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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

PART 1: From the riding master and some other thoughts that have percolating for a while (Part I)

For a definite change in how the blog has been written, this is going to be a bit of a glimpse into some of my own personal thoughts on a few horse related topics. I have decided to break it into a few different posts due to my tendency to ramble. It is a fault and needs to be worked on. Several things have been keeping my mind churning when I try to go to sleep, so it is probably best to clear the air and hope for restful nights!

The local gossip has long since declared me to be opinionated with no justifiable reason for having an opinion. My years of riding successes (and failures) and patient coaching from my mother are apparently immaterial. Perhaps this will change some of the public perception of who I am. Perhaps not. If you have very thin skin and are offended by the verbalization of my thoughts or think that I am a complete nutter by the end, so be it. Everyone is definitely entitled to their opinion(s) and these are a few of mine. But like I heard recently in regards to politicians - "If you want someone who agrees with you 100%, look in the mirror."

Oh, and for the record, I am not getting out of horses. Gotta squash that rumor right now!

Such a simple concept! Why do people insist on making it so complex?
According to German Master Rider, Training and instructor Willi Schultheis, "good breeding means less training." Let us break this down to the most simple meaning - a horse that is bred to do the job (discipline) that is your desired area of excellence will require less work from the rider and trainers. That is not to say that will be an easy process - merely easier than a horse that was not bred for the purpose at hand.

So let's take a step back for a second, what does this really mean? In my opinion, a horse that comes from 2 parents that have performed at a high level in the same discipline in which you want to gain knowledge, experience and have success will be easier to train up the levels than one who comes from parents who have not. A simple example - a prospect for dressage will be less likely to come from 2 successful(or not) race horses. Or 2 parents that were show hunters, eventers or competitive high level jumpers will not produce upper level dressage offspring. There will always be exceptions and any horse can be trained to be proficient at a lower level in dressage but the effort, time (and in the end that means $$$$$) spent will be far lesser if dressage riders start with a horse specifically bred to be a dressage horse with the conformation to grease the wheels so to speak.

Ahhhh, there were some key words that you might (or might not have) missed! I'll rewind for a second as I want to emphasize them. Parents (sire and dam) that performed at a high level - this is a key piece of information and can not be stressed enough. A high level is definitely relative concept but if you are an aspiring FEI rider, it will be a rare diamond in the rough that can be found from a mare that never set foot in the competition ring from an obscure damline that has not produced performers beyond in hand or elementary level competitions and by a stallion that did not show above Prix St. Georges (which incidentally is less than halfway to Grand Prix). Likewise, the stallion has to provide his burden of proof - he needs to have produced offspring out of similar mares to the one that produced this 'diamond' that are out competing at a level you are looking to in your own future. If you would like to have an all around horse to trail ride, fox hunt or event with some dressage for training purposes only, do not look to a sire who has only produced show horses that only see the 20x60m arena as 'home'. Same for the mother of the all around horse...she should have the same background, success, level of achievement (or her older foals should) as you are looking towards. And for conformation education - you had best speak to my mother who is not only a licensed S judge but also a trained breed inspector who knows exactly what to look for in a prospect. She knows her stuff and what it takes to get a horse from baby all the way to Grand Prix and the pitfalls in between. There are obvious flaws that make the process more difficult and she will articulate what they are far better than I can.

If you have lower level dressage goals - do NOT settle for a stallion that showed at the most basic levels - his odds of producing exactly what you want are not that high and a youngster that comes from highly talented, successful parents has a greater chance of rising to your goals than not. Seek out a professional opinion and do your research - this is like a homework assignment - go RIDE siblings, relatives, distant cousins of the horse you are considering. If you don't like anything about them - reconsider your purchase as you are buying a RIDING horse. If it doesn't feel 'right' or as good as you had hoped - keep looking! Your special riding partner is out there! In a nutshell - aim for the stars, for they sparkle brightly and it is fun to shine!

And here is a kicker - if you are not currently up to riding a young, green horse which will be unpredictable at times and educating it - gather your financial resources and seek out a horse with more undersaddle education. Do not buy or breed a young horse. It is not a means to save money. Honestly. I swear I am not making this up! Killing some sales, possibly. Annoying folks who operate on the greater fool theory, absolutely! But fabricating a twisted version of the truth? Nope.

And I brought up the ever present topic of money! (how rude!!!!) There are a few ground rules when it comes to selecting and owning a horse. 1) It will cost you a basic amount each month to provide your new horse with food, shelter and care. 2) Your horse will require veterinary care, a farrier and inevitably cost more than you expected in regards to training and education. 3) No horse is free or a gift. You get what you pay for in most instances. Your time is valuable and finite on horseback. Injuries will happen to both you and the horse over time, so better to maximize your chances of success, attaining your goals and stacking the deck in your favor from the beginning with a horse that is up to the challenges before you both from the moment you set a foot in the irons. Time is money in many ways! And that reveals 4) Green on green is a mistake and will result in injury and/or frustration. Old horses get young riders so as to teach them how to ride properly. Young horses need an experienced team (rider and trainer) to advance their education. There can be exceptions but it is a long road to travel without a proper support group, trainer and financial backing to make it all happen.

So I've decided to break this into different segments for clarity. There have been a great number of things that have been weighing on my mind for a while and it is best to get them out of storage. However, there is no sense in dumping it all out at once! That would cheapen what I am trying to say. And your eyes are probably glazing over already with boredom...

But I will repeat what I said at the beginning of this post - I am not getting out of horses. I am merely reassessing where and what my goals are, my physical abilities, the financial realities that go into having a business and the current state of the marketplace. And I will re-read Mr. Schultheis' statement "good breeding means less training" and think of how far ahead we are with so many well bred, talented and promising young horses coming along in their training. From where I sit (on horseback most days) - I like the commitment of years of hard work, sweat and will continue grit my teeth with determination to better myself and the horses we have bred. Laughing and enjoying my work are part of each day, so why on earth would I ever change my career? Shift my focus? Certainly! Quit? Not on my life!

So take all that I have said with a grain of salt. It is worth precisely what you have paid for it...nothing more than the time it has taken to read this post.

Coming up next -
(I know everyone is on the edge of their seats with anticipation...) *roll eyes*
Rumors and gossip...the stuff that makes the horse world go 'round, right?

Is there no room in my heart for a rescued OTTB?

Bloodlines and performance vs. fashionable pedigrees

Breeding for profit

and probably a few other stray thoughts...I'll try to get them all organized tomorrow while I'm working horses, but no promises.

Happy riding!

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