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I have noticed a marked difference between ranch horses and performance horses. Compare these two word pictures:

  1. A dressage rider is leading his big warmblood down the barn isle. The animal is tacked and ready to go into the ring for practice. In the saddle, he does everything perfectly, thanks to the expensive trainer, but recently he has been a real pain on the ground. Now, as he is led to the ring, he seems to deliberately walk on his rider. He pushes his master almost into the stalls on the other side of the isle and refuses to go back where he should. When the rider finally succeeds in correcting him, he throws up his head and makes a big fuss, prancing. The rider has tried everything to calm his horse down – a custom saddle and bridle, special feed, and even supplements and medications. Nothing has helped. The trainer assures him this is normal.
  2. A big warmblood stands quietly tied to the trailer. He is saddled and ready for the day’s work. His saddle is the same saddle his rider uses for all the horses he rides. It fits, but it is by no means custom. For food, he grazes and receives a treat of oats when he comes into the pen every morning. His rider unties him and walks towards the gate. The horse follows behind at a polite distance, stopping when his rider stops to open the gate.

Which horse would you want to ride? The professionally trained horse that only has experience with a rider in the saddle and is spooky and disrespectful, or a horse of the same breed and temperament that can and will do anything his rider asks? A horse that is respectful and willing can still compete to high levels – perhaps even higher than the ill-mannered one. It just depends on the training.

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