Most people think about what they want, what they are looking for specifically in a horse when they go and choose their equine partner. Riding style, competition goals, soundness, and personality match are all really good things to think about when you're searching for the "Right" horse.
We did some of that, but (if one wants to be truly honest about things), it might be said I blatantly ignored the sane-person's checklist of picking the right horse for yourself, not to mention I chose a horse that was definitely not physically perfect.
(I'm using a very old photo here, mostly because it's so rainy and gross outside I'd like to remember the sun. I think it will be awhile.)
Reading this post from the Un-Retired Racehorse blog, and the journey Kate at "A Year with Horses" is taking to find her next horse, I realize I went about things all wrong when it came to choosing this horse that became mine.
I have no regrets. None. I adore that big, brown horse, and am proud of how far we've come together--both with training, and with reshaping his body and teaching him balance and collection. Oh, and teaching me balance and collection.
But it has not been easy.
The reason I was so candid in my interview with Susan at Off-Track Thoroughbreds is that while I love my horse and have learned a lot with him, he was (and probably always will be since we'll keep doing new things) a project. It has taken an investment in time and energy I've been glad to make, though with no specific goal in mind--beyond continuing to grow together--we have had that luxury.
The mental challenges of working with Bar have tended to be the most dramatic; the physical changes have been slow and steady, sometimes hard to notice because they are so gradual. Then, suddenly I catch a glimpse of him and realize how far he's come physically, too. Lean muscle moves smoothly under that sleek brown coat, and he moves with a more deliberate strength and confidence.
He didn't come to me perfect. He wasn't lame on his bowed tendon when I got him, but he had learned to carry his body to protect it and his right shoulder was much more muscled than his left. He has sore spots, places that ache and get stiff when it's cold out. His right hamstring is perpetually tight, and he had to learn to use his core to carry himself, rather than just pulling himself forward with those front legs.
But he's done it. His canter is much smoother, more balanced, and we're getting there with the trot, too. His top line is smoothing out and up, and his abdominal muscles are engaged with (most) every stride. His bow will never be beautiful, but it is tighter and stronger than when we got him and he moves comfortably on it. The aches and pains remain, but my body is not as supple as it once was, either. One or two days without yoga and a walk, and I notice a lot more noise coming from my knees, hips, and back. Movement is definitely better, and I figure it's the same for him.
There are also the famous Thoroughbred feet, but even they have improved with good, consistent hoof care from our awesome farrier and Farrier's Formula. Getting him out of the mud this winter will be a huge benefit, too.
We are also very, very lucky that the human injury list is--all things considered--fairly minor.
Was Bar technically the right horse for me when I got him? Most would say no. Is he the right horse for me now? Absolutely. When did that shift happen? I can't really say for sure, so maybe he's been the right one all along. He certainly thinks so. All bias and complete goofy Thoroughbred love aside, so do I.