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Are You In It For The Horse?

By Carole Herder

I was reading an article recently about horses versus horse-related activities and one point really struck with me: is there a benefit to my horse by attending this event? It got me thinking about how many times I’ve seen painkillers being used to cover up an issue, just so the animal can compete. Or owners ignoring the obvious signs of pain (nipping when being cinched up or bucking during gait transitions) just so they can ride out.

So are we in it for ourselves or for the horse? How many of us ride even though it may cause injury to our horse? Is our horse ready emotionally, mentally and physically to undertake what we are asking of them? Have they been trained adequately for a situation or are we setting them up for failure? Are we participating in an activity to satisfy our own needs and ignoring those of our horse? I know I for one am victim to some of these faults – after months of training and preparing, I have in the past asked more of my horse than I should have because they are supposed to be ready and I needed to participate because I wanted to; and I have forgotten to look at how they are on that particular day. Happily, I have since moved on from this thought pattern.
And I do know of many people who have backed away from events because their horse was ‘just not quite right’ and I even know of some that have written off whole competition seasons because to carry on would mean pushing the horse too much. They simply said it would be an opportunity to catch up on their pleasure riding and focus on their schooling, and there was always next year for competing. What a lovely attitude!

Often we proceed with our plans because it is what we want, or because we are under pressure from others. But if we forget about the horse, if we forget to consider the horse, it will be to our detriment long term. May be not physically but definitely emotionally.
This is one of the reasons why I love trail riding so much as I think it is of huge benefit to the horse, mentally and physically. They get to be out and about, your relationship and partnership can be worked on together, they get some great varied exercise and many are stimulated by the anticipation and challenge of the activity. Once you are sure they are confident to be out and comfortable with their tack and you on their back, go out and enjoy the ride!

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