So what is the correlation with bucking, you say? Aggressive horses, bucking horses, horses that bite and kick are all life threatening. In fact, I'd take my chances eating a month old slice of pepperoni pizza long before I would ride a stud that is a known bucker with a penchant for breaking bones and leaving riders in the dirt. I see many people on the verge of getting injured or worse yet, killed, because they haven't seen, experienced, or been made aware of the problems associated with riding poorly trained horses. They haven't made the correlation between the dangerous horse (uncooked pork) and getting injured (sick). On the surface the uncooked pork looks fine. It smells ok. It doesn't look dangerous. Like the horse, it's perfectly normal looking until....
The prevention and education in the horse analogy is horse training and rider awareness. While today, I won't focus on rider awareness, per se. I will say that part of being a good horseman is understanding when not to mount up and when to go back to groundwork. I'm advocating that riders need to understand that a horse is not trained simply because he or she hasn't injured anyone to date. It takes only one time for that to happen. And, I don't want to hear that you're safe because you wear a helmet. The helmet campaign associated with horseback riding is just one factor in a whole litany of factors needed to ensure safety. It's like saying that you only have to cook the pork a little bit in order to ensure you won't get sick. I also abhor the argument that people "trust" their horses. I trust my horse will do exactly what a horse will do in any situation, and know that would take far to many lifetimes to predict than human fragility allows. I'll take a well trained horse over a well trusted one every. single. time. They aren't synonymous. Riders shouldn't trust horses in every situation. As much as they mean to us, they are animals that react like animals at any given time. (Ask me my opinion on the use of the terms bombproof, broke, and kid-safe).
If your horse won't flex on the ground in all directions with ease (vertically, horizontally), won't whoa verbally (yes, verbally) on the ground, won't back verbally or with just a slight jiggle of the lead rope, won't lead through, won't allow ropes, sacks, etc. to be thrown all over him or her, won't transition through gaits with simple cues--verbal and on the lunge line; won't stand ground tied for some time, won't keep their eyes on you when you are working them, etc., etc., etc. then your horse is not ready to ride safely under most expectations. Like the uncooked pork, it's an unfortunate chain of events waiting to happen. Sure, you might be able to get away with it several times. In fact, you might never get sick from that pork chop but, then again there is that one time when you will be puking your guts out and it will dawn on you that maybe you should have invested in that thermometer or, at least, shouldn't have eaten it.
Spoiling takes on another meaning as well when it comes to horses. If your horse is pushy or, you can't control his or her feet or, they pin their ears at you, or they bite or kick or, they crowd your space without you inviting them in, you might be unintentionally allowing the horse to think he or she gets to make the decisions and it also means your horse is not ready to ride. These are common behaviors and it happens more time than you think. Most of the time, owners don't even recognize their horse is learning these types of behavior. What is that verse about love covering a multitude of sins? Anyway, one thing you can do is educate yourself, take stalk of your attitudes towards horse compliance and your beliefs on whether any particular outcome can happen to you. If you're amenable you can find a trainer who will show how to correct and prevent these habits from forming. They can show you the right amount of energy needed to take control again and at least set you on the path to discovery. They can also show you what types of exercises/evolutions would work best for you and your horse and how to ensure your horse is making progress.
AND, in case your wondering, gadgets won't help train your horse. There aren't any quick fixes. Tie downs, harsher bits, and other new inventions may help a little in the interim but, without you actually taking the initiative to *discover* the problems yourself, understand the issues, be aware of the dangers and the roll you play in it, or you may find yourself no better off than those folk who use a public rest room then eat without washing their hands.
So, we're back to finding information and/or getting a trainer. Good information is not easy to find and not all trainers are worth the time and money, but don't stop looking for one who is. Find someone who has a record for positive training results. Not a friend of a friend of a friend who started some colts. Go to sites like the NRHA, AQHA, APHA, etc.; attend shows, clinics, etc. and ask around. Read. The hard work has been done for us already. There is a plethora of information out there. And there is a better way then just hoping the problems won't rear their heads in unexpected circumstances, or that they will go away over time as the horse ages. Carpe Diem! (Seize the day!) You can learn to be the trainer. Afterall, no one trainer knows everything, and with enough dedication, initiative and information you can educate yourself. All of the greats learned from other greats and continue to learn. Don't get discouraged. Discover and invent ways to get the results you need and when you feel you aren't ready to mount up, then solicit professional help. Maybe you just need a few minor changes but, for the safety of yourself, your horse and others, really preview what can happen if your horse isn't ready to ride.
So, tonight when I eat my pork chop..it might take a while to cook, be a little tougher or be a little harder to swallow but, I probably won't get sick.
Next week's blog we'll be discussing crop circles and transitions. :)