Today, I’d like to write about one of my personal pet peeves. We all know a rider like this- it’s most common with ladies who got horses as adults and they want everything to be special and perfect, but this also happens with kids and other folks who aren’t sure what the rules of engagement are. They love their horse a lot, so much so that they never want to do anything to make sweet, little Fluffy uncomfortable in any way. Even though they are doing what they think is best, it gives me heart palpitations watching this person handle their horse.
As they’re walking in from the paddock, Fluffy reaches down and starts to graze.
“No, Fluffy. Quit!” followed by a tug on the lead rope.
Fluffy continues stuffing her face.
“Come on!” Big pull on the lead rope and Fluffy begrudgingly follows along munching on a large mouthful of grass. This whole sequence may repeat again if it’s an especially long walk to the tie rail or if Fluffy is a world champion speed eater.
Approximately 4 years later, Fluffy is tacked up and headed down to the arena. The grooming and saddling process has been lengthy and Fluffy is in a bit of a mood. Nice lady parks Fluffy at the mounting block and steps up on the top step to get on. Fluffy swings her hindquarters away from the block. Nice lady hops down, resituates the horse, and gets back up on the block. Fluffy takes two steps back.
“Step up.” Owner politely asks.
Fluffy says, “No”
“Step up!” Owner musters a little more enthusiasm this time.
Fluffy falls asleep.
“Come on, Fluffy, STEP UP!” and Fluffy obliges by walking straight past the mounting block, and now nice owner lady has to lead Fluffy in a circle to get her back to the mounting block again. I’m not sure how nice lady eventually gets on Fluffy because usually by this time I have left the arena in an attempt to let my blood pressure return to a normal and acceptable level.
But the fun doesn’t end here! Nice owner lady now proceeds to ride Fluffy. I use the term “ride” here loosely because Fluffy spends most of the ride wandering around the arena at a walk while owner lady fusses about this or that. When she tries to pick up the trot, Fluffy pins her ears and sucks back against her leg. Maybe owner lady’s instructor or trainer makes her ride with a crop. Maybe she gives Fluffy a few half-hearted taps on the shoulder, or maybe nice owner lady just kick-kick-kicks at Fluffy’s dead sides, but definitely there is lots of clucking, a few come on’s, and a plethora of trot!’s. After a lap or two, Fluffy picks up a half-hearted jog which she maintains for approximately five strides before breaking back to the walk. This happens over and over again. Eventually owner lady ends the ride, and now it’s time to go up to get untacked and eat treats. This is Fluffy’s favorite part of the session.
If you ask this kind owner she will tell you how she is working on Fluffy’s “issues” and how they have such a strong bond and so on and so forth. If you ask Fluffy, she’ll give you the scoop, “I’ve got my owner so well trained. I can make her do all sorts of tricks instead of working me!”
This is an issue many newcomers to the horse world fight with, where is the line between being strict with a horse and beating them up? We’ll talk more about that later, but in the meantime, what are your barn pet peeves??