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If you ever doubt that horses can be trained to deal with unusual situations, then remind yourself of the Guide Horse who is trained to face escalators and subways as part of everyday life.

Yes you read that right.

A Guide Dog that's a horse. A pygmy horse in fact (they have to stand between 20 and 25 inches at the shoulder — smaller and they are too rare and expensive; larger and they won’t fit under restaurant tables!).

As we horse owners all know, horses are highly aware of safety, constantly on the lookout for danger. This trait is ideal for guiding work. And it turns out that horses have a natural tendency to guide their handler along the safest and most efficient route, and that they demonstrate excellent judgment in obstacle avoidance training. Perfect.

So what can a Guide Horse offer that a Guide Dog cannot? The main winner is longevity. Horses live a lot longer than dogs. 30-40 years compared to 10-16. Many blind people cannot bear the idea of becoming attached to an animal and then having to replace it.

And for those who swoon at cute - Guide Horses can be outfitted with tiny sneakers to give traction on slippery floors and protect their hooves too small for regular iron horse shoes.

For more info, check out the Guide Horse Foundation

Thanks to Ethical Horsemanship for bestowing the 'Honest Scrap' blog award on Horse Training Success. It's a bit of a thrill actually. I've had a look through their blog and I must say, I highly recommend it. Do yourself a favour and check it out. It does exactly what it says on the tin:

So the Honest Scrap Award nominates bloggers who make an honest, soulful contribution and, by exposing 10 true things about themselves, enables readers to learn more about the blog’s author. Here goes:

1. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia.
2. My first horse was a confirmed bolter that no one else would ride. I learnt quickly! I had to.
3. I'm told I'm not a 'pretty' rider, but that I'm definitely an effective one.
4. My first horses were kept in the city and ridden around suburban streets - not recommended!
5. I'm told I have an excellent deep riding seat.
6. My favourite dog is the Australian Kelpie.
7. I'm also told I have a way with animals. That's true, but SO much of that is listening and observing.
8. When it comes to the height of a horse, I don't subscribe to 'bigger is better'.
9. The first horse that captured my imagination was Phar Lap - the stuffed racehorse in the museum.
10. I actually read very few blogs! Feel free to introduce me to your favourites.

And the next part of the award is to pass it on to 10 worthy bloggers. So who to choose? Well, as I really haven't been following many blogs, my list is a top 3 instead. It will be filled out when I'm introduced to some more gems. But for now:

1. Fugly Horse of the Day
A must-read. Pure (snarky) common sense. Delivered bluntly.
2. Bridlepath
Fun, inspiring, useful.
3. Superstars of Horse Training
Great no-nonsense content.

If you receive and accept the Honest Scrap award, the rules that recipients are asked to follow are:
• List 10 honest things about yourself.
• Present this award to 10 admirable bloggers who have moved you, and link to their blogs.
• Recognize your award presenter and link back to their blog in your post.
• Notify recipients they have been awarded, so they can retrieve it.

Ever spent hours upon fruitless hours trying to draw horses? Well, when you know your equine art is never going to make the grade, why not see if your horse's art will make your fortune? Huh?

Yes, an artistic horse:

In a follow on from the previous post, here are just two examples of horses too intelligent for their own good. Imagine trying to keep these guys safe and sound? Need I mention that this is not a great trick to teach your horse?!

Horse opens stall door

Horse opens gate

Give a horse a rope.... A couple of amusing videos showcasing what horses can surprise us with:

There is an excellent four part series of blog posts happening over at Citizen Horse at the moment. It's so good I thought I'd bring it to your attention, especially as it's related to the post here a week or so back on buying a horse. This series is on a different aspect of horse buying - price.

"Horse prices are entirely dependent on spenders." By this she means, "A horse is worth as much as a buyer is willing to spend. Yes, it’s true. That $500 plug of a horse could sell for $25,000 if a buyer with the money and the lack of experience is found and is looking for something close to what that $500 plug has to offer."

How does this happen?
"At least with buying a used car, the Kelly Blue Book gives a general idea of what cars should be worth. Of course, there is much background behind each car completely foreign to potential buyers, but a title search allows prospectors to determine vehicle accidents, number of owners, and hopefully, accurate mileage. Horses have no such guidebook or history lookup and there are so many variables to buying a horse."

Now I know not everyone has that sort of cash spare to throw at a horse, but some people do, and plenty of people are sucked into the 'you get what you pay for' mentality. With horses, it's not so cut and dried. Some horses are worth their weight in gold. Some simply are not. As Citizen Horse explains, big barns can have a vested interest in inflating horse prices. When it comes to private buyers:

"The private seller has a difficult time putting a value on their horse. Most people over-value their own animals because it is personal. It’s fair; you put your time, sweat, money, and emotions into this animal. You want to see your horse get a good home, you also think the time and money put into the horse is going to pay off. There is nothing wrong with this - unless you actually want to sell your horse."

