by Michelle Kingston
During the holiday season, my inbox was flooded with gift ideas for horses. I do most of my shopping at tack shops and feed stores, where there is also inevitably a flood of advertisements for gifts I could give my horse. This year the options included yummy looking treats, fun toys, funny hats, and warm blankets - all things I would feel good about providing for my horses.
All of these horse-directed gifts had me thinking, once the basic needs of food, water, health care, turnout, companionship, and exercise are met.....what would my horse want? What is the greatest gift I could give my horse?
For me, the answer to this question is training. Training prepares my horse for life, for change, and to live successfully in a variety of situations. The better my horse is both on the ground and under saddle, the more capable she is of thriving if she ever lost me. Horses with the most training are valued in sport and for sale. Raw physical potential and breeding are certainly highly regarded, but look at horse prices enough, and you see that the most valuable horses have the most training.
If I plan to keep my horse forever, why should I care? She always behaves for me, who cares if she's bad for the farrier, the vet, and no one else can ride her?
We see horses all the time who were inadequately prepared for the time when things went wrong, life happened to the owner and the horse had no good options. The greatest gift I have to give my horse is the ability to be ridden by a wide variety of people, in a wide variety of circumstances. She needs me to teach her how to behave perfectly for her health care providers. She deserves exposure to all types of handling, all types of equipment, and a variety of people. She should be trained to know how to respond rather than react, no matter what the situation. Training ensures the horse has a future, not just a past. I aim to give this future to my horses every day - not just during the holiday season.