A few weeks back I let a friend of mine ride Dexter, I realized it was the first time I had let anyone else ride him since I got him 10 months ago. It wasn't intentional, I just board at a barn with only 3 other riders including the owner and they all ride western so they have no real interest in him. Anyway, it was the owner of the barn who rode him. She rides and trains horses for western and trail riding. Her forte is getting them broke and obedient, she doesn't focus on the finer points of carriage, etc. Which is probably why she doesn't understand why I'm taking lessons when I can "clearly ride" and my horse is "broke". Anyway, I respect her as a rider and had no issues with letting her ride him, I've been asking her to for a while. So we threw a western saddle on him, I made sure he wasn't going to do anything funny with it on, and she hopped on.
I was a mess the entire time.... she immediately cranked his head to his chest (something I've been trying to correct for 10 months). Was running him in circles swearing he was heaving on the bit. And cantering him around at more of a hand gallop with his head in the air (the only time it wasn't at his chest). When she was done she began to tell me all the things I should do to fix him, we won't go into how I felt about that right now. (Everyone has an opinion and I respect that, but wait until I ask for it. I don't tell you how to get a better roll-back). Then said how fun he was to ride.
As she was riding I tried my best to keep as quiet as possible but couldn't help yelling out bits of advise here and there. Who am I to tell her what to do, she has been riding a lot longer than I have and has been in the training business most of the time. But the fact of the matter is our way of riding and training is completely different.
This got me thinking.... how many people do you truly trust with your horse - someone you know will ride exactly the same as you and won't confuse, stress or un-train them. In my riding career I've ridden and hacked around with a lot of friends. But how many would I let take Dexter for a month knowing he would come back the same horse?
Four: Carol - my old trainer, my current trainer, and Holly and Heather, my friends from childhood. That's it.
Obviously my trainers, because if you can't trust them with your horse, you probably shouldn't be working with them. Then Holly and Heather, longtime friends and amazing riders. And being good riders isn't what it's about(like I said my friend that rode Dexter is a good rider... but very different). Holly and Heather and I ride very much alike, with the same aides, balance and philosophy. They live in FL and I am in CO so they haven't met Dexter yet, but as kids we used to trade horses all the time. And apart from the horses personalities it was like riding my own. In college Holly was training and exercising horses. When she needed help I'd go out and ride a few for her. She knew I wouldn't undo anything she had been working on. And most recently, when relocating from TX to CO, I couldn't get my thoroughbred sold before my move. I shipped him to FL so they could train and sell him. I had no worries, in fact I was excited. I hadn't jumped him much and knew they would put some good training on him.
Holly, Heather and I have been friends long before we started riding together (they've been together slightly longer than I have being as they are twins.) And maybe that's why I trust them so much, or maybe that's why we've stayed so close. We are friends because we have the same personality and that's also why we ride so similarly.
Watching my friend ride Dexter the other day made me realize how uniquely tuned in each horse is to their rider, and how special it is to have someone who can share that bond with your horse. This is why as much as I would love the extra money and the extra training for Dexter I could never lease my horse. And this is probably why there has been so much discussion as of late as to whether or not the amazing horses that competed in the most recent WEG will perform the same with their new partners.
How many people would you trust with your horse?