A Horse, Of Course

April 5, 2017
A Horse, Of Course

A Horse, Of Course
Don Blazer

In Defense of the Horse

Not all horse trainers are good, and not all are bad.
But all get blamed at one time or another for something they have no control over – the horse which simply can’t win in the show ring or at the track.
Some horses lack good conformation, or smooth gaits, talent or speed. The owner may not believe it, but it is true.
The trainer tries hard, does everything he possible can, asks advice, works long hours, but still the horse can’t win.
Is it the trainer’s fault?
Sometimes, but only now and then.
When a person buys a horse, he’s full of excitement, blind love, and the expectation of wonderful things. That’s great. That’s the way owning a horse should feel.
But there must come a time when the owner has to face facts.
“Most owners,” a Thoroughbred race trainer once observed, “think any horse they purchase will automatically run faster simply because it now belongs to them. And that is not realistic.”
Some trainers will improve a horse’s ability to run. Some will improve a horse’s performance in the show ring. And, some will jeopardize the horse’s chances.
That’s true, and that’s what makes the fine line which separates the good trainers from the poor ones.
The horse has a certain body structure. His bones only bend certain ways. No trainer can make them bones walk around in a different manner than they are physically capable of doing.
The horse has a mind that can learn and retain experiences, both good and bad. The good trainer fills the horse’s mind with positive experiences, while the bad trainer fills it with fear. Whether he uses a good technique or a bad one, the trainer is attempting to assist the horse reach his full potential.
So a trainer can get the horse in good physical and psychological condition, and can prepare the horse for his maximum effort. But he can’t make the horse run faster or perform better or behave better than the horse’s potential.
Ability is inborn. A trainer just brings it out.
Over the years I’ve watched horse owners switch horses from one trainer to another. Sometimes the horse improves, but most of the time it does not. I’ve heard owners criticize trainers, blame losses on politics, bad judging and bad luck.
I’ve seldom heard an owner admit, “My horse just isn’t good enough to win at this level.”
If all this sounds like a defense of trainers, good and bad, it is not. It is written in defense of the horse, the good ones and the bad ones.
Love him, care for him, use him…or abuse him, the horse is a fantastic animal. But like all other creatures, he is an individual, and he’ll never be more than what he is.
Train the horse yourself or select a trainer and then give the horse your best effort by providing all he needs to reach his own potential. But don’t abuse the horse by forcing him to be something he is not.
Be proud of his achievements, no matter what they are. If they are not satisfactory to you – get a new horse.
And keep in mind that after all, he’s just a horse who has no expectations at all – just the desire to please.

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Originally published June 1978
02.01.17 EB