One of the several disciplines available in the horse show world is jumping. In my country, this is the second most popular equine discipline, and it is widely competed across the capital. Being a natural horse lover ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of owning a beautiful show horse and jumping him over colorful obstacles resulting in dainty blue ribbons to take home. So, four years ago, I acquired Gringo. He was a four year old, beautiful Appaloosa pony. Surely, he was a handful for the first few years, but by age seven he had leveled out and could finally begin jumping.
That was the time when my jumping technique changed.
Before, I had jumped with a steady canter or trot, maintaining cadence and stability for a proper distance and form. But now, I had begun to realize that if I didn't maintain a breathtakingly fast pace, my beautiful pony would only refuse to jump, flipping me over the jump, to the left or the right of the jump.
My trainer would tell me to bring him in at the fastest canter I could, and we cleared 1 meter fences. It was quite a shock for others to see the little pony clear big fences, but I would fall apart over the jumps, showing terrible position and little control. Every time I tried to jump with a slow pace, I would be met with a refusal, sometimes resulting in some of the worst falls I have experienced so far. It was nothing too terrible, but sometimes I feared that even in the fastest pace possible, he would freeze and I would fall even harder than before.
After four years of owning Gringo and failing to be able to show him due to his spooky personality, I finally bought my second horse a couple of months ago, a true show horse named Hamlet. Being unable to ride both of my buddies, I sent Gringo to be ridden at a nearby beach resort as a trail horse.
And boy is he happy. Those who ride him say he is as calm as can be, even giving a couple rides to tourists rather than being a guide horse only. Before, at my barn, there were few people who dared to ride him due to him being high strung and difficult to ride. Yet, at the beach resort, where he was being ridden at a much less demanding pace, he is calm, even becoming more welcoming to other horses while in the pasture. After much reflection, I have reached a conclusion.
Not all horses will excel in the discipline you want them to. It is not because they are not good enough, but because I believe that if a horse doesn't thoroughly enjoy what he is doing, he will not give it his all. While it broke my heart to put Gringo up for sale once I bought my second horse, I have learned that if I sold him as a jumping pony, he will be miserable. He is happy giving rides to tourists in beautiful landscapes, not jumping colorful obstacles like I wished him to.
I tell my story here hoping that people begin to assess what their horses truly want and need. Especially in demanding disciplines like dressage and jumping, horses who are not enjoying what they do will not give you their all. Of course, all horses and people are different, and some horses may be acting up or not excelling due to other reasons, but I give my advice here for others to assess their situation from a different view. Some horses just enjoy the simple living of a trail horse, or a companion horse, and that is just as beautiful as any other activity.
Pictured is my horse Gringo, taken by me in September 2015.