Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions

From the comments in the last post:

"Okay, I do have another beef. Lungeline classes. Who thought this up? Yeah, lets take a baby horse, put it on a circle for an hour or so a day, walk trot canter. I personally don't start lunging till they're about 2. I like to keep mine around and useable for awhile."

You know how Longeline happened, at least my perception of it? Everybody was bitching about how early the AQHA (APHA, ApHC, it's all the same) folks were riding their babies. It had become par for the course for trainers to start them at 16 or 17 months. That way they were broke to death (sometimes literally) for the big money 2 year old snaffle bit futurities.

However, AQHA (APHA, ApHC, it's all the same) realized this had created a P.R. nightmare. Lots of people were horrified about yearlings being ridden and seeing three and four year olds who were already crippled from it. But the breed associations also knew that nobody wanted to let horses sit for a year and do nothing. I mean, how the hell are you going to get them sold for lots of money that way? The last thing anybody wanted is a bunch of pleasure-type yearlings sitting around in a field somewhere all hairy and, shudder, natural, without any hope of sending them out the door for $5000+, and we all know that there's no place in AQHA (APHA, ApHC, blahblah) halter for anything that does not look like the equine version of Charles Atlas. So everybody stuck their greedy little heads together and came up with Longeline.

And honestly, some of those people probably HAD good intentions. Hey, we'll give people something to do with performance type yearlings that doesn't require riding them. It would be a GREAT idea if the class were judged on natural talent...hahahahaha, yeah, I know, I know, I crack myself up. I remember when they first started having longeline, seeing some folks trot out their yearlings and let them be normal yearlings on the longe...you know, with their head at a natural level. Guess how they placed, boys and girls? Even if the horse was a GREAT mover and perfectly lovely. Oh yeah. No ribbons for youuuuuu!

It quickly became apparent that longeline was a class where yearlings are expected to set their heads level and dink along with the typical artificially slow show-ring AQHA/APHA/ApHC gaits. Now, how do you get that out of a yearling, who if he's anything like mine is prone to airs above the ground and running like a fool just because it feels good? Why, overtraining of course! Longeing them to death with all kinds of gadgets on them. I've heard tell some trainers are still breaking them out as early as possible to get them broke enough to win the longeline stuff. Hey, it's easier to create that look when you're sitting on them!

I am sure she learned to jog like this loose in the pasture with the other yearlings (though the bucking episode later on here is pretty funny!)

I am sure this is how he goes naturally in the pasture!

This one too. That jog, that's just how he likes to trot!

Oh, that's how they get them to do that!

How do I know they've been trained a lot? Well, I've longed my fair share of yearlings and this is how your typical not-overtrained yearling longes. (And yeah, personally, I'm not a fan of it anymore. I think it is too much torque on their necks and joints. I'll probably pony mine this year rather than longe.)

In the end, it didn't cure the problem of people breaking out babies. It probably increased the problem. But hey, we tried to do something! Yes, we did! Look at our good intentions.

As with most horse disciplines, there is no cure for greed. Yeah, there are horses who naturally go with a low headset, and there are horses who are naturally lazy, but the level of performance it takes to win the longeline classes is not something you can get out of a yearling you pulled out of the pasture, clipped up and gave a bath to. It's become as stylized as any other event at these shows, and just as much training goes into it. It didn't really solve the problem. Until we ban performance classes of any type for the under-3's, we'll never solve the problem of horses being overtrained and broken down early. I know that's a radical opinion, but it's what I truly believe.