Horsemanship / Neu Perspectives

Seasoned Saddle Horses

Just like tasty food, I savor seasoned horses. And no need trying to dish out any microwaved meals or artificial flavors.

I fall into the category of food-obsessed. From raising my own meat and creating meals in my kitchen to eating lavish morsels at a fantastic restaurant, I embrace and enjoy the entire process and am always hungry to learn more about food. I love and appreciate a dish that’s well-seasoned. And, come to think of it, I also savor seasoned horses.

I’m culinarily adventurous, but before you get bristled up, realize I’m not talking about saucisse de cheval when I mention the appropriate seasoning on a horse. What I mean is the amount of time and effort it takes to get a horse settled, unphased and mature-minded in a multitude of situations. In a funny way,  I suppose seasoning a horse is the opposite of seasoning food. Food needs to be exciting, interesting and full of sensory surprises that the consumer delights in. A seasoned horse should be fairly neutral, predictable and—dare I say—a bit bland (in the best way, of course). 

There are no shortcuts when it comes to a seasoned horse. The word itself describes what the animal is—he has been through many seasons and faced plenty of situations. He is an equine who is hard to stress out or surprise with stimuli. The terms wise, competent, trustworthy and properly prepared define him.

Riding a seasoned horse
A seasoned horse keeps his cool, even when working between a rock and a hard place.
Photo by Ross Hecox

A kid can tie a seasoned pony up solo to a questionable fence and squirt him down with water and soap safely, with no concern of what’s going to happen. On the show horse trail or rodeo road, a seasoned horse is a reliable veteran and a valuable asset. A trail ride at home or a weekend horseback camping trip is such a relief and delight when the animal is tried and true. On the ranch or in the branding pen, he is safe, efficient and a joy to work around. But of course, it takes many hours spent on something green to accomplish this title. 

Strangely enough, there are horses out there that have seen a lot of miles, and someone might consider them to be seasoned. But they aren’t well-trained, broke or even safe to ride. We ended up with a gelding a couple of years back who was green as grass and had barely been ridden—just enough to scare his previous trainer. He was tight, touchy and terrified to have someone on his back. But, the fellow before us spent a lot of time tying him out alone, hauling him in the trailer, putting him on the hot walker and bringing him to new places. Although I felt like that gelding would buck me off if I slopped up in the saddle, he was very settled on the ground and quiet in many circumstances. I’ve heard of bucking horses that are the same way. 

Yes, a horse that’s well-seasoned is a valuable asset in anyone’s barn, no matter the discipline, ability level or breeding. As horsemen, we need to remember to appreciate the effort and instances that create an equine partner who has gained wisdom through time, tests and trials of life. And on a personal note, it turns out that I prefer my horses much like I prefer my food—well-seasoned, with plenty of salt and… just a bit of spice.

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