A Good Minded Horse
By Lindsay Grice
Q I am looking for a horse for my 14-year-old son to ride in youth events next year (Western pleasure, pattern classes, and trail are his favourites). Although he is a capable rider, I have been advised that buying a good minded horse is very important. What exactly is “good minded”? What should my expectations be of the horses I try out?
A A good minded horse is a must for any novice rider. We can be easily swayed by a beautiful mover or an attractive package, but a good minded horse will often rise to the top because of his reliability and consistency.
I have had the opportunity to work with many really good minded horses over the years. Training proceeds at a consistent rate because the horse is easy to teach. I would even go so far as to say owners of good minded horses spend less money on training. Daily sessions are shorter because we don’t waste time working off nervous energy or circling past the spooky corner until it’s lost its mystery.
This kind of horse does not resist when asked to do something. He is light and sensitive to the rider’s cues, always listening. If he doesn’t understand an aid, he tries different options to figure it out whereas his resistant counterpart responds with “Make me!” He won’t be on the lookout for ways he can cheat (bulging toward the barn or cutting in on canter transitions).
Horses accustomed to moving around for shows, training, or other reasons don’t develop strong attachments. They have learned that their rider or handler is their herd so they are safe wherever they go. Photo: Christina Handley Photography
On your horse search, ride your prospect in a different environment from his home territory. How does he adapt to a new rider? How does he react to the introduction of an unfamiliar skill? I like to bug a horse a little when I’m trying him out by using different cues to see how he reacts.
As a prey animal, the good minded horse’s flight response isn’t real keen, so although he might be lunch for the predator in the wild, he’s a keeper in the show pen. He will be not particularly stressed when he’s in a new environment and adapts well to changing scenery.
Finally, good minded horses aren’t territorial or aggressive toward people or other horses. He’s secure enough to leave the herd for individual work, yet not intimidated in a crowded exercise ring when another horse passes too closely. He’s a pleasure to work with on the ground — neither mouthy nor pushy.
A good minded horse has heart: he has the courage to keep going, even if he’s sore or tired. Qualities such as these give a rider confidence and can make up for having less talent.
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Main Photo: Good minded horses are worth their weight in gold, and often make up for a lack of talent with their exceptional attitude and heart. Credit: Christina Handley Photography