Over the years, I’ve unintentionally collected horses. Some of them wound up staying here because of past abuse and/or difficult temperaments. I don’t want to sell them at the sale barn where a lot of the horses are bought and sold to the meat market. I thought I might be able to bring them through their difficulties and then sell them. It is hard to sell a difficult horse and dangerous and unethical to sell a horse without full disclosure. An example is Cypriot, who is quite difficult even for an accomplished horseman. I have spent a lot of time working with him and now he’s a favorite horse of mine but not without some frustrations along the way. He has become a real pleasure to me, yet even now finding the right human for him would be quite difficult.
There are many people like me with all kinds of varying degrees of horsemanship or lack of it, who have wound up with lots of horses to care for because they love horses or at least love the idea of horses. Some of these people can’t afford to take care of a bunch of horses but do it anyway because there doesn’t seem to be any good solution. The American government has had the same problem with the American Mustang. They have the adoption program now but I haven’t heard or read statistics about the degree of success or failure.
My plan for a personal solution is to polish up the training on the horses in my care. And then try to find good, human partners for them. From that goal came the “training marathon” idea. This is mainly about whomping up extra discipline to keep at it.
I’ve adopted training methods from various horseman, especially the California vaquerro method, which I think of as a kind of western dressage. One of those authors suggested that four horses at a time are about it as many as any one trainer can manage at a time. These four horses that I’ve picked to work with are all somewhat beyond the beginning stages, so I thought four at a time would be reasonable for me.
When I was 20 years old I was at my cousin’s for a birthday party in Livingston, Montana. I got to talking with this old cowboy. When I explained what I was doing, he said in an emphatic, gravelly, whiskey voice, “Horse break’n is the most dangerous profession a man can do!” I was flattered at being called a man and I believed what he was saying was true, excepting maybe being drafted and going to Vietnam, which was even more dangerous and was a very real possibility in those days.
Now I am 67 years old. Thankfully, I don’t feel old. So far as I can tell I am not very different in my health and strength then when I was 25, although I hope I’m a bit wiser. Somehow age factors into all the time I need to spend on a horse however. I’ve had a lot of close calls and injuries with horses. I just don’t feel like I want to spend the time it takes to heal up anymore. This week while riding Pearl she protested the rein on the left turn. She threw her head back and at the same time my head came down and gave me a fat lip. It wasn’t too bad, my wife never noticed. Nevertheless, stuff can happen.