BY PIPER KLEMM
The topic of horse care can seem so daunting and overwhelming, especially in today’s world. Thousands of gadgets, ideas, and therapies – many of which have little research behind them – run around us through anecdotes, stories, and friends.We all want to do what’s best for our horses. Figuring out what this means, like doing anything well, takes decades of gathering data. From giving positive mileage to young horses to keeping older horses sound and enthusiastic about the job – every aspect of a horses’ career requires educating ourselves and optimizing the perfect team for our animals.
Good old-fashioned horsemanship takes time. It takes study. Commitment and obsession. For me, very simply, that means a good turnout, an excellent farrier, regular dental appointments, and the right amount of horse showing. But, most importantly, it means selecting and listening to people who have devoted their entire lives to the animal. People with innate horse sense who put upon that daily obsession of watching, observing, and discerning both macro and micro changes to make the horses’ happier and better in the ring.
While I am an educated amateur, and try to get more educated every day, the most important thing I can do is learn from and trust true horse people. These are the people who spend every moment in the barn – trainers who are out watching their horses lunge (or oftentimes, lunging them themselves) and would probably rather talk to a horse than to me.
I read what I can. I study horses. I get to know them, track their careers and obsessively look at results like the statistics junky I am. I’m good at playing moneyball, and seeing trends that people ignore for a pretty head or sexy trot. I think about this industry constantly. That is my time, commitment, and obsession, but it is not to be confused with being a horseperson to learn from. Even as deeply entrenched in this sport as I am, I never confuse my participation with the experience of those that breathe in it every day at the barn. I always try to remember which of us is learning by observation, and which knows by feel.
If you have aspirations to be a member of this industry, I encourage you to read everything you can, spend the time in the barn, study what works (and what doesn’t), ask for help from the best sources you can find, and always keep learning. Find the people who do it better than anyone else. And when you do, talk to them as much as possible – until they go off and start talking to the horses instead.
Learn everything you possibly can so that you are always capable of making decisions to put your horses first. Making them the priority, above ribbons and our own personal desires, is the most important aspect of horse care.
See you at the ring!