Daddy, buy me a pony!
Francis is 15 years old and has been taking riding lessons once a week for 3 years at a certified riding school. She loves to spend her summer days on show grounds to watch the competitions and the jumping events. She dreams of having her own horse and of bringing home plenty of ribbons. Her father is wealthy and loves his daughter, they decide to get her first horse. Since he knows nothing about horses, he asks Francis’ trainer to help them find a suitable mount.
The trainer presents a number of prospects, and Francis makes several visits during which she has the opportunity to try a dozen horses with her trainer. The father does not participate, he is busy at work and cannot be of help since he has no horsemanship training or interest. After all, Francis will be the one riding and caring for the horse, she gets to decide. Finally, Francis falls in love with a handsome gelding from a reputable breeder and convinces her father to buy it despite the high price tag. This horse has the lineage to win, he is magnificent, very imposing and a great jumper (as seen on the video and at the demo by the breeder). Francis’ trainer is of the opinion that this horse has a lot of potential.
Three months later, the situation has deteriorated rapidly. Francis will no longer ride her horse. It is a big horse, and despite his lineage and beauty, he is too difficult for her and she has gotten hurt several times. The horse rears up, runs off and since he is very powerful, she is unable to stop him. Her lack of experience does not allow her to work safely with a horse that big and that dominant, who is used to much more experienced riders. The horse is put up for sale and Francis starts to look for another with her trainer.
During the next two years, Francis buys and sells 5 horses. None of which are a good fit. When she participates in jumping classes, she comes home bruised and disappointed from refusals and falls, and does not win the coveted ribbons. Yet she is being trained by a competent coach and she bought quality horses that were expensive and that are kept in the best conditions.
What happened? First of all, Francis did not set realistic expectations for herself and her horse, in line with her limited experience and equestrian ability at that point. Determined to compete, she did not understand that what she needed most was a horse that would help her learn, provide a positive feeling and allow her to develop her confidence. She over-estimated her own capabilities and under-estimated the importance of the time needed to build a relationship with her horses. Also, she always picked very beautiful mounts that succeeded under the saddle of a professional rider. Still young and impulsive, Francis did not have the maturity or the character to ride this type of horse and got discouraged quickly. The trainer, whose salary depended in a large portion on the money that Francis and her family spent on her hobby, was not in an easy position to set the record straight and maybe advise Francis to buy a calmer and older horse, a good teacher, to help her focus on her learning, on developing her seat and her horsemanship, even if that meant that she was not going to win it all the first year!
Today, Francis has quit the sport, disappointed and traumatized by her experience.