So this past weekend was the first show of my 2019 show season. As I was conversing with one of the trainers about a horse she had for sale, she made a comment about Appaloosa people being crazy. For the record, I have four Appaloosas. I responded with “All horse people are crazy!” Being an equestrian is all about picking the particular variety of crazy you are comfortable with, and finding your people. That also inspired me to pull out my phone, and jot down the title in my blog, so that I would remember this subject for a future post. *Disclaimer: This is all tongue in cheek. These descriptions do not represent any specific individuals and yes I have friends and people I respect very much in all of these groups. If you can’t laugh at yourself or the crazy of the horse world occasionally, my blog is not for you. Oh, and I shamelessly “borrowed” (stole) my photos from Pinterest for illustration purposes.
All horse people are crazy. I am not an exception. We feed, house, and shovel $hit for 1200 pound beasts, that we feel the need to ride and drive even though the days of equine power being the only or most reliable means of transport are long gone. Equestrians do this all for the thrill they get when they catch the whiff of that horse scent, the feeling of flight as they soar over that jump (or off your horse), or just the feeling of partnership with these majestic creatures. Equestrians suffer all manner of injuries from these encounters, practically go crazy at the thought of being side-lined from their sport, will ride against a doctor’s orders, and then call the experience of working with horses “spiritual.” In fact, it’s not if you get hurt. It’s more a question of when, how severe the injury(ies) will be, and how frequently they occur. A horse killed Superman for F*ck’s sake, and you can bet he had experienced his fair share of injuries before the final fatal fall.
At some point all equestrians at the very least will have their foot stepped on, sustain a kick, be bitten, knocked/pinned against a solid object, and have an involuntary dismount (loss of balance or full on bronc episode). That list is only the equestrian starter kit. You can’t even call yourself an equestrian if those bare minimum injuries haven’t occurred. If you are experienced or a professional, there is a whole other level of pain that comes from working with these animals not because the animals are vicious or intentionally trying to kill their human partners. Horses just tend to forget that humans are small and break easily.
Not only are equestrians crazy in a general sense, you can also classify equestrians by their breed of preference or discipline choice. If you are fluent in the different varieties of crazy existing in the horse world, you can often begin to identify the level of crazy you are dealing with as it approaches you or after only a brief introduction. Horse people can also suffer from Dissociate Identity Disorder (aka multiple personalities) since they can often be a combination of the “crazy” listed below. Here are just a few levels of crazy that I personally have had the pleasure of meeting or sharing in their lunacy.
The English Snobs/Dressage Queens
I’m grouping two groups together because they are very similar in their insanity. English Snobs/Dressage Queens feel that the discipline of English riding is the only civilized form of equestrian sport. There is a class system within this group, and you definitely move into the upper echelon if you forgo a domestically raised animal, and import your animal from Europe. Appearances are everything in this world. They tend to be immaculate in appearance at all times. What person in their right mind would prefer wearing white/light tan breeches for essentially working with livestock? Rules around etiquette dominate their world. Loud applause or cheering during their events is frowned upon, golf clap only. Hair must always be contained in a tight bun or hair net. Tack is cleaned after every ride. Bridles must be hung with a complicated design creating a figure eight with the throat latch that is a complete pain in the a$$ to undue for quick tack ups. Girths may never touch the ground. Tank tops and jeans are unacceptable riding attire. You should always wear a collared shirt and riding gloves. “Cowboy” is a derogatory description for anyone that rides in any other discipline. English Snobs/Dressage Queens consider any bit with shanks a torture device, but it is completely acceptable for them to shove two bits in the horse’s mouth and clamp their jaws shut with a flash nose band.
Usually adrenaline junkies. The challenge of working with one 1200 pound beast is not enough, so these people add cattle to the mix. They prepare their children for the sport with goat tying. Sometimes they prefer short rides (8 seconds max), and make it more challenging with equine that like all four feet in the air for the majority of the ride. Jumping off a perfectly good horse at a full gallop to wrap their arms around an 800 lb steer with pointy horns combines their love of riding and wrestling. Sometimes they really just enjoy throwing ropes at moving targets. Running your horse down a fence at full speed and hoping it can make the roll back before you are both eating wall is yet another symptom of insanity. When all of these activities fail to provide the required thrill, they graduate to animals (bulls) that will crush them into a pulp for attempting to ride. As far as appearances, the hat, boots, and chaps make for easy identification, but they can’t be considered a true cowboy if you can’t find dirt and a little cow $hit somewhere on their person.
