Blog Hop: Dealbreakers

So this is a super fun blog hop and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s responses! Shout out to Amanda for coming up with this one. And shout out to Olivia for blogging about it so I could read it and then read everyone’s responses.

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“Don’t try to ride ’em. A lot of people try to ride ’em.” – Jo Bennett, The Office (US)

When I was a junior, hungry for saddle time, you could have blindfolded me and sat me on anything with four legs that even slightly resembled a horse, and I would have been happy to ride it. Like we’re talking you could have told me to show jump a brahma bull or play polo on a 2-point buck, and I would have been just peachy. But as I’ve gotten older, especially since my accident and starting to pay for my own healthcare, I have gotten a little bit pickier about what animal I’m riding. (For starters, I prefer them all be members of the Equus genus.)

So to summarize, before y’all get bored with me for rambling, these are my dealbreakers:

  • Anything super big. Like we’re talking bigger than 17 hands.
  • Anything that looks like it is not healthy enough to be ridden, due to whatever circumstances.
  • Anything overworked.
  • Anything I don’t trust.

Due to whatever experiences in my past, these are my lines in the sand. If a horse you tell me to ride fits in these categories, all you’ll get from me is, “Nah. Swerve.”

Big horses? But Kelsey, you’re pretty tall! And, you know…not little.

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I’ll leave the Giant Horse to Hyrule’s champion. (Seriously, I don’t even want to do this quest in Breath of the Wild.)

Yeah, that’s right. I’m 5’6″ (167cm), so I am technically taller than average. And that is correct, I am not thin or fit. But here’s the thing: a lot of people who work with horses are small. I’ve had more trainers and coaches in my life who are shorter than me than who are taller. Jockeys are known to be short––required, even, in some circumstances! Horses are big. They are significantly heavier than people. And a lot of them are significantly taller. I’ve worked with plenty of big horses, and I’ve been hurt by a lot of big horses. My buddy Audio was really helping me get past that fear and anxiety, but when I broke my ankle while riding him, it reinforced the fear in my mind. Obviously this was purely coincidental, as Audio was not the cause of my injury and I would have been just as broken had I ridden any other horse in the barn that day. But changing that association, my friends, is what therapists do.

Can you really tell if a horse is healthy just by looking at it?

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Sound, sane, and surprisingly large. Oh, and Audio is in the picture too! (Taken in 2015.)

Well… Healthy is a bit of a relative term here. Now, anyone who knows anything about horses knows how to tell when a horse is physically unsound. It is easy to see lameness in legs, soreness in backs, and stiffness in bones. It is easy to see open wounds. It is easy to see the fear or anxiety in a horse. So if I see any red flags like not putting weight on a leg or claustrophobia in the stall, I will probably find a different horse or simply not ride. Obviously, some issues are harder to see. Neurological problems aren’t always immediately visible; neither are gut issues or breathing difficulties or forming abscesses. (Author’s note: I started to rant, like a lot, so I’m shortening this next bit and you’ll see my animal rights manifesto in a future post!) But the fact of the matter is that we, as horsewomen and horsemen, as horse people, are entirely responsible for the care that our horses receive.

 

What do you mean by overworked? Or… “I believe riding horses at all is overworking them!”

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A mare who is happy to work. And an Amanda Lee who is happy to ride!

To those of you that criticize anyone who rides horses, myself included, please just stop. Go eat your sad vegan tofu bacon and vegetables covered in dirt. Riding horses is not in itself an abusive act. Riding horses improperly can start to border on abuse. (But we’ll get more into that in aforementioned future post.)

A horse may depend on us for things like shelter or food or medical care, but the fact is that they do the things we ask because they like their jobs. Horses jump over car-sized ditches and pirouette and rear on command in movies because they feel their compensation is fair. If they did not like running up to and lifting themselves over colorful poles or pointing their toes at the trot, they would simply not do it. Yes, it really is that simple. They are bigger, stronger, faster, and more stubborn than us. If a horse has been bullied into doing its job too often, like some riding schools and lesson programs do, it will not be happy. That ole reliable Doc or Blaze might not put up a fight when collected from their paddock. But does he honestly seem pleasant? Does he seem willing to go? Does he seem happy? If not, then I want no part of adding to that horse’s misery, and full stop I will not ride him.

Kelsey, horses are wonderful animals and so much better than people and you can trust any horse with anything and life is full of rainbows and sunshine.

No. Just no. If a horse has hurt me too egregiously in the past or pushed me significantly too far out of my comfort zone, I. Will. Not. Get. On. The same goes for people. I am a person who prides myself on the patience I have. I can forgive people for a lot of things, sometimes things I should not forgive them for. Frankly, I have a recurring problem in my life of trusting too much and too quickly, and it’s gotten me hurt in many ways. You know what? It’s not fun to get hurt. I live in the United States in 2017, and I can say, all my life to this point and probably for the next decade, that healthcare is outrageously expensive. If a horse has sent me to the hospital or even urgent care before, it’s unlikely that I’ll mount up and try again.

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My wonderful Squirt, Ariel. Our relationship is strictly confined to the ground only!

Even my wonderful niece pony Ariel, who I love so very much and have known for at least ten years, does not have my full trust. On the ground, I would walk her into fires and floods and trust that she would not hurt me. But we have tried riding before, and it was honestly disastrous. Ariel is absolutely my ride: she’s about 15 hands, has a lot of go and not a lot of whoa, hunts for jumps like a dog to a squirrel, and she demands an active ride. However, Ariel gives her trust to very few people. She made it clear that she didn’t trust me where she couldn’t see me, and she didn’t like the way my body spoke to hers. I was too tense and expected fireworks. So Ariel became a self-fulfilling prophecy. She gave me the explosion I was looking for. For nearly twenty minutes, I could not get this mare to relax. I’m actually pretty certain she didn’t breathe for large periods of time. We were each looking for support and assurance from the other, and we both had none to offer. I’ve only had a horse run away with me one other time in my life––and he was also quite big.


Amanda asked, so I gave my answers. Upon rereading this post, I feel like it is also a psychological profile of sorts. But hey, that’s probably why I’m a writer anyways. I just have a lot of feelings and thoughts. So to you, my lovely readers, thanks for listening. It means a lot.

Now I want to know about you!

Tell me about some of your dealbreakers. What are the disqualifications that have you saddling down? (Sorry, that was a terrible joke. Not sorry, because I’m leaving it.)

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