I have always loved bad horses. Not dangerously crazy horses, but the horses with a little sass that make you work for their respect. The horses that won’t pack you around, but demand the same level of focus and accuracy that you desire from them. The horses that are just a little hard. That has always been my “type” when it comes to horses. I like them a little hot, and I like a little attitude. They’re just more fun that way. My current horse, Chance, is definitely the “baddest” horse I have ever had and I have grown to accept that. I even appreciate how difficult he can be, for he makes me earn his cooperation – as my trainer said the other day. He will have my back for about one jump, then I had better get my s*** together. He has come more forgiving than he used to be, but he is no saint; and he doesn’t have to be.
Everyone wants the perfect horse. The horse that never puts a hoof out of line, and quietly does what he’s asked day in and day out. The horse that barely needs a ten minute lunge when arriving at a horse show. The horse that wins class after class because he is just perfect all the time.
Unfortunately, this horse does not exist.
I have known some horses that come pretty close, but there is not a horse on this planet that won’t, at least occasionally, be a horse. Every horse will wake up on the wrong side of the stall from time to time. When the air grows crisp in the fall, any horse can have a little extra pep in his or her step. No horse will be perfect all the time. Many horses are really good though. Many horses want nothing more than to please their people; and they are not bothered by much. Then there are the other horses. The horses that like to challenge their riders. The sensitive horses that are often ticking time bombs, waiting to explode at the slightest disturbance. The horses that can spend a hour on the lunge line and still be wild. The horses that have maybe been through a lot in life, or maybe didn’t have a great start. Not all horses will be saints for whatever reason, and they don’t owe that to us. Thinking that horses owe us perfection is why so many people drug, overwork, and abuse horses to get them to “behave.” Perhaps if these practices were not so common, there would be more “bad horses” tossing their heads and bucking around the show ring.
Personally, I have always preferred bad horses to saints. Maybe it is the challenge, or maybe it is that these types of horses can often be very competitive once you figure them out. Or maybe it is that they make you better. They have the ability to make you more accurate, more confident,m and stronger in your riding. Chance forces me to control my emotions, and to actually ride. I am more accurate at the jumps than I ever have been, my equitation is more solid, my reflexes are sharper, I am getting braver. Whether or not I ever become competitive on him, or jump huge jumps on him, he is helping me to be a better rider. My experiences on him will help me with any horse I have in the future.
Now, this post is not to encourage you to go hop on the baddest, scariest horse you know of. Feeling challenged and being in true danger are two completely different things! I think it is very important that we equestrians know our limits in what we can physically and mentally handle from our horses. But I do want to encourage you to not shy away from horses that aren’t easy (so long as you are safe) because they do have the ability to make you better in ways that a saint-like horse cannot.