Quarter Horse People
The American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed association in the world. It only stands to reason that you have the highest chance of encountering this insanity over any other. These people believe that there is only one acceptable breed of horse. All other breeds are considered “crazy” to these equestrians. Quarter Horse people become obsessed with only a few select bloodlines within the breed, and expect all other horse people to recognize these lines and the function they were bred for. You know you are dealing with a quarter horse person when they use the phrase “he/she is out of….” when talking about their mounts. With the exception of barrel racers (more on them later), any equine exhibiting a high head carriage, animation resembling a prance, or move faster than the speed of smell when not pointed at a cow will automatically be labeled “crazy”. Quarter Horse people are not good at dealing with animals that cannot operate on autopilot.
If Quarter Horse people want animals that operate like autonomous well oiled machines, Thoroughbred people operate on the complete opposite of the spectrum. These people have a high tolerance for neurotic equine behavior, and take pride in their ability to handle and ride difficult horses. They enjoy a good game of the equine version of Pokemon Go, where you attempt to stay mounted when your horse encounters an imaginary monster that only it can see. Thoroughbred people tend to have a rock solid seat because it is necessary for survival. Their love of the adrenaline rush is a strong second to cowboys. They are essentially riding the horse equivalent of a Ferrari. Super fast, high precision racing machines that require a lot of maintenance. Thoroughbred people also hold a minor degree in veterinary medicine. There isn’t an equine injury or illness that these people don’t have first hand knowledge how to treat and what it costs.
There are actually two versions of Arabian people. The first type of Arabian person is very similar to the Thoroughbred people. While Thoroughbred people have a high tolerance for neurotic behavior Arabian Type 1 people are completely oblivious to said behavior. It just doesn’t register on their spectrum of abnormal. A Thoroughbred person knows when to use a chain. Arabian Type 1 people will be walking nonchalantly holding the devil himself on the end of a rope halter. There is nothing a horse can throw at Arabian Type 1 that they can’t handle. If their animal is acting a little too calm, they’ll make sure to shake a plastic bag or other equally terrifying object in the horse’s direction to liven things up a bit.
Arabian Type 2 people feel a spiritual connection with their horse. They believe that Arabian horses have a deeper connection with humans than any other breed of horse. Every single behavior is attributed to a human emotional response rather than typical flight animal behavior. For Arabian Type 2 people their horse is operating on a completely different emotional and intellectual level than other equines, and any negative displays of behavior are the direct result of human failure to meet sensitive equine emotional needs.
Gaited Horse People
Gaited Horse People are the perfect combination of all the singular rowdy traits of the other groups. Gaited Horse People like to go fast, they’re just not comfortable doing it if the ride gets rough. These people are like ice skaters, they want to glide everywhere they go. They’re not big fans of control either. Gaited Horse People actually hold their legs away from the horse, so leg pressure doesn’t interfere with the horse’s movement. They just get the engines moving on their horses, and expect everyone else to get out of the way. The closest I’ve ever come to getting run over by a horse was making the mistake of crossing an area where they were warming up. I’m pretty sure the rider urged the animal on as it came charging at me in a fast rack. In addition they tend to be a boisterous bunch. Gaited Horse People rank up there with cowboys for enthusiastically cheering at equine competitions. Their horses are a close second to Thoroughbreds in speed combined with the flashy movements of Arabians. Where other groups prefer a medium to slow pace, these people get bonus points for passing the other competitors. They employ race track style tactics in the arena, including purposefully cutting off or riding directly beside another competitor to block the judge’s view of the competition. The spectators are known to yell “There’s your horse judge!” as they make their passes. If English Snobs and DQ’s are all about appearances, the gaited people are the exact opposite. They will ride in anything including tennis shoes. They clean it up for shows with bold bright colored jackets.
