Horses are not children, and really shouldn't be considered pets either.
Novice riders should never buy their first horse thinking it will be his/her forever horse.
Horses don't feel, reason, or depend on humans emotionally the way a lot of riders/owners hope they do.
Okay, so horses are not children. That part is obvious, I'm sure everyone will agree with me there. I joke a lot that I hope horse training and parenting are similar so I'll have a little more luck raising Baby Grace. Well, they are and they aren't. Horse's CANNOT reason. They don't predict the consequences of their actions. They don't say, "If I listen to all my rider's cues today, that will make my rider happy, so I'm going to do that!" Sorry. Not how it works.
Now, the "horses not as pets" statement may be a little more controversial. I know of several horses who have been raised by someone with the mindset, "I will raise this horse from a baby and we will have the most amazing connection." They picture bareback, bridleless gallops through pastures, a horse so intuitive it seems like he/she can read your mind. Immediately, they adopt this horse as a pet. It's cute when the horse rubs on you when she's younger, she must like you! It's okay to let your baby snack on grass during a training session...she must be hungry. Be careful when putting fly spray on her, you don't want to scare your baby!
In other words, when people start seeing their horses as pets, they start spoiling them. This is how horses become dangerous! They are very large animals, and the second they think you are equals is the second they realize, "I don't have to do this. I'm bigger." They don't care that it will make you mad. They just want to see what it takes to go back to the pasture. They are waiting for their RELEASE!
Just an example, everyone and their dog has seen the Stacey Westfall bridleless video. It's fun to think that that horse works so well with her because he loves her and can read her mind. Not so much the case. Stacey rides that horse PERSONALLY 5-6 days a week. That horse is broke. No other explanation.
Moving on, I've already mentioned that horses don't feel or reason. Everything a horse does is based on release. A horse doesn't "like" fly spray, so he starts jumping around when you spray it on him. You stop spraying. His release? Yep, he got it when he started jumping around. Also, I would like to point out, THIS DOES NOT MEAN HE WAS ABUSED WITH A FLY SPRAY BOTTLE!! I will be the first to admit there are legitimate cases of horse abuse. But it is usually not training-related! It's just that bad behavior has been rewarded with a release, so why should a horse straighten up and fly right? All he has to do is jump around a little, and he avoids the issue all together?! Shoot, if I could avoid household chores by jumping around a little, and my fiance finally said, "Just go outside and play with your dogs," I would do it EVERY time. And horses remember the last thing that happened. Not the time before that, where they stood perfectly still and it was no big deal. They remember the last time, where they got YOU freaked out and got away with it!
With all this said, I think it is a huge responsibility for horse owners to only own the horses they are using. Dead-broke horses who have taken 5 kids through 4-H and are being passed on to a new, novice rider are how we get more people in the business! We need that turn-over. We need new riders to be on safe horses, and then when they have outgrown that horse, to pass it on to a new, novice rider! Then they go in search of that junior level horse that will--not just take them to the next level of the show ring--but take them to the next level in their horsemanship skills!
It can be extremely dangerous for a new rider to own a horse that isn't broke. My definition of broke might be different than some people's, but my definition of broke means you can take a horse anywhere and have anyone ride him and he's the same horse. So, you get a novice rider who picks out a pretty horse. The horse isn't broke. The rider has no idea how to handle this horse, and becomes afraid. But she loves the horse because the horse is pretty. She will never sell the horse, but she doesn't want to ride him because she is terrified the horse will kill her. Then you have the gal who has been riding the 22 year old thoroughbred mare who has put 4 kids through 4-h and one through pony club. The gal assumes all horses stand quietly when being saddled, can be taken to a show, a roping, or on a trail ride and behave the same (so why all the fuss with safety guidelines that don't apply to her horse?) and will never sell this horse because she is comfortable and confident. We have two trainwrecks, waiting to happen. Horses that don't match rider capabilities for different reasons. We know that both horses are probably happy. Neither of them is ever challenged. But this is bad news for the industry! And it's just not reasonable.
How many of us would be competent riders if we were on push-button horses all of our lives? And how many of us would have felt confident riding these more complex horses if we hadn't started out on the push-button horse? This is the way my horse progression worked, and I should really thank my mom every day. It's probably the reason I am so confident on my horse now. I can count on one hand how many times I've been thrown off a horse in 19 years of riding. I have never owned a horse I couldn't handle or that I didn't feel confident on.
Now, I am not saying that no one should ever keep their horse forever. Shoot, I've said plenty of times that I will never sell Yellow. But there is a reason for this: He's earned it. And if you met my horse, you would know why. He is tried and true in every aspect we've exposed him to. And, I take him back to the trainer for tune-ups every so often to make sure I'm not spoiling him. (See my future blog about that!) I just would like to point out that before we start assuming every horse that has ever been sold or passed along has seen a Black Beauty-type life, we need to consider that horses are animals, and most are not needy. They like being in the pasture with other horses, some like going to work, some like human affection, but they lack the mental capability to be sad that the girl who used to ride him never comes to visit.
I love my horse just as much as the next girl (or maybe more!) but I've waited quite a while for a horse like this to come along, and I made damn sure I was a good enough rider for him before I found him!
And my last controversial statement for this blog: Horses don't trust the way people trust. It's based off respect, herd mentality and pecking order. As long as your horse sees you as the herd leader and knows that he is below you in the pecking order, he will work for you and even do things he's uncertain of because he knows you're the boss. He doesn't sit there and think, "Well, she's never lied to me before! Except for that time she said she would feed me alfalfa and gave me grass hay...but I guess I can forgive her for that and trust her one more time!"
Ignore all this if you would like, I sing a completely different tune if we're talking about my dog and many dog trainers have told me I've spoiled her beyond repair! Well, I don't care. She's 9 lbs of spoiled yorkiepoo and I am pretty sure her sun rises and sets on whether or not she gets to be by my side all day long. And no one is going to convince me different!