After you evaluate yourself and your goals, an evaluation of your prospective equine partner is equally important.
In Finding the Right Partner Part I [ Holistic Horse #48, Winter 2006], I stressed the importance of understanding yourself to create a successful partnership with an equine. My philosophy is that we improve the rider to improve the horse, and not the other way around. In Part II, we concentrate on the horse and learn how to evaluate equine prospects to help you find that right partner.
MAKE A CHART TO EVALUATE EACH HORSE
With so many horses out there, the choices can be overwhelming. I recommend that you make a list of criteria to evaluate each horse. Divide a sheet of paper into columns for each category. Rank each horse on how well it meets your expectations for each category. You can use a simple plus or minus, or a numerical rating may be more helpful. Include the same criteria that you used to evaluate yourself:
- personality (e.g., is this horse bold? timid?)
- lifestyle (will this horse require more time than I am able to give?)
- goals (will this horse be suitable for my goal of trail rides and overnight camping?)
- skill level (is this horse?s experience on a par with mine?)
It helps to prioritize the criteria because some factors will be more critical in making a decision than others. Be sure to add categories for a veterinarian exam and health checks, and include riding the horse as part of the pre-purchase exam. No equine partner will be able to help you fulfill your goals if it is unsound.
There are many horse breeds from which to choose, and, within breeds, a range of individual differences among horses. If you are not certain as to what type of horse you are interested in, horse trade shows are a great place to learn more about the special abilities and characteristics of each breed. Equine publications also will expose you to different breeds, riding disciplines, and other learning opportunities.
GENERALIZED BREED CHARACTERISTICS
To help you narrow your search, I have found that certain breeds of horses are better suited for certain disciplines.
Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods, and Quarter Horses tend to make the best hunters and jumpers.
Gaited horse breeds such as Tennessee Walking Horses, Missouri Fox Trotters, and Paso Finos make for comfortable trail riding horses as do Quarter Horses and other "western-type" breeds that have a smooth, consistent ride.
If you prefer the action of barrel racing and other speed events, select "western" breeds like the Quarter Horse, but look for individuals with speed in their bloodlines.
If your experience qualifies you for a more sensitive horse, a Thoroughbred or Arabian horse can provide the finesse that is best brought out by an experienced rider.
For a more "laid back" partner, look into Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Paints, and Morgans.
NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS ONE!
One criterion I am most passionate about is the AGE of the horse. I believe that young horses, under age 3, are not suitable for novice or inexperienced riders. These young-minded horses are suited only for very experienced riders. Equine partners between the ages of 4 and 7 years are great for intermediate or experienced riders. Novice, inexperienced riders, or those who have had a ?bad? riding experience and are recovering their confidence should stick to more mature horses over the age of 7.
Add other important criteria to your list such as the horse?s size. Have a friend video tape you while riding to evaluate if the horse?s size is in proportion with your own. There is no rule on size, but there should be a balance between the size of the horse and the rider.
In closing, I want to repeat this tip I gave you in the last article: we all have to keep evaluating our horse's suitability. There are two questions to constantly ask yourself:
1) Are you safe with your horse?
2) Are you having fun?
If the answers to these two questions are not both "yes," then you need to begin finding out why. To do this you need to learn more about your horse and about yourself as a partner to him!
Lynn Palm is a regular commentator on HorseTV and RFD-TV, and is a frequent contributor to many equine publications. She has excelled in a number of competitive arenas with many top American and European championships to her credit, and most recently was honored with the 2003 Equine Affaire Exceptional Equestrian Educator Award. Lynn?s recent endeavors include the launching of Alliance Saddlery and Women Luv Horses TM Retreat. Palm owns and operates Royal Palm Ranch, Ltd. in Bessemer, MI and Fox Grove Farm in Ocala, FL. For more information, visit www.lynnpalm.com
To learn about Palm Partnership Training? resources, call 1-800-503-2824 or visit www.lynnpalm.com . While you are at the website, check out Lynn?s ?Women Luv Horses? Retreat to be held May 18-20, 2007, in Concord, NC (near Charlotte).