Miniature Horse People
There are two types of miniature horse people. Mini Type 1 people have experience around full size horses, but for whatever reason (age, health, tired of being knocked around, lack of turnout area) prefer dealing with the smaller, easier controlled version of equine. Mini Type 1’s are usually only crazy in the general horse people sense, spending tons of time and money on ungrateful four legged creatures that demand to be worshiped and are only concerned with consuming everything edible in sight.
Mini Type 2 people had zero equine experience before they encountered these miniature agents of Satan. They don’t have the benefit of the knowledge that anything shorter than 14.2 is the devil. They also tend to be fanatical in their equine management. Mini Type 2’s put their animals on strict diets and turnout schedules. They become overnight equine experts, and treat full size horse owners like we are uneducated barbarians. “Miniature’s are different from large horses. They can’t be managed the same.” is an insight you can expect them to share when you offer advice. They aren’t entirely incorrect, as Miniatures are a quarter of the size, and make up for it by being eight times as evil. The flip side of the Mini Type 2 personality are the ones that treat them more like dogs than horses. If you encounter a Mini Type 2 of the large dog persuasion, you can be guaranteed they own a hoard of unruly heathens that will kick, bite, and pick pocket, because their owner doesn’t understand that prey animals are motivated by different objectives than predators.
Ahhh, the group that inspired the post! Appaloosa people fall into two camps, breed snobs and color fanatics (I suffer this version of the infliction). First and foremost the breed only exists because of its color, but somewhere along the line the breed snobs have forgotten that. I’ve attended several local shows (as a competitor), Worlds (as a spectator), and Congress. The experiences left me sadly disappointed by the lack of color! Color fanactics just can’t get enough of those big spots, and blanketed butts even if conformation and personality leave a lot to be desired. Breed snobs ride around on what is essentially a bay or chestnut and then act offended if you didn’t immediately recognize their horse as an Appaloosa. Breed snobs are very similar to Quarter Horse people in that they expect you to know the various blood lines, but not quite as bad.
I’m not even sure where to begin with this brand of crazy. These people operate with a ride it like you stole mentality. Brakes are optional on their horses. They prefer to “give it all she’s got!”, and then pray the animal stops before hitting a wall or running over someone in the alleyway. Sometimes their mounts require a handler to anchor them to the ground until they begin the run. Unlike English snobs and DQs, Barrel Racers usually have a wild mass of hair barely contained in a ponytail or under a hat. You will likely wonder if a Barrel Racer even knows the purpose of a hair brush. The Professionals are only marginally less crazy than the amateurs, but do tend to have more controllable animals. As a group (yes, there are exceptions, but…) barrel racers come up with some of the most terrifying bit and tie-down combinations you will encounter in the horse world. Like Arabian Type 1 people they become concerned about the health of their animal if it begins to act calmly or demonstrate well trained horse behavior. Barrel Racers have their own unique riding style “star-fishing.” Here’s a mental picture, butt suspended mid-air, 4 inches out of saddle, legs and arms flapping up and down as their horse hits top speeds. They literally hover over their animal without making contact with the horse. It’s witchcraft.
Rescue Horse People
Rescue Horse People come from all backgrounds. They have a high tolerance for neurotic horse behavior, and are some of the most forgiving (as far as the horse is concerned) equestrians you will encounter. Rescue Horse People will drop a few thousand on a horse that is arguably worth $500, and then dump a few thousand more on the horse in feed, supplements, and vet care nursing the tragedy cases back to health. Some rescue horse people have no other intention for the animal besides yard art, and many have no prior equine experience. They will never be accused of great business acumen. Rescue Horse people are essentially suckers for animals in need, and after they save one animal, it’s not long before they have acquired several more, hoarder style. Rescue Horse people feel a moral obligation to save as many animals as possible, and can be counted on to mount huge social media campaigns in pursuit of their life’s passion. Like Arabian Type 2s, Rescue Horse People feel a deep spiritual connection with equines. They say things like “He saved me when I thought I was saving him.” when referring to the animals they work with.
These are just a few of the crazy horse people I’ve been around. I’ve also been accused of being several of the above mentioned categories, but the crazy is just one of the many things that makes being an equestrian interesting!