Monday, May 19, 2014

Soapbox Moment: Train Your Horses!

Lauren at She Moved to Texas wrote a really excellent post about the glut of free horses on the market - and on the people looking for those free horses. Spoiler alert: unrealistic expectations abound.

I've worked at several different horse rescues over the years. The last one I was most involved in was the place where I got Tristan. He wasn't really a free horses - but he is pretty darn close. I paid a discounted $150 adoption fee for him after working there for 3.5 months. He was no picnic - but he was a far more straightforward case than many horses at the rescue.

Here's what I have to say. *pulls up soapbox*

The #1 best thing you can do for your horse, to ensure his longterm success and happiness, is to train him.

I don't necessarily mean every horse should be a steady eddy packer cleaning up the ribbons. I do mean that every horse should have basic manners, basic skills, and a decent outlook and disposition. They should consent to be handled by a variety of people, and they should be accepting of bridle, saddle, and basic aids.

Will your horse go better for you, or for a talented rider? Sure. Almost certainly. But can you put a middling rider up on them and have them at least go okay? Can you hand his lead rope off to someone with minimal horse experience and trust that he will more or less behave?

Horses end up in bad situations for an endless, depressing, variety of reasons. Horses get out of bad situations, often, because they are good citizens. If you're looking at the rank, untrained 20 year old horse lined up next to the relatively chill 20 year old who's had basic training...guess which horse is going to get adopted? pulled out of the feed lot? spoken up for by someone trying to place them?

So take your time. Take the extra 5 minutes when handling your horse to make sure that they have the basics down. Ask a friend to handle or ride your horse just to make sure he will be okay with it. Try him out in a lesson or two with a stranger. The more you can expand his mind and add to his experiences, the better off he'll be in case something happens to you.

(soapbox corollary: have a plan for your animals if something happens to you! but that is the subject of another blog post entirely.)


  1. AMEN.

    Sometimes I write a sale ad for Tucker in my head. I plan to never ever ever sell this horse; I plan for him to live out his years and retire in my care or, should something happen to me, on my life insurance dime under guardianship of the folks what I have designated.

    I still, sometimes, find it immensely soothing to know that, worst to worst in some horrible unforeseen circumstance? I could write a damn fine sale ad for that horse. Which is far, far less about the ad itself than it is about knowing that he has the background and skills to have every possible chance of landing on his feet.

    (Actually, I should probably send it along with an if-I-get-hit-by-a-bus update to said potential guardians…)

  2. Absolutely. My trainer is always reminding people that the best possible way to take care of a horse is to train them. There is always a market/good home for the safe, reliable, useful horse. No one needs more grade rank things.

  3. Completely agree, your horse should be as rideable as possible to ensure they land softly later in life if you sell them on.

  4. Completely agree! A trained horse with *some kind* of job will almost always have a place in society somewhere.

  5. 110% agree! A horse with basic life skills will always be able to find a decent home somewhere. It's the ones that no one has ever taken the time to do anything with that end up at risk later on, and usually through no fault of their own.

  6. amen amen amen!

    And if you can't do it, SEND THE HORSE TO A TRAINER! :)

  7. I more than agree! Great soapbox moment ;)


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