Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Matchmaking: Tips for Finding Your Perfect Equine Partner

A large part of my business is horse sales, specifically matching riders with the right horse so that they can have a long and successful relationship. This is similar to finding your human partner. It isn’t about finding the perfect individual, it is about finding the perfect individual for you. There are a number of characteristics I consider in both the horse and the rider. I am not going to discuss the obvious things like soundness and breeding. I am going to talk more about the chemistry involved in the process and the following criteria.

Goals: First, the goals of the rider must be clear. If they wish to win the world in reining this year, it requires a much different(not to mention expensive) horse than if they want to have a horse to improve on, enjoy,and are willing to take their time. The intended use of the horse needs to be as defined as possible. Even if you match a person with a very suitable horse, if the horse cannot meet the vision of the rider, today or somewhere down the road they will not be a satisfying partnership. As trainer, my job is to help shape the intention of the rider. I am responsible for pushing them to achieve as much as they can yet keep their goals realistic and attainable.

Experience of horse versus experience of the rider: I very rarely recommend a young horse to an inexperienced rider. The price of a younger horse is typically lower, but with the offset of potential hospital bills it is not worth the risk. Horses 2 and under are great for experienced riders who are looking to learn about the process of starting and training a horse. It should be emphasized that an older horse is not necessarily more broke than a younger horse. I have had very good luck matching intermediate riders with horses that are late 3-year-olds that have had a solid training program to that point. The horses are young enough to grow with the rider but have had enough experience to have a solid handle on them.

Aligning energy: I have found that horses and riders tend to have an idle energy. What I mean is that they either tend to be cooler or hotter by nature. The goal is to have the combined pair have a neutral nature with not too much “go” while still being responsive and attentive. This is an optimum training environment. I have found that a rider who tends to make a horse doggy or lazy will often suit a horse with a little more life. Riders who tend to be quick handed, high energy, or have an “electric seat” tend to clash with horses that also have a lot of life. They typically do better with a more reserved horse.

Forgiveness: There is a certain quality in horses that I like to call a “sense of humor.” If I am looking for a beginner rider, or a person trying to train their own horse, I am looking for a horse that can take a joke. I don’t mean this in a derogatory way; everyone makes mistakes. But when learning, a person makes more frequent and offensive mistakes then they will down the road. I want a horse that appears to be more forgiving. I will rank this quality higher for many shoppers than talent or breeding. As the trainer, and often the person selling the horse, I am in a unique position to observe both horse and rider. Additionally, I know their individual histories and tendencies and am able to narrow down potential partners to a couple of finalists. Herein lays the intangible part of matchmaking. For some reason, there will be one horse that just jibes with a person. Often he is the wildcard you threw in the bunch that maybe had some, but not all of the qualities you were after.

You can’t explain what makes it work, but when you see it you just know. I never discount the essentials, but some of my greatest matches only revealed themselves the moment the right person swung a leg over that special horse. As seen in the NWHS magazine www.nwhorsesource.com

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! I wish I had had the opportunity to have you help me pick my horse 10 years ago! Although I definitely lucked out with him (I bought him at a benefit auction and I didn't know a thing about selecting a horse)it could have been bad. He definitely has a sense of humor!!!