Last week I was reading an article about a show jumper, Kyle King, winning the $72,900 prize at Talus Welcome CSI 5* in Thermal, California, on the horse Magic Mike. It wasn’t so much that King was having a great season (which he is), or that Magic Mike is an amazing horse (which he is)- what caught my eye was that King was lamenting the fact that Magic Mike sometimes won’t let him get on.
That’s right, the Dutch Warmblood that may end up going to the next Olympics can’t be mounted.
Obviously, he can, but only under certain conditions. King said that, in order to be mounted, that Magic Mike needs to be eating, and in one of the jump-offs, it took over 20 minutes for him to mount, and he had to take a running start from 10 feet away to get on him.
Annoying Issue or Dangerous Vice?
Is Magic Mike’s issue based on fear? Does he need someone to work with him on mounting? I have no idea, but I do know that this issue, while it’s merely annoying when a horse is any Olympic contender and the horse is winning hundreds of thousands of dollars, when that horse is no longer winning, the issue suddenly becomes a vice and the horse is labeled as difficult or dangerous.
I remember when I first got Tamahome- he wouldn’t stand at a mounting block and I had to take a flying leap off of a fence if I wanted to mount him without a saddle. It took a few months of training, but I finally got him to stand quietly at the mounting block or fence or whatever else I lead him to. I feel that mounting a horse is already one of the most dangerous times when riding, so I make a point in my training to ensure that a horse stands well when mounting. Unfortunately, bolting when mounted or refusing to allow a rider to mount is a common issue I have to train or retrain when I get in new horses. When I first mount a horse, I have someone on the ground holding them- this is for two reasons. One, I want to make sure the horse doesn’t just take off when I get on, and two, I don’t want the horse to learn that it’s acceptable to take off until I am ready to move forward. A horse should stand quietly as you mount, and only when you gently ask him to move forward does he take a step forward (sometimes the rider’s weight can throw a horse off-balance, so if he takes a step to balance, obviously don’t pull on the reins in that case).
Are You Focused on the Good or the Annoying?
What I find interesting is people are willing to deal with those annoying issues like Magic Mike’s inability to be mounted when a horse can jump very high, or when he is very fast, or he is winning in whatever sport or competition he’s in- but the minute a horse is “just a trail horse,” he is deemed as problematic if he is not perfect on the ground or under saddle. People will bend over backwards excusing behaviors in competition horses that they would scoff at for pleasure horses. It’s not rocket science to explain why- we care more about winning than we do safety. We won’t ensure that those horses are safe to mount as long as they jump really high.
What lesson can we take from this? Essentially, if Magic Mike’s handlers can ignore such a huge issue, we can cut our horses a little slack. We take our horses for granted, and don’t realize how really GOOD they are. We may focus on small annoying issues they have, like having no personal space (Tamahome), or walking a little fast (Noelle), or both of those (Freya). That being said, those really are completely manageable issues, and ones that can be worked through. We can focus on the small things to improve, but we can also realize that our horse does a lot of things right even without us needing to work on them.
Take the Win
Tamahome will never be another Magic Mike- for one, he won’t jump over anything to save his life. Really- he refuses to jump. That being said, he stands when mounted- in and out of the arena.
Take your wins where you can get them.