Friday, May 27, 2011

Lesson Horse Joys (not so much!)

Along with my real job as an equine nutritionist, I also train a few horses and give riding lessons. Unfortunately, my little lesson herd has become fairly geriatric, and in the past year I've had to give up one of my wonderful horses to a perfect home where she could tote beginners around and be loved forever, and another of my girls is now only giving lessons to small people who are not ready to jump much larger than crossrails. So, for the last 10 months, I've been trying to find one nice horse to add to my happy lesson horse herd. While some horse people absolutely love shopping for horses, I hate it! My modus operandi is usually to wait until a horse finds me that I fall in love with, and after about a 10-minute trial ride, I just write the check and take him or her home. I don't like sifting through websites and classified ads, calling other trainers and friends, traveling to try out horses, sitting on unfamiliar saddles, getting my hopes up, getting my hopes crashed, etc, etc, etc. Just not my idea of fun!!! However, unless I want to get out of the lesson business entirely (which I don't want to do because I really enjoy giving lessons and I love my peeps), I really do need another horse.

Late last summer, I thought I'd found the right horse. The woman that I bought my personal horse (Conor) from, had another little Quarter horse that she thought would be good as a lesson horse. I went and rode him, and while he was fairly green, he was quiet, sweet, and had a really good mind. I figured that I could ride him a few months, teach him to jump, and then start putting some more advanced students on him. I took him home, named him Clancy, and started teaching him the things he needed to know about being a lesson horse. Well, in the 30+ years I've been giving riding lessons, I've never encountered a horse like Clancy. He just never could get the hang of jumping. I always start a newbie over trot poles on the ground, and then gradually move up to a crossrail, and take it on from there. My favorite moment is when the horse figures out that the jump is not actually a barrier, it's a fun thing that they get to jump over! Well, Clancy never did make that mental leap. While he was willing to hop over the barrier, you could just tell he was wondering "why on earth do these people keep asking me to go OVER the barrier when it would be so much easier to just go AROUND the barrier? And isn't that what a barrier is for - to keep me on this side?" So, much as we all enjoyed Clancy's sweet face and kind personality, I ended up selling him early this year to a friend who is using him on a ranch where he gets to work cattle and doesn't have to leap over any barriers ever again, and he's doing just great.

However, I had to go back to the lesson horse search, which was no fun at all, until I discovered Craigslist!!! There are lots of horses for sale on Craigslist, and they are close to home so I don't have to travel so far, and there are lots of horses in my price range! I found a couple that sounded good and had nice pictures, and made a few phone calls. The one that I was most interested in had a picture of the owner standing on the saddle, and I thought "this horse has the kind of attitude that I like!" Not that I condone standing on the saddle - probably not a really safe riding position, but I like a horse that will put up with that kind of thing. So I took a couple of friends on a little road trip to try him out, and came home with a lighter checkbook and a new set of Quarter horse papers. Eoghan (pronounced "Owen" in case you're curious) is an 8 year old ranch broke gelding, and we'll see how he gets along with an English saddle and jumping over barriers. So far, he's ok with trot poles and a tiny crossrail. After a week, he's already beyond Clancy in jumping potential (but that's not saying much!). He's also learned that I and my peeps are good sources of fine things to eat, including carrots, horse cookies, and even a banana (I've never had a horse that liked bananas, but Eoghan was looking at the one I was eating with such interest that I just had to share). He seems to be very happy with his new home, and as soon as his quarantine is over, he'll get to go out to pasture with his new herd. If I was a better blogger I'd have already taken a picture or video of Eoghan to post, but I haven't, so I'm posting a picture of Clancy instead. And next time I post a blog, I'll include a picture of Eoghan - maybe one of him jumping (I'm very optimistic)!

No comments:

Post a Comment