A couple weeks ago I saw another post from someone lamenting that their horses would never be shown because they couldn’t justify the cost of a professional trainer. It’s such a shame that people feel that way, that showing a Miniature Horse is a professionals game only, but it’s easy to see where they get the idea.
You’ve all seen the posts on Facebook and Instagram. Someone you know is showing off their latest show ring accomplishment, and accompanying ribbons/trophies/buckles … but you know that they didn’t a) raise the horse, b) train the horse, or even c) show the horse.
For me, the only way a win means anything is if I was involved in at least one of those three things – walking in there with a horse someone has prepared for me in every way? Yeah, that’s not really my win at all.
But, that’s me – if you’re into Miniature Horses just because you like to win, then yeah, that’s probably the way you want to do it. Spend some bucks, let someone else do the real work, and then you can smile in the winner circle. If that’s what makes you happy, great! You do you!
This article is for the rest of us. Those who enjoy the daily chores, even when it’s months away from show season. Who revel in the daily routine of working our horses, and find joy in every accomplishment, whether it’s marked by a fancy title or the satisfaction of a new skill that has been earned through lots of time and patience.
Sense of Accomplishment
You can buy a proven winner, put it with the best trainer, who can then tell you which buttons to push, but absolutely nothing compares to the satisfaction of winning with a horse you trained yourself.
The hours of time spent, the overcoming of challenges, the relationship built along the way – all of it adds up to make your accomplishments significantly more rewarding.
You’ll have more to celebrate along the way – your first show, your first ribbon, and your first championship.
And when you do get that big title or award you’ve been dreaming of? There is no one you have to share it with – it isn’t a trainer’s win that you get to take credit for because you paid the bills. It’s your win, without an asterisk in anyone’s mind.
I’ve shown other people’s horses to some big wins. I’d much rather show my horse, who I trained, and groomed, and fitted, even if it wasn’t as big a win. Fourth place with my own horse means a lot more than a championship with someone else’s – and even if my name is on the papers, it’s not MY horse unless I’m the one that’s put in all the time, energy, knowledge and love!
When you spend the time to train your own horse, it’s never “just a horse.” You have the opportunity to get to know your horse as an individual, what they like and don’t like, what makes them tick.
You can build a level of trust and communication that you never will if you only spend time with them at a show, or a few short lessons to teach you the right buttons to push. That trust works both ways; not only will your horse perform better because they trust you, but you’ll have more confidence in them and be less nervous when you know the miles it took to get there. You’re not going to be uncertain how they’ll react, because you’ll know how they deal with new things.
Building that relationship, working together, with your horse, as a team – I’ve learned that is the reward that I value the most. Those moments of partnership mean a whole lot more than any championship I’ve ever won. And that strong partnership? Is one of the very best tools you can have on your side in the show ring.
Doing Right By Your Horse
If you’re a true horse lover, then your primary concern is always to do right by your horses. You want them to have everything they need to be healthy and happy – that means space to run, lots of forage, and friends to play with, both human and horse.
It’s tough to have control over the well being of your horse when they’re not in your care, and that’s what having them away at a trainer’s entails. Before you entrust your horse to someone else, make sure you know that their management systems align with your expectations. Take a tour, ask lots of questions, and visit your horse frequently.
Show ring trainers are under a lot of pressure get results, and that’s not the environment I want for my horse. Horse’s don’t do well on a deadline. They need to be approached as individuals, learning things at their own pace and in their own way. The benefits of taking it slow will pay off in the long run, but that’s not a luxury afforded to someone who is being paid to deliver championships.
Yes You Can
I know it can seem daunting, and lots of people think they can’t do it on their own. But yes you can!
New to Miniature Horses? First look for your local club. That’ll be the best place to stay in the loop on any educational events, to find out about shows where you can meet new people and watch and learn.
No local club? Don’t limit your horse learning to Miniature Horse specifics. Despite what many people seem to think, a Miniature Horse is still a horse, and the same care, feeding and training concepts apply … just appropriately scaled down. Your local veterinary clinic, tack store, or ag society could be hosting a learning event – just because it doesn’t say “Miniature” in the title, doesn’t mean you won’t find lots of valuable information.
Read, attend clinics, and learn in every way you can.
This was my primary motivation in creating this website and the online classroom. Here, you can learn about Miniature Horses from the comfort of your own home, even if you aren’t close to instructors or clinics you can access in real life. The collaborative community is growing every day, and I am working hard to add more educational content to both the online courses and the weekly newsletter.
A Moment vs A Lifetime
Winning in the show ring with a “made” horse is fun, sure. But when you’ve spend the time, built a relationship, and have a full, rich partnership with your horse, then than same win will be even sweeter.
And if you don’t win, you’ll still have the journey. If there is anything I’ve learned in over 30 years of showing, it’s that the journey is what you remember. The wins are just the icing on the cake.