Training for the public means encountering all kinds of interesting horse owners.
I know a lot of men and women who train horses for a living. When asked why they picked that for a career, they often say, “I like that I have to deal with animals way more than I have to deal with people.”
I personally feel like this is untrue. The horses we ride link to humans of all sorts (the horse owners, owners’ spouses, owners’ bookkeepers, veterinarians, farriers, dentists, homeopathic equine acupuncturists, etc). And, along with being an untrue statement, I also feel that it’s unfair. The folks who send Luke and I colts to start, or who occasionally buy something from us, are usually interesting—if not incredible—people. Every encounter — equine or Homo sapien — is an opportunity to make an impression. I really do enjoy that part of our business.
Of course, I can laugh and recognize as much as the next guy that it’s not always super-smooth sailing when it comes to “the owner.” There are only a few categories ownership falls under, with many sub-categories. There are those you can spot from a mile away, with just enough knowledge to form the strongest of opinions. They arrive in a double-padded divided trailer with shipping boots on their horses’ legs and five tubs of supplements to be administered three times a day.
The questions and comments are so repetitive that it’s pretty much textbook: “What’s your feed program? Who’s your farrier? Will you send me updates via text, Youtube, Facebook and a five-paragraph essay? I’m sure this horse has a ton of cow, he’s always trying to work the barn cats! Here’s my cell, address, email and carrier pigeon if you need to get ahold of me for anything at all.” (Often, this is the person who is MIA when there’s some form of emergency, causing me to have near-panic attacks about making decisions for the horse.)
But God love ’em. These horse owners care immensely about their horses’ well-being and are spending their hard-earned money to put them in our barn. They’re excited to see what their horses are going to become. Wrapped up in that pushy 2-year-old gelding with the magnetic therapeutic blanket, fly mask and shiny, well-maintained mane is hope that “Brownie” will be a star—something to ride and enjoy for years to come. I often (sort of) joke to these owners that they’re only allowed to check in with me every other week about the progress.
Then there’s the owner pulling a banged-up pipe trailer, often with three or four crusty, white-eyed, un-gelded ranch colts. The guy driving is always in a hurry and the horses are halter broke—sort-of—so we just back him up to the gate, unload them in our alley and sort them into their designated pens. No instructions, no horse names, no timeline. “Just holler at me when they’re ready to go home.”
Gotta love this owner, too, even though he’s no easier to get a hold of than the fancy-rig owner if something gets cut or colics.
We’ve ridden for the friend as the owner (they’re always the worst to pay), and a lot of owners who have become friends (usually because they’re good at paying). Some who plan on riding their colts, and some we never ride for the owners—only the trainers. We’ve met high maintenance, low maintenance, knowledgeable and green. Remarkable horses draw people with all sorts of stories and perspectives from all different places, and it’s an honor to be a chapter in Brownie’s life, however big or small the gelding becomes.
With full disclosure, I must admit, I’ve also been “the owner” a time or two. I state all of the above from a judgment-free, appreciative perspective, as I can appreciate both sides of the coin. I sure would like to think of myself as an easy-going, laid-back client, but I can’t put my finger on which category I really fall under as said “owner.”
But gosh, having to wait a whole two weeks to check in on “Blackie” sure seems to take forever, doesn’t it?