Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Reality Bites

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that Courage is a reactive, opinionated, sensitive thoroughbred. He survived on the track for a long time by taking care of himself. He's slow to trust and quick to get defensive.
and he rocks the hell out of this browband
For a lot of people, he's a hard horse to read. I've had more than one trainer dismiss him out of hand because while there are some cool things about him, his defensiveness makes him seem like quite an asshole. Which. I mean. Yeah.


At the same time, the opposite response is to always assume he's a dumb horse with a pure, reactive pain response, which is also missing the boat a little. Sometimes he hurts and that's the behavior and sometimes he's protecting himself and that's the behavior.
and sometimes he's just adorable
The magic to Courage is learning how to understand him enough to know the difference. What do you ride through and say "you will" and when do you get off and look for other answers?

Obviously, an integral part of this is understand how his brain works--the "average" horse gets tired and doesn't particularly want to work, if you will. So if you up the work load and ask for more, you're going to get some resistance because prey animals like to conserve energy so that they can run away from predators.

Whereas Courage is a result of hundreds of years of domesticated, specialized breeding. He'd never last two minutes in the wild (where's my grain bitches) but he will 100% work his tail off and has never understood the word "tired".
def understands "fabulous" tho
And the hard part of riding him isn't "kicking enough to keep him going". It's the mental gymnastics of "why is he offering this behavior at this time". It's the ability to divorce my pride as a rider and trainer from his behavior and keep the conversation about the horse. It's letting go of artificial expectations and listening to what this horse has to say right now.
the only moment that matters
Please don't read this as "I'm perfect and sooooo good at everything", because I'm not. I definitely let myself get too wrapped up in goals/expectations/ideas about performance and then need a good, hard reality check.

What's more, Courage is a damn complicated horse and it's not worth it to everyone to sort him out. But. I got him straight off the track. I took his prime resale years. He's now a twelve year old horse with no particular accomplishments to his name, which is not an overly great track record. I owe it to him to do my absolute best by him because I chose to bring him into my life.
high proficiency at the velcro game tho
There's no guarantee that if I stick it out with Courage, that he'll be the next great show phenom or whatever. The odds are definitely against us.

I'm an amateur. I'm not here to win all the things and make myself look good. Horses are the part of my life that help me make sense of the rest of the world.
sometimes you can't help yourself
That doesn't mean barely scraping by and doing the bare minimums and complaining if I don't get the max payout. It means putting in the time and the money. It means effort, energy, dedication. It means looking past the surface for answers underneath, listening to my intuition, and challenging myself to be a better and stronger person.

Courage is reactive, opinionated, sensitive, and defensive. He's not for everyone.

But he's mine.
And because of him, I will learn to do better.


  1. Not everyone has the same goals and not everyone has to have the same goals with different horses. As long as you're happy end enjoying it most of the time, then I'm about the partnership!!

    1. Exactly. I'm not in a good place to show right now anyways so instead of being down on him for that, I'm just rolling with it.

  2. one of my favorite things upon first discovering this equestrian blogging community was the immediate secondary discovery that - GASP! - everyone of us is coming at this hobby from a slightly different angle. we've all got different backgrounds. different resources. different needs. we all define success quite differently too.

    for me, like for most of us, my investment in this hobby is measured beyond time money and energy. well beyond. and my required payout from that investment couldn't be simpler: joy in its purest form. however i arrive at or derive that joy is up to me. so long as i get there, that's all that matters.

  3. I can relate to this somewhat. My guy Knight is feeling so much better sans ulcers. He is also very fit and becoming more challenging to ride because of his "exuberance." I love him, but it would be nice to hop on a simple horse sometimes.

  4. YAY! Go Courage!! And SB!

  5. "That doesn't mean barely scraping by and doing the bare minimums and complaining if I don't get the max payout."

    This. Right here.

  6. "Courage is reactive, opinionated, sensitive, and defensive. He's not for everyone." He sounds SO like one of my horses, and after 4 years I finally 'get' him and understand his reactions and I LOVE it. It's been hard work, but now that I'm here it's been totally worth it! It's an amazing journey

    1. Yeah it's definitely a different kind of rewarding than "look amazing and win all the ribbons", but for where I am right now, he's perfect.

  7. I love this. It's so true and I'm in the same boat with B and people putting in their two cents without really knowing. I've had him 5 years and he was dubbed unrideable and would never amount to anything during the first 2... And we went to out first event this weekend. You have built something with Courage and it's incredible ♡ he'll never stop making you think... and it'll be totally worth every step.

    1. I really do enjoy the journey with him, even if he makes me beat my head against the wall sometimes. So excited for your progress with B!

  8. I LOVE that last pic of him. He's yours, do what makes the two of you happy, whatever, and however that is :)

    1. He's such an expressive guy. It's a good energy to have in my life.

  9. C is lucky to have you. Hopefully you can figure things out and enjoy him for more than being a supermodel

  10. Not pushing a horse that doesn't tell you when they are physically (mentally is another story) tired is SO HARD. You have done a great job engaging his brain with the groundwork stuff you've been doing... one of these days I'll actually DO it instead of going oh yes that inspires me, now let me proceed to change nothing.

  11. Courages brain is hard wired a little differently than others. That's for sure. There's a flip side too. Getting there is half the battle. Once it all comes together for you guys, things will flow like crazy and it will be a much smoother ride for you both.

    My pony was easy to train but not always easy to handle. He's smart which is where the difficulty lies. Try explaining that one to people.


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