Having trouble finding the right horse? Personal evaluation is key when choosing an equine partner.
In response to questions I frequently am asked at clinics and exhibitions as well as in personal e-mails, I offer some helpful tips of Partnership Training, my trademark, in a series of installments. It may be a review for those of you who have been "into" horses for a long time. However, if you have found that you purchase the wrong horse for yourself over and over again, this series will be helpful to you even if you are an experienced horse owner.
It is essential to understand both yourself and your horse in order to create a successful partnership. No matter what riding discipline you are interested in, the bond between horse and rider is built on understanding and respect. Like choosing a dance partner, choosing the right equine partner can make the difference between fulfilling your riding dreams or dealing with constant frustration.
START WITH SELF-ASSESSMENT
My philosophy is that we should improve the rider to improve the horse and not the other way around. To find the right equine partner, we must first focus on the rider. I recommend that riders who are seeking a new equine partner first do a personal evaluation. It can be a difficult process to be totally honest about your personality, ability, and goals. By asking an unbiased equine professional or a friend to help, you can get important feedback. Honest evaluation at this step will save you frustration later and help you avoid choosing an unsuitable, or even an unsafe, equine partner.
One of the most important, and difficult, characteristics the rider must evaluate is her personality. Do you have a bold, aggressive personality? Or, are you more timid and perhaps shy? Have you had a bad riding experience that left you with some fears or doubts? There are no wrong or right personality styles when it comes to riding. It is important to recognize your style because it will help you find a horse with a personality that complements your own.
Evaluate your lifestyle. How much time will you have to spend with a horse and why are you entering into this partnership? Different horses and different riding disciplines vary in the amount of time they require. Most people have a career, family, and social obligations. How much time in your busy schedule will you have to spend with an equine partner? Ask yourself why you want a horse. Are you looking for stress release, companionship, exercise, or because it is 'your thing?' All of these are fine reasons to want an equine partner, but how many of your other obligations are you willing to forfeit to fit in the time necessary to become a team?
You also need to realistically evaluate your goals for the partnership. While it is important for riders to have a dream of what they can achieve with their horse, they must be realistic given their personality, lifestyle, and ability. I find that people have expectations of what they want in a horse and what they expect it to achieve, but they are not realistic in evaluating themselves and their role in making their dream happen. They expect that the new horse will 'fill in' what they should be bringing to the partnership.
WILL SKILLS MEET THOSE GOALS?
Finally, you need to honestly evaluate your riding skills. This is closely tied to evaluating your goals because they cannot be achieved without some level of skill. Test your ability through riding practice and, more desirably, through riding lessons. Do you have the knowledge and experience to achieve your goals? If you do not, no equine partner is going to be able to supply them for you! You will need to achieve them first and be willing to commit the time and effort to do so. If you are not coming up with solid answers in this evaluation, seek advice from an unbiased equine professional (preferably one that you are already working with and are satisfied with, and not a person who is only interested in selling you a horse).
Stay tuned... More next time to help you find your right horse. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Palm Partnership Training? resources, please visit www.lynnpalm.com or call 1-800-503-2824.
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 HorsesTM 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
Link to PDF of Article