We have an education problem in this country when it comes to young horses. We certainly know how to show, yet I have never believed education needs to happen solely in the show ring.
It is insanely expensive on the major circuits, with only a few managements here and there able to offer discounted divisions for the up and coming show horses. Classic Company offers $5.00 3’ and 3’3” Green hunter division for their winter circuit in Gulfport, which is very forward thinking, and I believe Nona Garson offers a Professional Young Jumper division and low heights with no entry fee for the first horse, but $35 for additional horses. Also forward thinking. Regional Shows are gaining tremendous strength and popularity for people with young horses, as many of them can be held in the same venues as Premiere shows… I can show in the PA Farm Show Arena for about 1/10th of the cost of the real horse show, which is an exciting experience, and the pictures and videos look the same without the yellow backdrop. Obviously, I am also a HUGE supporter of the Young Horse Show Series for the European way to start horses. Very affordable, and caters to multiple disciplines. Mileage is always good.
But what about plain old education? What about starting a young horse before it ever even gets into the show ring? Do we have a good enough system? Do we understand the time it takes and the steps to take to build a confident and secure young horse?
I like to think breeding in the States has been gaining ground (maybe not if you talk to the pony breeders right this second) so we are going to need to accommodate these young horses somehow as they learn the ropes. Other countries and continents have a wealth of breeders and young, ambitious riders who know they might only get one chance to get in the tack, so… riding a baby it is!! I am sure you have seen videos of awesome rides to break a warmblood, and the culture there is obviously way more synchronized with young horses. Christ, you can hardly get lifetime equestrians over there to wear a bloody helmet.
But we need to address the changes in America, and sometimes, you just have to try crazy ideas without thinking about too hard about the results.
I am going to launch a pilot project this year called the Young Horse Education Project which will entitle a participant (professional or amateur, doesn’t matter) to 10 FREE educational sessions with his/her young horse age 3-5 yrs old. The sessions can be me riding, you riding, or whomever riding, doesn’t matter. There should be less urgency to send horses out to strange environments to get broken, which can get expensive and nerve-wracking for owners.
The horse needs to be microchipped, and registered with either a State/National show organization like MHSA, PHSA, VHSA, USHJA/USEF, etc., or registered with a Breed registry. If the horse is for sale, it will be promoted on the website for sale and all social media accounts….for free. If the horse is not for sale, it will get as much or as little promotion as the owner chooses.
If the horse should sell as a result of participation the owner will have two choices. Pay UP TO a 10% commission OR donate to one of the two charities I support, The Arabber Preservation Society, or Talisman Therapeutic Riding, both holding a 501(c)3 status.
Why do this? It actually helps me so much, believe it or not, as I am constantly being asked for horses for sale. Not just horses in my barn, but from the community. I don’t send out group texts to trainers saying what do you have? What have you heard? This hasn’t really worked for me. It’s time consuming, and easy to mix up horses. I forget a lot, get busy, then feel bad I forgot about a horse someone told me about once.
I don’t attend every show in the area. I travel. I miss some shows. There could be a hundred young horses not aligned with my local show schedule I just haven’t seen. And, get this, sometimes I don’t WANT to go to another show, even to watch. I want to stay home and teach clients every once in a blue moon!
The show record phenomenon. We have created a society who can’t seem to purchase a horse without a show record with has results from at least ten Premiere Rated Shows in the country. This is ludicrous, and makes me crazy. Sorry, go ahead and judge me and my young horses, but I am not putting them in jeopardy of injury because of some unexplained expectation to fork out hard earned money for 10 cent ribbons. They get plenty of mileage with what I do, and remain sound, and happy. Not all young horses should see that many shows! It is not healthy! This could be a great alternative.
People get intimidated to make a call to tell me about a horse, or show me a horse, because the American expectation is that you have to PAY a trainer to show them a horse. I would like to erase this about our culture. It is one thing if you meet a trainer at a show and take advantage of the ticketed warm up, or can shout at a trainer within earshot “will you please stay and watch this one go??” But that puts a lot of pressure on a young horse. What if he/she isn’t really having a good day? What if the paint pony is freaking it out? Not all young horses should have their first introduction to flowers and boxes while surrounded by the tiniest people on the tiniest animals on the planet, who can barely steer. How many horses have had setbacks from this their first time out in public? Bad impressions get talked about amongst trainers, then it takes an extra 6-8 months to get people to believe you again. It is another situation entirely if you can introduce a young horse to a new arena without nerves, too much activity, and give them a chance to sniff the flowers first.
Will it work? No idea, but I think it has a good chance. I would much prefer to stand behind a recommendation of a young horse I have seen ten times rather than just once. I would love to have more knowledge than simply a video. I would like to see the young horse, help it, and help the rider improve results! Every trainer does, because it is a reflection on your own work and talent.
Owners now have an alternative to a show record! If the young horse completes the program over a period of time, shows progress, talent, potential, they can use that as a sales tactic. Yes, this baby went through the Young Horse Education Project, did not stand in a field for six months and do nothing, and a potential buyer can call me up to verify it’s progress. I will tell them that I saw the horse X amount of times and the results are this…
It raises the integrity of sport. This took a lot of consideration. Really, I am tired of money being the sole motivator of the horse world. Money has such long term and not always pleasant results that it has really warped the America equestrian lifestyle. If this project doesn’t have a big turnover rate, I really have lost very little except a few hours here and there doing what I love – which is to teach and educate young horses. I am leaving it up to the owner to make a choice about cost of education. In this day and age, with social media, people really need to raise their own integrity because so much can be brutally abused online. I don’t think too many people will intentionally cross me, and by signing the application, you a choice between paying a commission or donating to a charity. Both work for me.
The format can be copied. I don’t expect people to jump up and down across the country to replicate the program, but it is possible to do so. Maybe if the demand from young horse owners eventually became high enough, it could spread. Hopefully, good, capable professionals would see the benefits, or at least watch it for a period of time. Lord knows, I share enough information with everyone so it is not too difficult to stay informed.
Sponsors. This is an incredible way to develop loyalty from future customers. I firmly believe there are a lot of talented equestrians and horses who are simply unable to show at expensive venues. Yet, they might one day, and you know who those equestrians will appreciate the most? Sponsors who may have provided them with their first leather halter with fuzzies. I have already approached County Saddlery about options, because I have SEEN and FELT a difference, and truly believe this new generation of saddles will make a positive impact on horses in the future without the exorbitant costs of french saddles. I am not saying that lightly, and if you want to try mine, you can. A drawing for a free County Logic girth would be incentive to start, I would think. Maybe? People do love incentives, after all, so we will see what I can come up with regarding County. After filling out a half-dozen surveys sent out by our parent organizations (USEF/USDF) this winter, I would think the Manna-Pro or Horse Health Companies would send a free sample of something! I spent a long time on those surveys! lol, I am probably the only one. Stay tuned for more interest.
If you want to check out the website for more information, feel free. It is updated, the application is there to view or download, and if nothing else, I will earn feedback on the views of educating young horses in America! We are totally capable of being better horsemen, all the information is out there.
View an application: