I had the absolute pleasure of working with this young filly Rayna. She is a well bred quarter horse of 18 months old.
Rayna is a typical young horse.
Infinitely curious, willing to learn, but at times easily frustrated when faced with the process of learning something new.
These babies also get mentally tired far quicker than an older, more educated horse.
18 months old
Early to tire
Unbalanced and gangly
I’ve only just met this horse but from what I understand she has had a fairly typical upbringing to this point. Well handled in the context of daily life and needs, and her conduct in the yards and trailer seemed fairly standard.
I did some really basic things with her -- Asking her to bend to the cue of the halter, asking for her to hindquarter yield -- the basics you are going to ask her when you first get on.
The work wasn’t overwhelming for her by any standard, but her ‘baby brain’ found it hard to focus for longer than a few minutes.
It got me to thinking about our human babies. We raise them up, and when it’s time we send them off to day care or kindergarten, to help with social skills and development. The day is full of careful routine -- meal times, play times, nap times. Nothing too overwhelming. We’ve all seen many a proud parents photo of their child asleep in the car after a day like this.
Yet these baby horses are often put into a ‘breaking in’ routine that would challenge the focus of an experienced horse, let alone one who has just spent the last 18 months basically doing whatever they want.
When they fidget and fuss we say they ‘lack respect’.
When they fail to focus and learn we ask them do do it again, and again, and again.
When they drift sideways with the weight of the rider we kick and spur to keep them straight.
We have such great expectations of these young horses and yet we fail to set them up for success and show them the joy of learning.
Learning, for any animal — horse, human, dog, is a vital function of growth and a happy existence. But if we take the joy out by being too demanding or having a lack of understanding, we just shut them down.
We need to do better.