Everybody out there is searching for “the one,” that horse who will finally fulfill all your dreams, will take you to the top and make your heart soar every time you sit on him. The horse that will greet you every day with a happy face and a willing attitude, who will never hold a grudge for your mistakes and will learn the tasks you set with a greedy intellectual hunger. If you’re a horse person, you’re always seeking the one, even if it’s not consciously or actively. As riders, we constantly seek the next best thing, but what if the idea of the perfect horse is a myth?
Now, I’m not saying that you can’t find “the one” or that the horse that will fulfill all your dreams isn’t out there. What I am saying is that the idea of an ultimate specimen that is superior to all others is a misconception. Just in the way that no one pair of jeans can make every butt look great (Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants — no way, am I right?), neither can a horse work perfectly for every individual rider.
Some of this stems from watching absurdly athletic horses at competitions and thinking, “Well, he does have the nicer horse so of course he gets a better dressage score.” This is where we go wrong. Yes, there are horses that are more naturally talented in the movement department or the jumping department, but that does not mean they are easier to ride, easier to train or simpler to manage on a daily basis. In fact, the more athletic a horse is, the more difficult it is to funnel that athleticism into the correct avenues. We seek the fancier horse without understanding the complications that go along with it.
Here reads the “perfect” horse advertisement (on Sport Horse Nation, obviously): Lucky is a 7-year-old bay gelding with just enough chrome to be fancy but not enough to warrant buying stock in purple shampoo. He comes with a full set of clean x-rays on every possible bone in his body and has never had a lame step in his life! Lucky has competed and won through Preliminary level and could do Advanced, but is just as happy to do Beginner Novice. He is completely obedient on the ground, and never objects to anything like clipping or standing on the trailer or being left outside in a cold rainstorm. Lucky is the same every day, even if you don’t ride him for two weeks. He’s completely schooled on the flat and requires no less than a simple application of some tension on the reins to go on the bit and perfectly engage from behind. He’s never looked at any kind of jump and simply chooses the perfect distance for himself and jumps with his knees to his eyeballs every time. He never has rails and wouldn’t dream of stopping on cross country. Easy enough for an amateur but fancy enough for a professional. Asking only $10,000 but totally negotiable to the perfect home!
Perfect, right? Sadly, that is a completely fictional advertisement, and if you see one like that, believe that it’s actually too good to be true. We can’t all have the big mover, the flawless jumper and the brave horse that never questions anything. From the sidelines, the upper-level horses seem to be an impenetrable force of nature, but anybody closely involved with them will tell you they have just as many issues as regular horses. To dream of the ultimate athlete who will solve all your problems and hand you a blue ribbon every other weekend is to live in a fantasy.
Not everybody needs to ride a Rolex winner. Some horses, while their athletic talents have limits, have more to teach us in other realms. Some seem to be handmade for our humble purposes, and some come into our lives only to teach us one lesson. Here’s the thing: Horses aren’t perfect, just like you and me. But this is where the beauty of imperfection exists, in the reality that while none of us are perfect, there is still the chance that somewhere, someday, you’ll find “the one” that will match all of your imperfections, and you will fit together like a puzzle piece.