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Women and Horses Newsletter, July 2002
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~~~~~~~From Mary D. Midkiff~~~~~~~
1. It's Horse Show Season - Are you and your horse
meant to compete?
2. I would love to hear your opinions
1. It's Horse Show Season - Are you and your horse meant to
Summertime is upon us and so are the horse shows. Every weekend
from now through November is booked solid with gymkhanas, pony
club rallies, hunter and jumper events, cutting horse
competitions, western pleasure classes, team pennings, saddle
horse shows, horse trials, endurance races and dressage tests.
The pressure is on to perform, meet schedules, mail in entries,
chase valuable points, load and unload, groom and polish, dress
and undress, sign checks, book hotels, arrange for dog sitters,
and on and on.
I'm wondering if you are still loving your horse. Your horse is
your partner through all this chaos, and you expect him to fit
into the plan no matter what. Is your stress going to cost you
in your relationship with this special friend? Are you thinking
about his or her welfare first, or even on the same level as
yours? Is the competition all about you? Is your horse just an
extension and reflection of your own ego and self-image?
Too many times I see horses pushed to show a day after they have
colicked or asked to jump when they simply don't have another
jump left in them. Do you give your partner all of the
physical, mental and spiritual support he or she needs to thrive
during this stressful season? Do you still have room for
enjoyable and relaxing times together?
Step back and think about these questions. Showing and
performing can be truly fun and rewarding, or it can lead to the
demise of a relationship and a horse being put up for sale.
Not every horse and every rider combination is destined to be a
competitor. Perhaps competition on a circuit is something you
and your horse handle well, or maybe just an occasional show
would work out better. Some horses and some people are very
competitive and enjoy hard work with a goal; they're lucky to
have found each other. Others do it because they have to or
because it is expected but aren't necessarily cut out for the
pressure. That can apply to rider, horse or both.
One of the best places to study the competitive horse is on the
racetrack. Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Standardbreds and Running
QuarterHorses are bred to race. Their conformation is designed
to generate speed over a distance. In the case of the Thorough-
bred there are 35,000 foals born each year. Only a fraction of
these foals will make it to their first start and even fewer
will consistently make money and be competitive on a decent
level. Some racehorses clearly demonstrate their love for their
work, a disposition that can show through despite uneven human
handling and training. These select animals go on to race
successfully and enjoy the sport and the competition, while
others may pin their ears and wish they were somewhere else.
It's the same in the show ring. Some horses enjoy getting out
and working everyday. They look forward to a challenge, love
the attention of the crowd and rise to perform. Their
conformation suits their job; they remain sound in body and
mind. And they enjoy pleasing their human partners.
Then there are others that are fixed, fussed, medicated or held
together in some fashion to do a job they are not particularly
well suited for and don't much enjoy. These are the horses that
can end up on the trash heap of life after being misunderstood,
or pushed too hard too fast. They may be ill-suited to their
work, irregular in their performance, unsound, dangerous, unsafe
or any combination thereof. In these situations, if we humans
continue to try and fit a round peg into a square hole, the
horse will most likely suffer the consequences.
Take a breath, look at your relationship with your horse, and
try to be flexible. Since most of us don't have the resources
to have a barn full of horses to choose from each weekend,
let's focus on the most common situation: having one horse and
a rider who wants to perform. The weekend is planned for
several months in advance, so your hopes are high and your
expectations set. How do you get from here (the preparation) to
there (the competition)? As you go through training on a
day-to-day basis, make sure you add in hacks or trail riding or
just hanging out with your horse in a pasture. Make sure he
gets plenty of "horse time" and can graze and be a part of a
herd. If that's not possible, then you have to become his herd
and try to spend some additional time with him, maybe reading a
book or cleaning your tack in his stall while he munches hay.
If you can't get him out to graze, pick grass and bring it to
him. Stroke his hard working legs and give him a massage,
releasing those good-feeling endorphins. Most of all, take some
extra time to be a good companion.
I love to hear people talking to their horses, at home and at
the show. Horses listen and tune in to us. They know the
feelings behind what you are saying, and the rhythms of your
voice can do wonders for their sense of well-being. I like to
discuss my plans out loud with my horse and see how she feels
about them. If nothing else, it's cathartic for me to hear
myself talk about our schedule of events. Sometimes, when you
actually verbalize your plans, you'll hear when something
doesn't make sense and requires a change of course or schedule.
Also, think about what you might lose if something goes amiss.
Whether it's missing one show or a whole season, what's the
consequence? For me, the loss of one or even many show dates is
insignificant, because I still have my partner and we'll still
do things together. For others of a more ambitious nature who
are driven to compete, it may be a significant negative.
Remember, you are not losing your horse. You just are losing
the ability to show him. Losing the ability to compete is
disappointing and disheartening when you have big plans and have
put multiple hours and dollars into it. But in the larger
scheme of things and your life in general, it doesn't mean much.
The mental, physical and spiritual welfare of you and your
horse is the foundation of a successful relationship, not the
blue ribbons or trophies collecting dust in your tack room.
When you feel the need to compete -- it's in your nature -- but
your horse isn't ready, or is injured, or needs some time off,
then pick another outlet for yourself. Run road races, cycle,
swim, hike mountains or hills in personal record time, play
tennis or golf. In other words, find something to fulfill your
competitive needs while your horse takes the time necessary to
get ready. If you were a professional ice dancer and your
partner told you he or she was temporarily unable to compete,
what would you do? Consider your options and give your horse
partner the benefit of the doubt - and time.
Your horse deserves your love, respect and compassion. Enjoy
the summer together, however it shapes up.
2. I would love to hear your opinions
I'm considering creating and selling packages of *She Flies
Without Wings* notecards featuring illustrations and quotes from
the book. I would love to hear your opinions about this idea, as
well as any suggestions you might have. Please email me at:
mailto:email@example.com. Thank you!
Women have a special magic with horses...
Equestrian Resources, Inc.
PO Box 20187
Boulder, CO 80308
Phone 303-544-0333 | Fax 303-544-0331
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