Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Double-Edged Sword

Junior is currently being used as a lesson horse. There are many benefits to this and yet many drawbacks. We are coming up on the date I need to either cancel his contract or allow it to automatically renew for another year. I already know what my decision will be, but I thought I'd talk about those benefits and drawbacks today, just for funsies.

1) Financial. As a lesson horse we get a standard $40 discount per month. On top of that we get a $3 credit each time he is used in a lesson. He averages about 18 lessons per month, more when the college rec. lessons are in full swing, less when they are not. This past month was 24 lessons so that gave another $72 off on my board. This way he "earns his keep", so to speak.
2) Boredom Breaker. If you have been around this blog a while you will remember he began cribbing after I brought him home. Getting out of his stall a few times every day really helps him have something to do. This also helps get him used to the schedule of a show where he has to go back and forth between his stall and our classes.
3) Increased exercise. It's not a TON of exercise because most of the lessons are very beginner lessons, mostly walk/trot, and if there is canter involved it's for very short periods. This has been very helpful when turnout is limited and because my work schedule does not permit me to go see him every day.
4)He seems to LOVE the attention. He looks SOOO happy during lessons. See?

When I first got him I didn't actually think this would be possible, but he's been awesome with the little kids. KAT can put ANYBODY on him. He just does his job, and he's become a favorite of many beginner kids and advanced students as well. He has been referred to as a "big comfy couch" more than once. There is even one little girl who refuses to canter on any other horse.

1) My riding times need to work around the lesson schedule, and the schedule isn't always the same from quarter to quarter. There are over 170 college students taking lessons this quarter. On Wednesdays KAT starts the first lesson at 8:00am and ends the last one at 10:00pm, and there are no breaks for her in between. The horses always get at least one lesson-long break in between their lessons, but that time is also shortened up by tacking up or tacking down. I have made requests for times and KAT has been as accommodating as she can be with such a crazy schedule, but it has still made it more complicated. If I want to ride during the week outside of our pre-arranged times I need to find out his schedule. On weekends he's all mine, of course, but when he's doing SO MANY lessons I like to give him Sundays off with just turnout and maybe a little showmanship.
2) Health and Safety issues. Some of the college lessons get really hectic. Seven Newbs on horses at one time is nuts. It is not how I think first beginner lessons should be. I have been told that Junior has been kicked at by other horses in lessons and has been run into. One other lesson horse positively HATES Junior and has been known to try and chase after him. KAT has done her best to actually keep the two of them out of lessons with each other and only puts them in together during the more advanced lessons where the riders are more aware and would be able to keep them separated. I've seen some of the bouncing that happens with the newbies and it turns my stomach. It also turns my stomach to wonder what else could happen. I know KAT doesn't have eyes in the back of her head, and I know she does the best she can do with the situation she's been given. Still, it gives me the shivers.
3) Bad Habits. The only effect I've seen is that he thinks he can ignore a command to "whoa." He's never been great about a whoa anyway, and these beginner lessons have not helped the situation. He knows what is being asked, he chooses to ignore. You probably recall how Junior doesn't have the best manners and that he is a very smart horse who doesn't see a need to treat humans any differently than he does with his pasture buddies. Though he seems to be the best with the little kids, he has begun to mess with the college newbs. He started by going up to them when they opened his door and pushing them out with his head and going back to eating. Then he started grabbing the halter out of their hands and throwing it. (Kind of adorable, but also not acceptable.) "He won't let me in the stall" is a common complaint KAT and the nearby boarders have heard. He's NEVER played that crap with me, but it seems to be escalating to the point where on Friday he kicked a college kid. I happened to be in KAT's office with her when it happened and she was called out into the barn by someone saying "someone got kicked." I thought to myself "oh please not MY horse." but there we go to his stall alone and the kid is sitting down on the box outside the stall. Now, this is totally unacceptable, but he was untacked and his halter was still hanging on it's tie, meaning the kid didn't put his halter back on and tie him before working with him which is a total NO-NO in that barn. Again, STILL unacceptable for him to kick a person just because he wants to eat his hay in peace, but how can I possibly punish a horse so long after the fact, and how can I train him against it when he doesn't do it to me? I'd feel much better if he was more closely monitored. Having the students tack and untack the horses themselves (KAT always checks it all before they mount, don't worry.) is giving him ample opportunity to realize he can boss them around. He's just one of those horses that wasn't taught good manners as a child and he likes to see what he can get away with. I have become consistent with him and not afraid to demand respect. These newbs don't know how to do that and frankly I don't want them to try.

So, there you have it. The factors that help me make my decision to stay with the program or remove him. I'll tell you on May 15th what I decide. Why so long? Well, that's a whole 'nother story and you'll have to wait for that, too. :)

We have our first show of the season next weekend!!!!!! For homework, you can read up on the same show from last year Here and
Here, just incase you missed it.


  1. The pros do sound pretty good, but ultimately it seems like the cons outweight it, especially with that kid getting kicked. Not only do you have to worry about Junior getting hurt or getting bad manners, but then you have to worry about him hurting someone. Even though I'm sure the kids sign a waiver before they ride, you still don't want to be responsible for someone getting hurt. Maybe you could make sure KAT uses him only for the advanced riders who know what they're doing and how to handle bossy horses.

  2. Sounds like he's trying to tell you he needs a break from the kids.

    Can you take a quarter off and see how both of you fare from it?

  3. I tried to use Lilly in a lesson program once... she failed miserably and they sent her back to me. LOL

    I think it is fantastic that he is the kind of horse that can be used for lessons. Horses that put up with kids like that are definitely gems. He might be getting a little tired, though. Sounds like he does a lot during the week for the lesson program.

    Is it an all or nothing kind of thing with the lessons?