Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Don't You Want to Kick Some Pro Horse Trainer's Butt?

How many times have you seen this scenario:

There is a show pen full of professional horse trainers plus a single little girl riding her pony. The pony doesn't have a lot going for it. Sure, he's shiny and groomed within an inch of his life, but he's not fancy, not a great mover, and he does not have anything close to perfect conformation. And yet, when the class is over and the show results are announced, big surprise! The little girl and her pony kick butt and win over all the pros in the show pen.


Well, it may be a shocker, but I've seen it happen over and over again, especially if the class is judged according to the actual rules, which focus on the horse's behavior and appropriateness for the class.

How Does the Little Girl Kick Butt?
So how doesthis shocker happen? Actually, it's not that difficult to figure it out. The girl and the horse have a secret weapon: a real relationship. Yeah, a relationship. On any given day, the little girl is "messing around" with her pony. She's grooming him, hugging and kissing him, climbing all over his back, standing up on his back, and sliding off his butt. They have this "deal," this understanding of each other ... they trust each other and they love each other. The "get" each other. The little girl would probably walk through fire to save her pony, and her pony would probably walk on coals to save the little girl.

The same probably can't be said of the professional trainer and most of the horses that he trains. On any given day, the trainer rides eight or ten horses, and usually focuses on "training" specific maneuvers. You probably won't see the pro sliding off his horse's butt unless he's a pretty strange trainer. He probably doesn't feed his horses about five pounds of carrots or hand out hugs and kisses by the bushel. He gets the job done for sure ... but does his build love, trust, and that "I'll work through a burning building for you" kind of relationship with his horses? Does he know every single one of his horse's loves, hates, needs, wishes, and desires?

Probably not.

He's not paid to do that, and he usually gets the job done in the show pen or he won't stay a trainer for long. He develops a records with more wins than losses, and that keeps him in business.

But every now and then a little girl shows up on the circuit with her pony and kicks his butt. And then she keeps kicking his butt. She kicks the butt of just about every pro in the show pen because she knows her horse. She loves her horse. She knows his every quirk and she loves him the way he wants to be loved. That's how she kicks the butt of every pro in the show pen.

Now About Me, The Zen Cowgirl ...
So why have I spent almost a whole page telling you about the little girl and her pony who shows up and kicks the heinies of all these pros?

'Cause I want to be that little girl. I'm not so little anymore (I'm a few decades past that) but I do like to do stuff unconventionally. I love mustang pony jumpers who can clear the moon. I love potentially unfixable roach-backed warmbloods who become show champions. I love chronic runaway horses who learn to love standing still. I love all of that.

Now that I'm in California, I'm glad that I love unconventional ways of working for horses. Here in Redwood Valley, Northern California, I am experiencing some very challenging situations if I want to show my two horses, Samantha and Fezzywig, in the spring in Santa Rosa, CA. For instance:
- Monsoon-like rains every single day
- Rivers running through my pasture
- No convenient indoor arena
- A single (yes – one) jump
- A horse (Fezzywig) who puts every piece of the jump in the ditch every day
- No buddies with whom to ride
- Squishy hooves and slippery footing, so no fast work

Can you see my dilemma here? But not to worry. I LOVE challenges like this, especially when it comes to horse training and horse health care under adverse conditions. I'm one of those people who do exactly what people tell me can't be done. So, if you think that it won't be possible to successfully show my two horses in the jumper division in the spring in Santa Rosa, then prepare to be surprised!

In upcoming blog posts I'm going to be sharing some of the innovative ways that I'll be conditioning, training, and relating with my horses under these adverse conditions so that we'll actually be ready for the show season when it stops being monsoon season!

More to come ... stay tuned!

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