I have never believed in grooming and tacking horses for my clients, except in certain very rare, pre-arranged circumstances. I have caught some grief for that over the years, especially from adults. Couldn’t I make the kids groom and tack by themselves as a learning tool, but do those tasks for the adults who are too busy, distracted, whatever? Nope.
I believe that time is essential for any rider to make a connection with the horse, to assess the horse’s mental and physical well-being. And it’s a responsibility, just part of the lifestyle of horsemanship.
There are many ways to interact with your horse that will improve your partnership. But there are practical reasons for getting to know your own horse, too. Years ago, a barn where I worked had several wealthy clients who were novice horse owners. The policy for those clients was that they could call ahead and the staff would have their horses ready, groomed, tacked and standing in crossties when they arrived. They would come into the barn and a staff member would greet them and help them get organized, adjusted and out the door to the arena. Once, though, the wife opted to ride on her own on a day when the barn was closed. That meant she had to get her lovely bay mare out of its stall, groom it and tack it on her own – maybe for the first time ever in her riding career.
Luckily one of the training staff stopped in just as client wife had completed grooming and tacking. There was, indeed, a horse in the crossties, groomed to a shine and wearing the client’s tack. And it was a bay horse. A bay stallion. (!!) That belonged to another boarder.
Yes, all the experienced horsemen and -women reading this are cringing at the little movie in their heads, the one in which novice rider thinks she’s getting on her quiet, well-mannered mare and instead mounts someone else’s not-so-docile stallion and havoc ensues. Yikes! Happily for all concerned, that was averted. But, really folks. Spend the time. Do the work. Get to know your own horse.
If you don’t go home from the barn dirty, you didn’t do it right!