Compatibility is the key to success in any relationship. Whether it’s horses or men (or women), pinpoint what is important to you and find it. Do not buy, adopt or date a creature who does not meet your compatibility requirements and set about trying to change them. Incompatibility can be incredibly frustrating for all parties involved.
When I was in my twenties, I met a guy who showed up for our first date clutching twelve long-stemmed red roses. Not at all my thing, but I thought it was sweet.
I thought it a bit odd when he brought more red roses and chocolate-covered strawberries to our second date. When he fed me a strawberry while staring deeply into my eyes, admittedly I was a tad uncomfortable. But hey, it was chocolate.
But when, on our third date, he brought more flowers and a book of French love poems that he wanted to read to me, I feigned food poisoning and fled. I knew with 100% certainty we were not compatible.
When I tell this story now, people pick sides like teams in a playoff series. Half think it’s romantic, while the other half find it creepy. Personally, I do much better with practical. I think the most romantic thing a boyfriend ever bought me was a new set of tires. He said the old tires on my car were bald and needed to be replaced before, “You bloody well kill yourself or somebody else.”
Be still my girlish heart.
The key word here is compatibility and it’s just as important when finding the right horse. With horses, incompatibility can be frustrating at best and dangerous at worst. Professionals can take a horse, and with good training, often change behaviour for the better. But amateurs often do not have the experience, knowledge or technical skill to do it. And even professionals should remember, animals, just like us, will have personalities with likes and dislikes and it is not fair to expect them to be molded into what we want, instead of giving them what each individual needs to be happy.
Two questions I get a lot with sales horses are: Is the horse good on hacks? And, how are they with grooming?
If hacking is important to you, it’s best to find a horse who has demonstrated they are content hacking in all manner of situations. It will suck if you buy a horse who has never hacked and find out 3 months in that they hate being away from the barn. A woman I know bought a jumper who had never been out on a hack. While she firmly believes hacking is good for sport horses both mentally and physically, after 6 months of returning to the barn with a stressed horse, lathered in white foam, she gave up. She tried everything; she introduced it gradually, she tried him with quiet horses, she tried at different times of the day, she tried him when there weren’t any bugs, and she tried only familiar routes. He’s quite happy to walk around the property near the barn to cool out or warm-up, but he absolutely did not like hacking and he showed his displeasure and tension by constantly jogging and occasionally trying to bolt for the barn. Since she bought him as a jumper, she didn’t really mind skipping the hacking, but had hacking been important to her, both of them would have been unhappy and frustrated.
If it is important for you to have a horse you can spend hours grooming, find one who likes it. I have a horse now who will happily stand like a statue for hours at a time to be brushed, plucked, primped, and fussed over. He even loves the vet and will gladly stand for anything, including needles, because he loves the attention. On the other side, I had a sales horse who just barely tolerated being groomed. She was a very business-like mare who just wanted to get on with things, so we had to reach a compromise. I taught her that she had to have manners and stand politely to be brushed, and she taught me to keep it under 5 minutes and to keep my grubby, peasant hands off any brush with teeth. An easy compromise for me, but a disappointment for an owner who loves to groom.
So it may take some time, but be patient, the right horse is out there. There truly is a lid for every pot, and an ass for every saddle. You just have to find the right fit. I really hope the guy at the beginning of this story eventually found a woman who played for Team Romantic. It just wasn’t me. I was then, and still remain, on Team Creepy.