Some people may read the title of this blog post and be offended. They may say "All horses are angel babies who only have the best to offer us" and while, yes, that may true that horses are a fantastic, amazing work of Mother Nature's art, there are some that are simply infuriating. Some that, at times, make their owners and riders feel like the horse ascended from hell itself just to make them want to tear fist fulls of their hair out. Those who are offended by the title of this post clearly have not had to deal with the most infuriating horse that hell has to offer. In which case, this blog post may fall on deaf ears for said people. Some horses are just so god damn infuriating that people have to conjure the spirit of Mother Theresa within them so that they don't lose their shit.
Now, the added problem to these types of exceptionally difficult, quirky horses is that everyone and their dog, including those who've never ridden anything other than a lesson horse, thinks that they know how to ride them. And they WILL weigh in on it, don't you worry. "Have you checked his back? I think he has kissing spine!" They may trill, as your horse takes off on their 10,000th broncing fit on public grounds since you signed your soul away to the devil or sinned, in some way, so badly that you were cursed with this horse shaped hellion. Yes, Helen, we've checked his back. Clear X-rays. He's just a bit of a dick. You know the people I'm talking about. They'll trill about 1001 behavioural problems that you likely thought about much earlier down the road of dealing with this horse because you were desperate to find SOMETHING wrong with your horse to explain such an extended period of the "terrible twos" but, no, your horse just can't handle that extra day off. Or the wind. Or the cold. Or that mounting block every 68th ride exactly. Never sooner, never later.
All jokes aside, some horses are just quirkier than others. There isn't always an easy explanation in terms of pain or issues related to feed and turnout. Some horses just have more difficulty than others containing extra energy. Some horses just like to buck. Some horses are just neurotic little turds that are okay with the same things most days but sometimes just explode. For most horses, it's true, there is a reason for continued bad behaviour. But, for some, like my Milo, it is just the way they are. Now, I'm sure that his quirks were created by handling early on in life, or lack thereof. Sure, if he was fed more and handled properly from birth, he would be a much different horse. The years of neglect and abuse definitively shaped the horse he is now and he is an excellent example of why people who can't feed or handle young horses properly shouldn't damn well have them. However, despite 4+ years now of proper, loving, handling; he still has yet to outgrow a lot of his quirks. Including, but not limited to: bucking for the first several steps after being cinched up in a surcingle, broncing after missing a couple days of being saddle, an immense fear of walking through stall doors (he will either bolt or plant his feet, your call... This is an on/off habit, it comes and goes. What fun.), squealing and broncing if a blade of grass brushes his leg on a particularly exciting day, acting like a dragon that's escaped from hell on any cold day, having an absolute MURDEROUS hate-on for chickens and so on...
I have had so many people come up to me and say that I need to discipline him harsher, that he needs more desensitization, that I haven't "exposed him enough." All of these seemingly well meaning people weighing in on a horse they cannot even begin to understand. The same horse that can't keep his head screwed on right when he sees a chicken (only every 38th time, though, so make sure you count!) can hack on the buckle through virtually any trail park, keep his cool when a semi truck comes blasting by him (a mere couple feet away), gallop 45km/h bridleless, school off property bridleless and so on. He has so many amazingly good qualities that most "normal" horses lack but people often fail to try to find out about these before judging an already strained, difficult love-hate relationship.
You see, these types of quirky horses you can't get to know from merely watching a few fails videos or one short, raw clip of an exciting day. You have to meet them, handle them daily. See what they're actually like. You have to get to know them to even remotely understand the complexity of their funny little brains. These horses are enigmas, ones that run people out of the horse industry or teach them to have the patience of an absolute saint. They are not for the faint of heart. The amount of times I have wanted to quit riding or give up on Milo are excessive. I think these things in times of immense frustration, though, more times than not, I knew that I would never follow through. It is so hard to see people accomplishing things in weeks or months when it would take and has taken my horse so much longer to figure them out. In fact, sometimes it's excruciating. To have the patience that so many people in the horse world don't, the patience to stick it out even if it means giving up showing for a while or knowing that when you do show, it'll be a hit or miss day because your horse is that unpredictable and inconsistent. It's really hard. To find the right types of trainers and barn staff that also possess the amount of necessary patience and understanding to deal with horses like this is even harder.
In the horse world nowadays, people want quick fixes. They are inflexible. They want their horses to be perfect in the most immediate way possible. Unfortunately, this often results in overtaxing horses such as "The Most Infuriating Hell Has to Offer", they simply cannot take the same amounts of pressure as less sensitive, less quirky horses may be able to handle. They may snap under said pressure. Perhaps, this is what created their weird "quirks" and difficulties in the first place. Or, perhaps, they're born like that. Regardless, they're so widely misunderstood and unwanted in a world like the one today, where quick fixes and immediate rewards are so sought after. People view it as an inability to appropriately train if they are not fixed on the same timeline as other horses or if they simply lack the ability to be just like other horses. They have a cookie cutter method of training and viewing horses that they oftentimes don't want to sway from. It's really unfortunate to see, as now people are disallowed to have these difficult horses without being made to feel guilty for not rushing, not fixing them sooner or lambasted by people online who assumed that it must be X physical or behavioural issue that the owner has neglected to take notice of. Like I said, it's a good thought to rule out pain before tackling any problem, however, to assume that people have not done this is unfair. Ask questions first, judge later.
So, here's to all of those who are working with horses that make contemplate why the hell you ride horses in the first place. Horses who are the reason behind your high blood pressure. Your anxiety. Your stress. Horses who are more exhausting than studying for finals, most stressful than your exams. Horses who are not everyone's cup of tea and in some people's eyes, may just be the worst. Keep on keeping on, do your thing and do right by your horse and try not to bash your head against a wall, lord knows I'm trying to do the same.
Anyways, while Sally-Sue shows the 1.20s, I'm going to be hoping that we don't refuse out of the 2'3" ring at the next show when a jump looks at Milo wrong. I know you're jealous.