“Horses are the great equalizer; you can’t buy the ride. Or the other priceless things: freedom, friendship, and self-esteem.” Anna Blake, Author and Equestrian
Here’s a newsflash - horses cannot be bribed into giving you the perfect performance on any given day, whether it’s just for yourself or for a hundred people. In fact, an over-indulgence in treats may backfire, resulting with a horse that will do nothing besides sticking his nose in your face with a deceptively sad, hungry look.
My Sportie is also completely unaffected by how much money I spend on his tack, unlike myself who will definitely ride better when I have on a brand new, smart-looking pair of cowgirl boots. He only cares how I make him feel which is reflected by how I feel about him: is he a living, breathing partner or just a mode of transportation?
If he is my partner – and he is, the best and most brilliant partner ever - then I will do everything in my power to make him feel respected and comfortable with me, whether I am at his side or on his back. That doesn’t mean he always gets his way, especially when he thinks we are done for the day after our ten-minute warmup. But it does mean that I try to direct more and correct less, breathe deeply and never lose my patience with him.
Being a good partner means I try to keep our arena sessions stimulating and fun for both of us, laughing instead of cussing when things don’t go as planned because they rarely do. I always find when I make a real effort to show Sportie respect and appreciation that he responds in kind, and I then find the freedom and friendship that we all long for. If I don’t make him feel like a bad horse he won’t make me feel like a bad rider. At the end of the ride both of us just might find our self-esteem still intact. We might also find a few treats.