.2, and although petite is also sturdy. I think of Dawn as a small horse, and it was funny to take her to clinics and have her be the largest horse there!

  4. Height perspective can make things a bit difficult for me, seeing as I'm only 5'1" or 5'2". I love to ride big jumpers, like my friend's massive 17.2 Thoroughbred, and I actually grew up riding drafts. I'm more comfortable on big horses, but my small stature makes it a ridiculous picture. The 15 hand mare I've been exercising at my barn is a "pony" to me, but my trainer loves the match- height-wise, we seem to fit better; but I'm not used to being so close to the ground!

  5. Shawn Flarida says that the best athletes he had, were also the worse performer, and that it is better to have a horse with heart and desire rather than beauty and muscles!

    I like your analogy to the ocean regarding snow. I think it is what the local government is used too. Because if they do not have the right truck for salting and gritting the roads, 1 or 2 inches of snow can become very treacherous in freezing temp.

    It is true that we had less problem moving about when we were leaving in mountain than now in the valley.
    It is only a problem in the management.

    We had for 48 hrs a non-stop rain-sleet-snow-sleet-rain, now it is freezing and our road looks like an ice-ring, with mirror effect.

    We are not going anywhere for a while ...

  6. I second the concept of the perfect horse for every rider. I have found mine!

  7. I call Spider my "little man" because he's 16.2 and finely built. Vinny is the same height, but seems bigger from the saddle because he's so wide. I used to ride two 18 h horses regularly, one seemed normal sized because he was very narrow, the other was like riding a freight train!

    16-17 h is about the right size for me, I feel silly on anything smaller and I look silly on anything larger!

  8. that was very philosophical, jean!

    i've done the same as GHM 15.3, then 17 hands + (nearly 18 - but i didn't look stupid) then 16.1, now back to one about the 15.2 mark who felt small when i first got her but not any more...

    and shannon's right as well, the build of the horse can make a huge difference to how one views them...