If someone had told me a year ago that my first horse would be a 3 year old OTTB mare, I would have laughed and said “no way!”
Young, fresh off the race track, AND a female?!?! These are all negative stereotypes in the horse industry. I can count on two hands and two feet the number of local stables that refused to board my mare due to one or more of these three factors.
In reality, this mare is a sweetheart. (Ask anyone at our boarding barn!) Does she have idiosyncrasies? Absolutely. All horses do. Some of these include the desire to be on half day turnout (she starts chewing the fence when she wants in). Her skin is extra sensitive and sore in many spots, so she can be a bit nippy when being blanketed or groomed. Due to recent past trauma, she will not fall asleep for more than ten minutes at a time, completely disoriented when she wakes herself up.
Despite this, I don’t love her any less. I do not hold her idiosyncrasies against her because I have my own. All horse people do (though most will not admit it!). Some of mine include a visual impairment, thus, I adapt training and riding equipment in a more colorful manner to suit my individual needs. Anxiety, a decade-old condition that I deal with EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I didn’t follow the typical post high school graduation route of college. Instead, I am currently enrolled at The HERD Institute working towards my Level 1 Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) practitioner status.
However, my mare does not love me any less. She does not hold these idiosyncrasies against me. We are on the magical journey of learning TOGETHER. We are both young and inexperienced. Are there days that I wish I had a more unique equine, such as a fjord or a gypsy? Not anymore. As a horse industry, we need to STOP holding long withstanding negative stereotypes around certain breeds, genders, ages, etc.
Despite typical equestrian social media posts, horses and their human owners are NOT perfect. We don’t spend all day galloping bareback in a field of grass. 110% of our energy is put into managing our horses’ diet, exercise routine, physical health and emotional well-being. And when we are not at the barn with them? We constantly think of them and what they are doing at that specific moment.
This week, I challenge you to think about some of your horse(s)’ OR your own idiosyncrasies. How can you utilize these in your training to become a better equestrian?