Monday, September 29, 2008

Standards and More Standards!

Once again the Excellent Poster, Gypsyfly, has come across with the goods. He's a standards-oriented guy, and knew all about the set of horsemanship standards set by the CHA. You can find them yourself if you go here. You'll have to order the book to actually see them, but that's okay. We can all use a few standards, right? Cliff is looking for some in this photo.

Of course there are always the perennial standby Pony Club rules, about which there are many books available. The downside to PC is that it's strictly English with no accommodation for western riders or anyone who wants to do something really odd with their horses.

So, what Gypsyfly is offering is the idea, which I've been looking at for years, of certifying riding levels before a horseman is able to purchase a horse. Or at least sufficiently to give the seller an idea of how the rider will stack up against the horse in question.

This, of course, requires that sellers behave like Real Horsemen and actually 1) familiarize themselves with some basic recognizable ability tests, and 2) care whether the horse they're selling might eventually injure, kill, or simply disappoint the buyer sufficiently to wind up at auction. That's asking a lot of some sellers.

I'm going to direct this, then, to those who are not in the horse biz for a living. Dealers, traders, and auctioneers aren't fazed by a buyer's dissatisfaction. Generally they have no stake in the outcome at all unless there's some sort of warranty involved. Even then, they may be a tad lax about honoring whatever verbal agreement might have been made. So I'm addressing this to the private owners who have a horse to sell.

Sure, you really want that horse gone, especially if his departure is the condition for the arrival of the New Horse you're so longing to buy. But that doesn't mean that you have to give up all sense of pride and honor. Most of you care--some even deeply--about the future of your horses. A bad match in the sale can be a death warrant for your equine. Keep that in mind.

So much for buyer standards. My goal was to finish the trainability test descriptions, so I'm going to do that now.

7. Hold the lead close under the horse's chin, stand at his side, and walk towards him. If he moves off with his butt end still, he's had some serious training or is amazingly alert and intelligent to have figured out that that's what you wanted him to do. Try it on both sides. One side will likely be better, but you've got a better side too, so we won't deduct points for that.

8. Try checking the horse's teeth. If he lets you, give him a point. If he bites you, remind yourself to let the vet do that next time. Minus one.

9. Pick up each of the horse's feet. He should let you do this without fanfare. If he fights you, that either indicates a serious lack of handling or a questionable attitude. Or it could mean a hidden lameness or pain issue. A horse doesn't like to put pressure on a sore leg or foot, so if he won't pick up the right front, suspect lameness in the left front.

10. Walk away from the horse with the end of the lead in your hand. He may follow you, which is okay. If he stays put, see if he's watching you. Walk all the way around him. He should turn to watch you. If he does, score one for the horse. If he doesn't, it's not necessarily a negative point. He could be nervous or frightened, especially if he's off his home turf.

11. Lead him away. If he bumps or head-butts you, it may be cute as bunnies, but it's a dominance issue. Negative one. If he walks nicely and respects your space, give him a few points depending on how many times you've been stomped on by your last horse.

12. Stand in front of the horse and walk towards him, as you ask him to back up. If he does back up, that's great. If he doesn't, give him a gentle nudge with your finger on his chest. Gentle. Don't whack him. If he still doesn't move back, consider that a respect issue and think about finding a horse that isn't so confrontational.

So much for the groundwork. Next, In the Saddle.

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