If you spend a lot of time at horse shows, you start to pick up the lingo. There are a lot of terms that and phrases that have become commonplace in the horse industry, that may be confusing to a non-horse person. Terms like green, made, quiet, bombproof, husband horse, straight-legged, easy keeper… there is no shortage.
“Made” is one of those terms that seems pretty clear, just from context clues. Put simply, it’s a horse that is an expert at his job, a soldier. For this reason, a made horse is highly desirable. It’s also a point of pride- what qualifies a horse for entry- in the Horse Show Leases sales and lease program. However, it’s important to know what skills and qualifications actually make a show horse truly “made.”
Preparation, as used here, refers to what a horse requires, day-of, to be mentally ready to show or ride. A horse that is low prep is one that requires minimal preparation prior to competing. A low to reasonable amount of prep is a light hack in the morning, or 10 minutes of lunging to stretch out. Horses that are higher prep need a lot of adjustment before they are ready to be competitive- or sometimes before they are even safe to ride.
Higher prep horses need to have a professional jump them in the show ring or a practice ring to make sure they are not afraid of the jumps or other elements. They need to be ridden or lunged enough to get rid of a lot of nervous energy that makes them too fast or distractible. Sometimes they also get (legal/ allowed) types of supplements and medications to calm them- like Perfect Prep. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with a horse than requires a little more preparation. Often times this is just because the horse lacks experience, or is green. Sometimes it’s because the horse is just a more energetic, or hot, horse naturally. Or, sometimes it’s because the horse is a highly tuned athlete that is very fit and required a precise ride.
A horse that requires more preparation can still be considered made, but for Horse Show Leases standards, we prefer horses that skew toward less. This is because preparation can be variable and subjective, and requires an experienced professional to oversee or often administer. A horse that is low prep is one that makes a trainer’s job easy, and makes a rider’s experience much less stressful- not to mention much less labor-intensive.
Low maintenance is similar to low-prep, but there are some key differences. It refers to what a horse needs between shows or rides, whereas low-prep generally refers to preparations on the day of the event. So this means what sort of training, conditioning, or even physical care that a horse requires in the off-time. This could mean for a horse that isn’t competing at all, or one that has a show in a few weeks, or one that just got back from a show.
Maintenance, then, refers to things like training rides. If this horse, in order to behave properly for its owner/rider, needs to have a professional ride and tune it several days a week, that would be higher maintenance. A horse that needs a light training ride once a week is low maintenance.
Maintenance can also refer to what a horse physically needs in order to stay in good condition and health to be able to be ridden. If a horse is not lame and has no significant physical issues, they are described as “sound.” Some horses need more maintenance to stay sound- supplements, medications, bodywork, chiropractic work, and joint injections are all typical things that horses, like most athletes, require. A horse that is low maintenance requires the minimum of the above. Any horse that is showing and in full work will require some care- as well as adequate time off to rest. But with that care, they should stay serviceable and sound, and happy to do their job when called upon.
A made horse is almost always going to be a veteran of horse shows, or very
experienced. He’s usually had good experiences with a professional, either in his early days or throughout his career. This type also has miles with less experienced riders.
He has shown enough that he knows what he is doing when there, and what to expect. He is not rattled or stressed or surprised. He’s competed enough that he has proven that he will be consistent. This doesn’t mean that the horse has to consistently win classes- there are a lot of factors that can influence actual placing. However, veteran horses allow their riders the chance to make mistakes, learn, and improve. The riders have the freedom to do this because the horses know their job well enough to recover from those mistakes, or overlook them.
A less experienced horse may be a great talent, but they are going to be inconsistent due to their own uncertainty. They may be able to do amazing things with a highly skilled rider, but that is because the rider is a veteran and gives the horse confidence. A made horse must be the one to bring the confidence.
A made horse should always be a confidence-builder for his rider. This refers to the
horse’s behavior under saddle. Some horses take advantage of a less experienced rider. They realize the rider lacks strength, or balance, or experience, and they try to be extra resistant, to get out of work. Although all intelligent beings will indulge the path of least resistance sometimes, some horses are naturally more kind.
Confidence builders have a different attitude- they are sweeter and more accommodating.
Not only do they understand what their job is, they actually want to do it. It pleases them to work with their rider, and they enjoy their role. These horses will forgive mistakes and help less experienced rides riders out when they are uncertain.
Usually, this kind of horse has, as you might imagine, been well-treated and well-trained
in its youth. It feels connected to its riders, and it trusts the people around it. It is doing work that is well within its capability and range, and it’s comfortable with it.
This is the kind of horse that always jumps over the fences in front of it, instead of
stopping. This is a horse that knows its best canter speed and allows that rider to learn that rhythm. It’s the kind of horse that might notice a loud noise but doesn’t take off at the sound. It’s also the kind of horse that might feel frisky on a cold windy day, but maintains it’s composure when a rider is on his back.
Basically, it’s the kind of horse that deserves all the carrots.