Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The results are in...and I have an idea!

I think it's particularly interesting that we have 1803 readers (plus me, I answered my own poll) who are comfortable breaking a horse from scratch (split between those who will work with a horse who knows nothing, and those who will work with a horse who has been normally handled.) That's a much larger percentage than the general horseowning public.

I'm sure many of you who gave those answers are not currently training professionally for a variety of reasons. Maybe you've grown tired of owners who won't learn along with their horse. Maybe increasing hay and grain and shavings costs have made it too unprofitable. Maybe you don't think the overall risk is worth it anymore. I can totally relate to all of these.

Yet one thing I think almost 100% of readers of this blog agree upon is that lack of training is the #1 reason horses wind up in bad situations. So I'm going to offer up a little challenge to those of you who do know how to train a horse: In the next six months, I challenge you to volunteer to put 30 or 60 days on a horse who isn't broke and who would not get broke without your intervention. It can even be your own horse who isn't a priority for you to break (for example, an unbroke broodmare...not the 2 or 3 year old you were going to break anyway), a friend's horse who bought a youngster or adopted a PMU or something and is now overwhelmed but can't afford full training, a rescue horse in the possession of a rescue that needs help to make him more adoptable, an auction rescue...whatever you feel comfortable with. I'll even count OTTB/OTSB broodmares if they have not been ridden since the track and the track was at least 10 years ago. That's close enough to unbroke for me. And if you're starting with an unhandled horse and don't get further than groundwork in 30 days, that's just fine also. There is no specific goal you're trying to accomplish other than making the horse more marketable - closer to the kind of horse who can find a great home - than he/she was before. The only thing that doesn't qualify is a good quality youngster that you were going to break anyway, or horses you are being paid to break (taking board money for them is ok, but the training itself is a donation). This is an exercise in sharing your knowledge and abilities for the benefit of the horse - a chance for you to be the Angelina Jolie of the equestrian world. (Sadly, I don't have any Brad clones to offer as incentives...)

I've got mine picked out. She is a 17 year old broodmare who belongs to a friend who has never been broke to ride (my friend acquired her that way, several years ago - she was one of those broodies who ran loose on the range most of her life with very minimal handling). While she has been having beautiful, healthy foals, at 17 it's obvious that will not be her meal ticket forever. I like the mare a lot, and she was left open due to a late foal this year, so I'm going to make it my winter project to break her out. That way, when the day comes that she can no longer produce, there will be a little girl waiting with open arms and a bag of carrots for what is going to be one heck of a nice 4-H horse. One thing about an unbroke 17 year old with good conformation - those legs are flawless.

So who wants to join me? I'm thinking I'll set up a message board to detail my progress with this mare with pictures, and that way anybody else who chooses to join in the challenge can start a thread for their training project. Not only will we be doing a great service for the horses, but our training blogs detailing our progress could be very educational for others. Winter's coming - most of you aren't going to be as busy as you are in the summer. Lessons slow down, the show season is over or close to being over for most. It's the perfect time to invest a few hours a week in a horse's future.

I can't offer a cash prize or a TV show like the Great Mustang Challenge. But on the plus side, you can choose a nice old broodie and not a mustang that wants to kick your head in! ;-)

Think about it and I'll probably put the board up in a month or so, when I have time to start my project horse.