Have you ever heard the term “bomb-proof horse”?
It sounds like the ideal beginner horse.
And I’m about to tell you why you don’t want one of these horses.
Looking at the horse sale adverts, you will often see these horses that are advertised as the ideal beginner’s horse, the “bomb-proof” pony. I can’t tell you the number of times I see these ads with pictures of the horse in various phases – a tarp thrown over them, flags near their head, or a pre-teen child standing on their back (I won’t go into my thoughts on that, either, but let’s just say it’s not pretty).
These horses seem to be the perfect horse because they are not reacting to the stimulus, the “scary” objects, and you can do just about anything with them.
But most of them aren’t perfect. Most of them have shut down.
Yep, that’s right. Most of these horses have been terrified with flapping tarps, plastic bags, waving sticks and flags, and have reached a point where they no longer cope. As a result, they will react in one of two ways:
· They explode, become marked as dangerous, and often end up slaughtered
· They shut down, completely disengage, and are therefore marked as “safe”
Unfortunately, these horses are just like the wild cat backed into the corner. Eventually, they ARE going to explode. And if we are lucky enough, we will get to sit up from the dirt, stare at the cloud of dust left behind as our horse becomes a small dot on the horizon, and ask “What the (insert expletive of choice) just happened?”
The big issue with these horses is they are forced to not react - until they can no longer NOT react, resulting in a massive overreaction to a seemingly small stimulus. They have no capability of processing, they have no capability of thinking, and they have never been shown how to look for support and direction from their rider.
I’m not big on the terminology of a safe horse, as every horse has the capability of reacting to every single person differently (personalities, training, confidence, attitude all come in to effect here for both horse and rider), but there is a way to make your horse safer.
To make your horse safer, you need to establish a working relationship, set yourself up as a leader, be consistent in your training and handling, make your horse curious, and always be mindful to condition your horse mentally AND physically.
Be prepared to put some time into your horse. This isn’t going to happen overnight. But the effort will be more than worth it.
Added bonus – you won’t look like an idiot chasing your horse around the arena with a plastic bag on a stick.