To say a horse is “no good” helps us excuse our level of horsemanship and short-changes the horse.
I’ve spent the last few days studying the Western Bloodstock online sale catalogs for cutting prospects. The sales are held during the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas.
I’ve watched hours of videos, scanned countless pedigrees and memorized dozens of photos. Come sale day, I’ll be in and out of stalls with Luke, obsessing over details and complimenting and criticizing every yearling that we have highlighted in our books as a potential horse to bid on.
“He’s too small.”
“That gelding is weak in the stifle, small in the hip, limited mentally and bowlegged.”
“Wrong color. Wrong dam. All wrong.”
And on and on.
Last year, we walked into the stall of a big, pretty yearling filly. Too big to be a cutting horse, we instantly thought, so we crossed her off the list and walked out of her stall. Later that morning, we met with a respected horseman and friend, and he told us to take another look at the mare.
“She just matured earlier than most colts her age. Look at that hip and topline. Look at the bone on her. She’s strong and balanced and just beautiful.”
The mare morphed in front of our eyes. Something that was previously a scratch in our minds instantly became a horse with serious potential. So we bought her. And she hasn’t grown any bigger (thank goodness!), but her talent and knowledge has really developed her into a nice 2-year-old cutting prospect.
Often, the unseen greatness in a horse lies in his potential, not necessarily in his current state. Sometimes the trainer doesn’t match the horse. Sometimes a horse is in a discipline or lifestyle that doesn’t fit his abilities. As horsemen, we should rise above our initial judgments and not allow distracting, man-made habits to mask the good qualities that each horse possesses.
My father-in-law, Bryan Neubert, wouldn’t allow his kids to say that a horse was no good. To do so basically gave them an easy “out”. It made a scapegoat out of the horse and made it easy to blame their sub-par results on the horse’s inabilities. He sees each horse as an opportunity to learn something new. What a great concept.
Every horse is capable of amazing things. Perhaps yours isn’t the most agile athlete out there, but his gentle disposition and steady travel would make him a great kids horse. Maybe you’ve got a mare that is hard to catch, but her big stop and cow sense make her the best heel horse on the place. There are a lot of colts that “fall through the cracks” in training that become wonderful partners and talented show horses down the road because of their unrecognized or untapped abilities.
Now don’t get me wrong—I’m not an advocate for biting off more than you can chew. Just because each horse has good in it and untapped potential doesn’t mean it’s always the best project for the owner. If you end up with a horse that’s unmatched for your goals or abilities, I firmly believe you should seek an alternative solution, whether that’s selling the horse to someone better suited for it or finding proper assistance from a trainer.
From this day forward, I challenge myself to acknowledge the good in every horse. Every day. Whether I’m looking at future show prospects, kids ponies, or just colts that my husband starts for customers, I vow to remember Bryan’s rule and refrain from allowing negative thoughts to become an excuse for my inabilities. I will do my best to seek out the special talents and different potentials that all my horses hold.
I’ll try to recognize and celebrate the best in my horses.
And it’s all that I can hope that my horses try to do the same for me.