By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
Have you heard about the “Dead Broke Finished Horse” that a friend purchased the other day. Or maybe you heard about the trainer down the road that has a “Horse that is Broke to Death” that you need to purchase or ride. I have seen people get giddy with excitement about the prospect of purchasing a “Broke” Horse. Still others are joyous about getting a “Green” horse. Some excitedly tell me that they finally have their horse “Broke” and can get some things done now and maybe even move on to getting him “Finished”. Normally about this time when I hear these stores I am grimacing and groaning. Broke and Green are not terms I want to use to describe the quality horses I work with and here is why.
Many of the online definitions for the word “Broke” center around — having no money; bankrupt; To cause to separate into pieces suddenly or violently; smash; To vary or disrupt the uniformity or continuity of.
As we move on and look at the online definitions of “Green” we find — The hue of that portion of the visible spectrum lying between yellow and blue, evoked in the human observer by radiant energy with wavelengths of approximately 490 to 570 nanometers. (Had to throw in the nanometer range for a few of the science geek friends who know me). I have not seen a naturally green colored horse so far in my life.
For these first two words — nothing in the definitions I just shared with you are useful in describing a good quality horse. Surely most people know what you might be speaking about but that is the problem — these two words are totally open to interpretation based on experiences.
Finally we come to the description of “Finished” — Highly accomplished or skilled; polished; Having no more use, value, or potential; washed-up; nothing more can be done with the item. Okay — so I might not mind having a highly accomplished or skilled horse but I certainly do not want a horse that is “washed-up”.
What is the solution to this problem? In the next section of this blog I want to share with you how I describe the skill levels of horses. With this description we shall all understand the ability of horses.
In many things — a picture is worth a thousand words. I shall begin with Figure 1 that summarizes how I describe and categorize horses. I welcome your thoughts and comments and hope this blog is shared and discussed so we can all cease using terms like Broke, Dead Broke, Green, and Finished..
Figure 1: Horse Skill Levels
Foundation — On the ground or in the saddle the horse goes forward calmly, backs, and moves left and right (side to side). The horse knows to respect your space, stand quietly, tie to a solid object, pick up feet on command, and be groomed — all in a safe manner. The horse is learning that pressure and release cues/aides mean something and the horse responds.
Mindful — A horse that is mindful has awareness. Certainly cues and aides are something that the Foundation horse learns. When they reach the mindful level, pre-signals and soft/subtle aides guide the horse. We might describe a horse being mindful as one that is moving forward and is feeling the rider and knows what is coming and responds with the lightest possible aide. Once you have a horse at the mindful level you are making that connection that leads to harmony, rhythm, relaxation and balance. A mindful horse is seeking guidance from the rider to know what it should do next.
Practiced — This is a horse that understands the job and can get the job done. This horse can easily respond to aides with athleticism, quickness, and agility. With a practiced horse we no longer see hesitation by the horse. The practiced horse is one that comes with experience and is working towards that perfect maneuver with the rider. A practiced horse is frequently limited by the ability of the rider.
Competent — This is a horse that has the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully — sometimes even when the rider is lost in the saddle. 99% of the time the competent horse can respond to the aide without hesitation and achieve success. A horse at this level excels with a good rider but can also help the less experienced rider succeed.
As I wrote this blog to describe skills of the horse it dawned on me that we might be able to describe riders in much the same way. I look forward to you sharing and commenting on this information.
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).