Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: in the rainy state
• Horses: 0
I board at a big barn. We have a very large and healthy lesson program and we have quiet a few very accomplished young riders who call my barn home. These are girls who compete at the 4ft level and above in the jumper circuit, girls who regularly score 70's and higher in dressage, girls who place top 10 at starred events. These are good riders who spend many hours honing their skills and are dedicated to their chosen sport. These are girls I would be shocked to not see continue to compete and participate in the horse world.
I mention these girls because my trainer often uses me to run clinics in the barn on basic horse care and health subjects as I do fairly well covering the material and being 23 I am closer to their age and the girls have an easier time relating to me I guess. Either way I am running one of those clinic this week at my barn with a group of newer students. They are between the ages of 14 and 17 and all have been riding and competing for atleast 5 years or more. They are also girls we recently aquired from another lesson program that shut down in our area so they have not been at our barn for more than a month (we assumed the bulk of the previous programs lesson kids) and so this is their first clinic with us. We hold monthly clinics that are mandatory for all students, lesson kids at our barn must attend atleast 5 clinics a year as they are free and focus on non riding essentials like nutrition, first aid, traveling basics, clipping basics, or anything horse related that you don't do in a saddle. My trainier feels that as a rider you are responsible for all aspects of your horses care even if you board, lease or are just riding a horse for a day. No one gets out of stable chores and no one is allowed to shirk their responsibilites to their horses. Some complain and more than a few have quit our barn because they feel that riding begins and ends with your leg over the horses back and nothing else matters but our barn has developed a reputation for well rounded responsible and knowledgable young equestrians and that I am very proud of.
So back to my point I am running the clinic this week and my group is the 12 new kids to our barn. Since all of them have been riding and competing for many years I believed, as did my trainer that we could incorporate them into a normal clinic without altering the lesson plan. So monday after work I took them to the lounge and began covering my information on the basic horse nutrition such as grain to hay ratio's, vitamens and minerals horses need for basic functions, benefits of beet pulps, rice brans, flax seed ect. And all I got back where blank stares. So I took a step back and started questioning the girls on their knowledge trying to find where it was that I was leaving them behind. I was shocked to find that not a single one of those 12 girls from age 14 - 17 could tell me the basic differences in appearce from alfalfa and grass hay. So I took them to the feed room thinking that maybe it was the descriptions that were missing for them. Once there I found they had no idea that there were even different types of hay (alfalfa, timothy, orchard, ect.)
No one had even fed their own horses, not one of those girls even knew the difference between a grain and a supplement or that we even supplement horses at all. I have since found that not one of them knew how to clip their horses, bath their horses, wrap legs, or even how often their own personal horses where shod, that they were wormed and given regular shots.... nothing. These girls can ride beautifully but have less than zero horse knowledge. They don't even know why it is they do what they do in the saddle!! Only that that is the way they are supposed to ride and that's its.
This scares me as a rider and current member of the horse society! What are we teaching our kids!!! What is acceptable for a rider to know and not know about their horses? I have always been under trainers who demanded that I know EVERYTHING about my horse that I could and know it without question at the drop of a hat. At 14 I could tell you the date of my mare's last shoeing, shots, wormer, heat cycle, her weight height and vital signs at rest and while working. I knew everything that we fed her, the caloric content and every supplement we gave her and why. I knew why she was shod the way she was and when her teeth next needed to be floated and the exact amount of water she drank every day both summer and winter, while she was in work and when we took breaks. I understand this is extreme but shouldn't we be holding our younger riders accountable for what they do or don't know about their horses? And more importantly are these girls normal in horses now? Or was this one barn to blame?
Is my trainers dedication to the growth and developement of both her student's bodies and minds part of a dying tradition?
I don't know and honestly after a week with these girls I am disheartened. What do you guys think?