So here’s a random thought that has been bouncing around my mind since I took my mare out for her first alone, and off-property, hack. It was a total success-not because she didn’t lose her mind or dump me (OK, that part helped-a LOT) but because she truly had fun.
When we got near the back of the property I let her decide our next direction, as things were going well and I was curious as to what she would do…she happily marched away from home to continue our explorations, rather than head for the barn like one would expect.
Her head was up, her ears pricked and she had a big relaxed swing in her step. It is such a joy to ride a happy horse.
Is it important to you that your horse be happy in his job? Or just that he performs well?
Having seen many angry, neurotic A Circuit hunters and jumpers (who pinned all the time-their rounds in the ring and their ears in the stall!) I decided a long time ago I don’t want that for any horse of mine. Keeping them happy with a balance of ring work, hacks and turnout became very important to me, very early.
Yeah, it may take longer to get them schooled to the level you want them when you spend days just hacking (or maybe not?) and you may spend more time getting mud off your happily turned out beast who picks the muddiest spots to roll, but in the end you have a much happier animal.
This is what I often greeted with when I went to the barn, but look-ears up, he was always happy to see me! A horse being a horse, with turnout and a herd (and yes his feet were due to be done here). This sweet fellow would often run the fence line beside the driveway when he saw my car then wait at the gate. Not being over drilled and sour makes a world of difference to them IMHO.
He never knew what we would do…it might be a dressage day, it might be an over fences day, might have a lesson that day…or we might just blow off the ring work and go for a tour. Maybe I was just going to brush him and let him eat the long grass he couldn’t reach from his paddock, while I sat under a big Willow tree and watched (and learned!) while the BO trained a prospect.
So he remained a content animal, like all my horses have. And in my non-professional opinion? It truly it helps, not hinders, their training progress if you happen to have a goal you are working towards. They are not machines. They do not have the thought process we do, to be sure, but from what I have seen they DO get bored and pissed off. They can also feel happiness in their way.