Is the Horse Broke, or Trained ?
By Bonnie J. Hilton (Horse Training Article copyrighted by Saddle & Bridle Magazine.)
My cousin in California is the culprit this time, causing me to take off on a semantic study of what many would consider just a pair of synonyms. She wrote to tell me about the new horse, sent to her by her son, that was supposedly broke and safe for her to ride as a trail horse. I have worked out west, this horse came via Montana and I am not being disrespectful. What broke meant to her son, was no longer what broke meant to her. It may have meant the same in her younger years. The horse bucked her off on two separate occasions. Between incidents, the added expense of a 90 day training course was added to the equine s education, whatever that entails, which was supposed to further the brokenness I suppose.
After the second buck off, my older cousin came to her senses and the equine has moved on to another owner. She tells me all this and I wonder if the horse was trained? Her reply was, Well, my son said the horse was broke. I have to laugh. It makes me think of the green horse description that I wrote about once. Exactly what shade of green or broke are we talking about here? Just like green, I have ridden different degrees of broke.
Now someone is going to say that broke and trained are the same thing and that it is just a matter of what part of the country you are in. Funny, but I have been around the country and I never met a horse broker that was in the business of breaking horses. I have met a lot of horse trainers who were in the business of breaking or training horses and would upon occasion make the descriptive remark of dead broke when telling me about a horse I was admiring. Broke down or broken down were other interesting adjectives from my early years with track Thoroughbreds and I still hear them today. I have an equine marketing publication in my office where many of the advertisements state, broke to ride. I don t have a clue as to what that means, but I assume I can get on the horse at least.
Why am I making a big deal about this? Well, outside of finding it hilarious, I also, to my cousin s chagrin, find it as a selling and buying problem in today s market. You really need to be better informed about what you want. You need to be honest with yourself about what you can handle, from all aspects of ownership. When an equine is marketed as broke or trained for this or that discipline, and I believe trail riding is one of the most difficult, I would expect some documentation or evidence of such. However, as is so often stated, caveat emptor, if you don t ask about or question the meaning . You can put a flip side spin to these questions as well. How in depth should you be in your marketing if you have a horse up for sale?
1. Who rides the horse consistently? Male or female? Horses do know the difference and some do have a preference. I know some readers may think I have gone to fantasy land, but I have met a few sexist horses. How much does the person that rides the horse weigh? Both sides of the scale can make a difference in performance and acceptance. What is the rider s experience level? Don t fall for the anybody can ride this horse routine. Who is this anybody and is your experience level the same or better? In what kind of conditions and at what level of performance is this anybody riding? I dislike saying this but, if you can t see it, don t always believe it.
2. How much is this horse worked? I think my cousin found out that dead broke meant that this horse was being worked every day, several hours a day and was on top quality forage products and no concentrates. She, as many of my clients, are catch riders. They catch several hours during the week and hopefully a day of the weekend. Their horse, may break a sweat, but it will depend on the humidity level and not on the activity level! I have to admit that some readers may not see my humor in all this, but as a trainer, I find it fodder for a comedy routine, as I remember some of the past mistakes made in equine purchases of broke and trained eqines. The horse, for the remainder of the week is eating its way through a bag of concentrates and building up an energy high, due to confinement. Is it any wonder that suddenly you have a different animal to deal with than the equine you purchased?
3. Is the horse always ridden alone or in company? Can the horse be ridden in company? Does their behavior go through a big change when they are in company? Should I poke fun at myself? Why not. I have trained in seclusion several times and it was disastrous when I attempted to ride in company. The horses finally calmed down, but I put myself and other riders at risk as my mount turned into a lunatic at being back with the in crowd at a show. One warm-up in Springfield, Mass., was a rodeo performance with my dead broke, upper level trained, well schooled mount. I wish I still had the seat I had back then! I would be eating dust at the prospect of trying to duplicate that ride.
4. What kind of trails, roads, weather and traffic conditions has the horse experienced? What you consider trails and what the seller is calling trails may be two different things. I love the answer, Well, we trail ride him around the farm. Translated this may mean they leave the indoor or round pen to walk around the property a little, when there are no distractions and it isn t a windy day! The horse has seen vehicles, but never one moving. I presently have an equine who used to go out on trails. He was a decent trail horse, could be a little spooked at times, but nothing major. I would not trust this horse at the present time because it hasn t been out of a controlled environment for over a year. Would I market him as trail safe?
5. He is bombproof and will go anywhere. Did this horse go through special forces training? I can t help but laugh at the memories of the bombproof equines I have known. When one of them came to me they were lacking about 100 pounds and exhausted. You know what happened when they started living the good life. We had to diffuse the bomb! This wasn t a youngster either.
My cousin, who has been living on a fault line too long and I have told her that, needs to be realistic as to what she wants versus what she really needs. I thought the saying, if you don t have the time, spend the dime was appropriate also. A well broke, dead broke, trained, equine that can truly perform at the level that you want, in the discipline you want, will come at a cost. I am presently fainting at the prices, but that is today s market. If you don t have the time to put into training, if you don t want to do the training, then you are going to have to spend the money to purchase the training, one way or another. How ever you say it, broke or trained at the level you truly need, will come at an appropriate cost.
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