A lot of private sellers believe that they should be able to recoup what they paid plus training fees spent on the horse (or something similar). This is simply not realistic. What is realistic is the horse's level of training, history, injuries, potential, useful years left, and for the rider;

"Before even thinking about wants, a buyer must assess their goals and riding situation. Realistically, what does a buyer want to do with their future horse? How long do they anticipate riding, realistically? And are they looking for re-sale value or a horse for life?"

Answering these questions will help a rider determine what a reasonable price would be to cover their needs.

"A first time horse buyer purchasing a six figure horse is completely ridiculous. There is no reason, outside of having money to lose, that a newcomer to the sport should by buying a horse worth as much as a house."

"A made 14-17 year old horse (depending on the level the horse can continue to train/compete) should not be selling for six figures. Sure, if the horse could pack ANYONE around a 4'6? course AND stay sound AND do it for a few years…maybe…MAYBE…I could see the value in that. But if it is a horse to take lessons on, to be “social” with out at the barn, to continue learning, and to show in long stirrup or AA hunters/jumpers, forget it.

A schoolmaster dressage horse shouldn’t sell for six figures. Most likely any horse that made has been pounded into the ground leaving very few jumps or tests left in them physically. In this instance of horse valuation, the level of training and accomplishments by said horse should be discounted by the amount of possible remaining use."

"Can a horse REALLY be worth $125,000?
Very few. A handful of extremely talented sport horses can be worth six figures. These six figure sport horses all have the talent, the brain, and the physical soundness to compete at the very upper levels of their sport. Most likely, these are professional’s horses. Horses with incredible talent aren’t usually easy to ride. That doesn’t mean they are crazy, psycho horses; just that talented mounts often need very good, very accurate piloting in order to reach their potential and often STAY at their potential."

And so on to some of the soundest advice on buying a horse that is out there:

"If you call a big barn and say “I’m looking for a hunter to show long stirrup” and the trainer asks you what your price range is…DO NOT TELL THEM HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE TO SPEND ON A HORSE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Let them tell you about the horses they have for sale and the price for those sale horses. You can determine from there if there is anything you want to look at.

Do NOT buy a horse for $100,000 unless you are riding at a very high level and the horse is proven to perform at a very high level. If you are looking for a first horse, a safe horse, a pretty horse, a horse you can show—even at the upper levels, I can promise you there is a horse out there perfectly priced between $4000-$10,000."

And all I would add is that there are plenty of great starter horses out there for way, way less than $4000.

Photo by ireallylovecake

Lets have a little conversation on horse breeds. I receive a lot of emails asking for breed-specific advice and it's one of my pet peeves.

We'll start with people looking for a horse. In this situation, people are often swayed by breed characteristics. I'm not talking about looks. I'm talking here about temperament and trainability. If you want a Haflinger because you've fallen in love with the look of Haflingers, great. That's fine. That's not what I want to discuss. That I understand. Some people love draughts with all their feathers, some love the dishy nose of the Arab, some the big bum on the Quarterhorse. If you know you like one breed above all others because of the way the breed looks, by all means choose the right horse for you within that breed.

No, what I want to talk about is the person who's not so looks oriented, but who is choosing a breed for temperament. The believer of all Arabs are flighty. She'll be bad tempered because she's an Appaloosa. He'll be quiet because he's Standardbred.

Grrr. In my opinion - wrong wrong wrong. Breed temperaments are TENDENCIES, not in any way are they absolute guaranteed characteristics. When choosing a horse, the buyer needs to be looking at the INDIVIDUAL horse. Not it's breed.

Perhaps framing the scenario like this will help: I would like a horse with lots of 'go' and I don't mind what breed. I've heard that Arabs and Thoroughbreds TEND to fit this description, so I'll look at these breeds for an individual that's firey (because I know not all Arabs and all Thoroughbreds are firey), and I'll look at other horses that as individuals fit my criteria.

Or another one: I'm looking for a calm child proof horse. Someone said that Cleveland Bays are really quiet. There's a green four year old Cleveland Bay for sale. Should I buy him for my beginner child? Uh, NO, you should be looking for an older horse (8yo+) who has seen everything and is totally bombproof. That could be anything from a Thoroughbred to a Shetland. TEMPERAMENT of the individual (and in this case training). Not breed.

The other part of the breed peeve goes like this:

Q. My horse is an x (insert breed here). She has terrible ground manners/I'm scared of her/she's wild where do I start?/etc. What do I need to do to train a (insert breed again here - mini horse and pony owners please take particular note!) properly?

A. You own a HORSE. An equine. At this level of training, which is basic horse-human interaction where you are teaching your horse to respect and trust your leadership, all horses are the same.

The differences and challenges will come from:

  • Their experiences of people so far ie the things they have been allowed to get away with and the things people have done to them in the past.
  • The temperament (personality) of both you and your horse.
  • Your experience with horses.

None of this is breed specific. The belief that breed is hugely important in temperament and basic training is - in my opinion - wildly inaccurate. Please remember to look at each horse as an individual with his own past experiences, intelligence and temperament. I find it a far more helpful way to assess and work with a horse.

Picture by genewolf

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