Thursday, December 26, 2013

What To Do; What To Do

I was looking at this photo of a standardbred for sale.  

I'm not in the market for a horse, but I like standardbreds.  They are athletic and hardy, any many of them have good bone and hooves.  Plus, they are known for their steady and willing personalities. The ones that can learn to canter, after a few years of trotting or pacing on the track, seem like they would be natural foxhunters.  And foxhunting is something I have been daydreaming about doing, along with hunter paces and low-level eventing.

"Why do you need ANY other horses?"
So, I was looking at this photo of a standardbred mare for sale. And I'm not in the market for a horse, because I have three horses, and three horses is the right number for me and my set-up. 

The problem is, I don't have a foxhunter in the mix.  I have a paint pony, beautiful and athletic, who might be able to keep up, but stands just 14.1.  I have an unbroke mustang with severe separation anxiety and funky lower legs that cause her hooves to grow oddly if I don't trim them every three weeks.  Once I figure out how she'll be as a riding horse, I'll know better what her skills are, but she stands about 13.2, so not your typical foxhunter.

Then there's the star of my show, Hudson, the half draft who needs about 12 inches more of leg for them to start matching the size of her upper body, and whose body hangs on to a thick layer of fat  even during our periods of most rigorous conditioning.  She is a little too close to her draft horse ancestry to have the endurance for a hunt, even though she has the heart.
Resident cow pony.

All these facts lead to my constant dilemma: Do I get a horse that can do what I most want to do, or do I find what the horses I already own are good at, and do that?  Since I'm devoted to these three mares, I tend to lean toward the latter concept.

Mustang with issues
I have focused on this especially with Hudson, who is probably my least naturally versatile horse.  She is so broad, with such short legs, and she has a huge, thick neck and a heavy chest and shoulders.  I have done a little dressage with her, hunter paces, obstacle courses, trail trials, and most recently, an actual flat race, designed for heavy horses such as herself. 

Of these, I think that obstacle courses might be her strong suite.  They provide a lot of learning, and allow her to experience a sense of accomplishment, which she does seem to seek.  She is a horse who seems to say, "Look how good I am at THIS."  And obstacle competitions don't require unusual endurance or pounding.

Ironically, I haven't done the one thing with Hudson that she would probably excel at naturally: Pulling.  Mainly, this is because I have never learned how to drive a horse, so in teaching her, I would be learning myself.  I recently purchased some of the tools to do this, but have not embarked yet.

Starlight the paint has the brains and body to do most anything I ask, and is only limited in jumping and running activities by her small size.  She'll be the one I focus on when it comes to foxhunting. Lots of ponies go out in the hunt field, and if she can develop the needed endurance, she can handle it.  We might not be sailing over the highest walls together, but she will be able to do most of it. Still, she and I need to get a western saddle and try somecow sports, the area where I suspect she will most excel.

So, my choice is to keep the horses I have, and try to find the discipline that best matches them, instead of seeking the horse to match the discipline I most want to do, at least for now.  Serious competitors would call this backwards.  I actually am serious about competition, but I'm attached to these mares, so, the competition will just need to match the horse and not the other way 'round.

Still, that standardbred mare sure looks like she could cover some ground...

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