As horse people, we constantly critique, evaluate and judge. Whether it's while we're working, riding our own horse, or dealing with just about anything in life. I'm constantly running through a check list in my head. If I'm at work feeding, I'm making sure no one is cast (stuck laying against the side of their stall and unable to get up), no one is showing signs of being ill, everyone is eating fine, no one has any injuries in need of attention. Is this hay moldly or does it smell ok? That filly didn't drink any water. We need to keep an eye on her. Is this horse always a stall walker or could he be colicing?
When I'm grooming a yearling, I go onto full on critique mode. What is this horses personality? Does he like when I curry him with this brush or shouldn't I use it? Does it get her cleaner if I use these two curries, then this hard brush, followed by this soft brush or do I use these three curries and the two hard brushes then a rag? Are they shedding the same as yesterday, or are they shedding more? Are her legs all bump and cut free? Why is this leg stocked up? Did she bump it or is her hock big because she possibly has OCDs that need addressed? This one has a pretty snotty nose. Is it the regular "yearling cold" or does she have a temperature? Is this coat just dirty and dandruffy or is there something else going on? Is he getting shinier or do I need to squeeze in 40 minutes a day of grooming instead of the usual 30? She's not muscling up nice enough. I need to see what we can do about that. Why the @#&*^$ is this one still rubbing her tail?! I tried everything! Does she have worms or is there a tick on it somewhere? What's going on?
I can't look at a horse without judging it. He obviously doesn't like when I keep fussing with his face, maybe I'll use a softer brush or just my hands. That one is being totally ridiculous and needs to get over itself because there is no reason at this point in time it can't get its hooves painted. Why don't you try some more transitions with your riding horse and making sure its in a proper frame because it needs more muscling behind? That full cheek bit needs a keeper because it could get caught on something, like your jean belt loops. I need to clean my helmet because it's really dirty around the harness. I'm not sure if we as horse people are born like this or if riding horses makes us like this. The chicken or the egg theory. But it's so much more than horses and riding. Basically, I'm obsessed with details.
And somewhere in all the evaluations and critiques, I forget to sit down and enjoy what I'm doing. Don't get me wrong, I'm the small part of the population that actually likes what they do for a living. Sure, there are things that I would like to change, but I generally like my job and my horse. The other day, while I was hand grazing Digby (not that he needs more food but...) I was going through my check list. I'd really like to see his hooves have a little bit more heel to them. I'll have to remember to talk to the farrier about that. Gosh he's really quite fat. He's not getting grain just a ration balancer but maybe less hay now that he's outside again? I hope he doesn't founder or anything. Ok, he's probably not that fat but he's plump. I wish I knew why his hind right keeps getting fluid in it. The excess weight can't be helping. It's nothing though. It'll probably go away when I start exercising him. When should I start doing that? Turnouts been so crazy because of the storms. Maybe Wednesday? Hmm, I wonder why Digby will eat the grass and the clover equally, where as most horses prefer the clover. Did he just eat that weed? That's weird. Ah, I need to kill this green head. There, dead. He's pretty shiny naturally. It's a shame I groom for 4 hours a day and don't give him a super grooming because he could probably be quite...... At that point, with my brow furrowed in concentration, as I picked apart and analyzed every minute detail of my horse, Digby picked his head up, looked right at me, and I swear just rolled his eyes and sighed. Like, slow down woman and just enjoy the mix of weeds, grass and when you get really lucky, clover.
I stopped, laughed that my horse just sighed directed at me and I realized that he's not my job. He doesn't need to have the perfect coat, look perfectly muscled up, have perfect hooves, and be the perfect weight because I'm not trying to sell him in a month for as much money as possible. He's mine. It doesn't matter. He's happiest when he's grazing in a field with some friends, unclipped, unpulled mane and covered in dirt. Maybe I need to stop being so "at" him and nit pick at every little detail and just enjoy the time spent, instead of wondering if I can get his coat shinier by currying 5 extra minutes a day or what training regime I need to put him in to best suit our new career choice. Just like humans, he has flaws, he has a personality that needs to be taken into consideration, and he has strengths. Maybe the horses have the right idea. Maybe we need to stop prepping, stop worrying, stop analyzing and just enjoy what we've got in front of us at that very moment. I can't plan on showing him next year at HITS like I had hoped. He isn't going to be my 3'6" horse like I had hoped. We don't have any set "goals." I can't tell you what discipline we're going to try next. Hell, he might not even stay sound enough for me to ride him regularly. We're just going to have to wait and see. In the mean time, the to do list got erased and now only contains one thing - enjoy the mix of weeds, grass and clover.
As for the critiquing, judging, and stressing over every little thing? Well, that's why we have jobs, isn't it? :)