Things you cannot force your horse to do

I always shake my head and smile when I hear people saying that horses shouldn’t be forced to jump. Obviously, there are people who will try to punish a horse into submission (the Big Lick Walkers come to mind), but ultimately, the horse has a vote.

The first horse I owned was a failed school horse. After a few years of carting kids around in circles, Bogie decided that he didn’t want to play that game any more. Instead, he made a bee line for the middle of the ring and refused to move. You could smack him with a crop, but that only made him kick out, not go forward. Once he became my personal horse, he rediscovered his forward gear and we had a lot of fun — doing a job he enjoyed. However, despite my best efforts, he never became an eventer. He would jump anything in a ring, but take him out cross country and he would start to put the breaks on a good thirty feet from any jump that looked suspicious.

Someone I knew had a horse that had been a very successful eventer.  He first started displaying his objection to the sport by jumping a few fences, gradually slowing down and refusing to finish the course. Then he decided that he would never again leave the start box. He was happy to school cross country, but at a competition? No way.

Here’s a horse that obviously feels the same way about racing. In his native New Zealand, Chautauqua is a champion sprinter, winning $8,821,935. But the 8-year old gelding has apparently decided he is done. Last word was that he will be retired. I hope he finds another discipline where he enjoys his job.


4 thoughts on “Things you cannot force your horse to do

  1. The comments about people “forcing” racehorses to race always crack me up. Horses who don’t want to race don’t do it successfully, and it’s not worth spending the money to keep them in training if they don’t want to do the job. I can criticize a lot about the racing world (or any discipline for that matter) but you definitely can’t MAKE a horse do things.

    1. Yup. Those comments area always by people who have never been near a horse. I’ve been lucky enough to (mostly) have horses that enjoy my chosen disciplines, but when I didn’t, like the horse I mentioned above, I stopped trying to make him an event horse and took him in the low jumpers. He was wicked fast and very brave — as long as the fences were made of poles that fall down. Maybe he was just smarter than I gave him credit for!

  2. It drives me nuts when I hear people say that horses are forced to race…see those whips? I tell them, a true race horse must be forced to NOT race. They race for fun. The whip is to keep them going straight and true, and, honestly, to keep running when they have been beaten or tired. My very first horse was a retired TB “race horse’. I say retired with “” marks because Charm, although from a long line of TB racers, was never a race horse. She was trained as one. The first time she entered a race, the gate opened and she trotted out, completely oblivious to the jockey’s frantic whipping. The second race she was entered in, the gate opened and she walked out and watched all the horses run away.
    So she was sent to stud, where she became the best broodmare you could ever want, and …my friend. One of these days I’ll write about her. She was such a sweetheart.

    On the other hand, I leased an OTTB gelding by Alydar. You didn’t dare put him alongside another horse..he would take off running, daring the other horse to catch him, and oh my god was he fast. TOO fast, for me!! He would stop when he realized the other horse wasn’t racing, turn around and look at the other horse as if to say WELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL??? Where are you??

    1. I have owned several OTTBs and its funny how they react in company. My current one, Freedom, used to throw a tantrum if I made him go behind another horse. He’d paw the ground, jig, and jump into the air. He was quite competitive as a racehorse and he wanted to be first all the time. It took me about two years to convince him that wasn’t the case. Eventually he figured it out and became quite a good hunt horse who would go anywhere in the field. Just as well as I didn’t want to be passing the Master! He’s quite speedy when he gets going.

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