This week, one of my favorite episodes is playing on Horse Master. It features a 4 y/o Mustang and his owner who participated in the Mustang Challenge. He’s a really cool horse—very classic looking Calvary horse that resembles a TB/Morgan/Mustang cross. He is a really good-natured horse and has progressed well in his training considering that less than a year from the taping of this show (March ‘10) he was running free in the Nevada desert.
Amber is an excellent rider and part-time trainer and she brought the horse along slowly in spite of the 100 day deadline looming, at which she would have to bring the horse to Murfreesboro TN for the “Mustang Challenge”. Although he was working well for Amber, once he got to the coliseum, he was understandably a little overwhelmed. Not surprising given his long 100 day journey from round-up to the show ring.
When he got to the in-gate to ride the obstacle course, the horse declined to participate, balking at the gate and refusing to enter. At that point, Amber did the right thing and rather than make a big scene and have one of his first “show” experiences be negative, she scratched herself from the competition. Although it was the right thing to do, given the situation, it left the horse with an indelible black mark on his training. What he learned from this experience was that if he didn’t want to do something, he could just refuse. This is a bad precedent to set with any horse!
Have you ever gotten into a situation where you’ve pushed a horse too far and come out on the bad end of the stick? I know I have and I hope that I have learned from it, but none of us are immune to mistakes. One of the hallmarks of a really good horseman is knowing when to push and when to quit. But when you make that greedy mistake and push too far, the effects of ending a training session on a bad note can be long-lasting. Pushing a horse too far too fast is a huge risk that rarely pays off.
I confess that sometimes I am concerned that the contests that are so popular today—the trail challenges, colt starting contests and the like—are setting up people to push their horses to failure. Having been on the judging end of some extreme cowboy races, I’ve seen it many times. Have you?
Fortunately for Amber, her horse is so good-tempered and had a solid foundation on him, so we were able to overcome this stumbling block and teach him to be an obedient and a willing partner again. They are still hoping to accomplish big things together and I am confident that they will. Tune in this week to see how they do.
Enjoy the ride,