Anyone who slogged through the plethora of Coconino recaps might recall that before XC the first week, I was questioning my decision to have Henry run such a challenging track. Of course, all of the concern was for naught, since he ate it up in typical HennyRunJump fashion, but it touched on something that I take very seriously: making the right decisions for my horse.
I feel a very serious responsibility to this horse (all horses really, but this one especially because he’s just so damn genuine) to not put him into any situation that is unfair to him or that he’s unprepared for. He loves his job so much, I want to protect that quality and nurture it.
Yet it’s pretty unrealistic to think that we, as humans, are always going to make good decisions. Sometimes we just don’t. Sometimes shit happens that is beyond our control. Sometimes we can do everything right and it still doesn’t work. But luckily, most of the time, these horses are forgiving enough to not really hold us very accountable for the occasional error in judgement. Still – I don’t want to make bad decisions so often that a very genuine horse suddenly starts questioning his job and his desire to do it. It just makes sense to stack the odds in your favor as much as possible, and it’s something I think about every single day.
That’s why I elected to have a pro ride him at his first couple Trainings. Could I have done it? Maybe. Probably. Do I feel a lot better knowing that he’s had two very solid, confidence building runs that will hopefully carry him forward when I point him at the same size fences with a little bit less rider confidence and skill? Oh hell yeah.
The funny thing is, I still got some hate for it. Some people thought it was silly, or unnecessary. Maybe they’re right. Honestly, I don’t really care. At the end of the day my obligation is to the horse first, and to myself second. I’m responsible for what happens to him, and that’s paramount. So I’m going to do whatever I think is best for him, regardless of my own pride (hopefully) or someone else’s opinion. And people are certainly welcome to their opinions, whether I agree with them or not.
I don’t think I’m unique in the least, feeling the heavy weight of decision making… this seems like a very natural thing for most horse owners and riders to experience (although probably in varying degrees). Bobby and I talk about it ALL. THE. TIME. constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our plans and ideas. We both tend to be conservative in how we view ourselves, but really honest and optimistic with each other, so I think it helps keep us both moving forward rather than end up paralyzed by the idea of making a bad choice.
I’m not sure that I have ever, as a horse owner, felt more elated than I did when Henny and Trainer crossed the finish at Coconino with a double clear. Knowing in that moment that I’d made the right choice, that he was so happy with his job, and so proud of himself… all of the stress and worry was worth it, tenfold. Of course, it could have gone the other way and I’d be sitting here feeling like a pretty crappy horse owner.
Do y’all feel the weight of “owner responsibility” as much as I do? Why or why not? Do you go 100% with your own gut, or do you bounce options off of other people for their input? How much do other people’s opinions play into the choices you make? And how hard do you want to punch someone that acts like you’re a total moron for putting the horse first? Just kidding, scratch that last one… or don’t.