Sunday, February 18, 2007

Performance Horses

Performance horses come in many flavors - cutting, reining, dressage, penning, barrel racing, and more I'm sure I don't know about, yet. In all of these, you are asking your horse to perform at a very high level of fitness, both mental and physical, and then calm down and stand around with other horses or climb back in the trailer and head home. In other words, flip it on and off like a light switch. That takes a particular type of horse and a particular type of rider to make it work.

Any one discipline uses horses with entirely different personalities and temperaments than any of the others. Lena is a cow horse by breeding and has a certain aggressiveness that comes from being raised and trained to think and act independently once those reins go down. It means she has a certain level of confidence and willfulness that are inherent in and integral to in her personality. In this month's Performance Horse magazine, they compared cutting horses to reining horses in the article, "Worlds Apart." She certainly fits the description of the cutter, and is every inch a performance horse, even if we aren't always using her that way.

Because you are asking a lot from your horse, you can run into the fine line between a horse being up for the competition and becoming almost too ready and losing all focus. Mental and physical strength and stamina must come together to make a horse able to compete and still be fun to be around. That goes for the riders as well as the horse, and that's part of what makes them so fun to ride. Lena is the best biofeedback mechanism I've ever had. You can't lie to her, you can't pretend you're not nervous or upset. She knows. And she lets you know she knows immediately.

Conventional wisdom might have advised us against choosing such a wild beast as our first horse, but we're not particularly conventional. Some might say we're not wise, either, but we are having fun at least.

Lena is always a challenge, always a little unpredictable, kind of like life. That means constant input and feedback, continually working with her to hone the relationship we have with her and to figure out how to best get her to cooperate. It also means we are continuing to grow with her as riders as much as she continues to grow as our horse.

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