Red ribbon personalities –horses and humans.

It’s not uncommon at open horse shows and fairs to see a red ribbon fastened on the tail of a horse. The message?

Stay away. I kick.

If your horse’s personal space guarding has become assertive enough to warrant a red tail ribbon, it’s time to go back and do some homework before going off property.    Instead of donning a red tail ribbon, train towards expanding his social bubble (remember that pandemic term?).

Whether the source of your horse’s grumpiness is fear or aggression, here are 3 tips:

1. Spend time creating and repeating positive experiences beside another horse. Riding beside another horse, just inside your horse’s comfort bubble and no closer. Relax your body, soften your aids, then ride away BEFORE your horse has a chance to Repeat until the comfort bubble is closer to his neighbor.

2. Well-established aids, transitions and lateral skills will override the distraction of the warm up ring or tension of approaching equine traffic.

3. Set the boundaries. When your horse snarks at another horse, re-establish the boundary through which he snarked . For instance, if he kicks out, move his haunches sideways from your leg on the side he kicked. If he lunges his head toward his neighbor, back him up. Don’t respond to emotion with emotion. Doing so is adding kindling to your horse’s smoldering fear.  Promptly, but calmly, ask him to yield to pressure, deferring his own space for every threat to another horse’s space.

Do you know any people with red-ribbon personalities?

 The red ribbon PRICKLY personality. The one you‘ve learned to avoid. Easily offended. Overly sensitive.

  • The gossip. (Will I be next on their gossip list?)
  • Bitter. Still rehearsing hurts, vowing never to be hurt again.
  • Negative-lots of complaints but not many solutions.

Thankfully, there’s another kind of red-ribbon personality to be spotted at horse shows…

The red ribbon WINNING personality.

  • Grateful. Earning a few of life’s “pink ribbons” makes one savour the red ones!
  • Gracious. They assume the best about people until proven otherwise.
  • Curious. Interested in people and interested in the world. They ask questions. They remember names.
  • Volunteers! What would we do without horse show volunteers?

Sometimes, it takes the loss of something we take for granted before we realize what a blessing it really is. We learned this when the pandemic restrictions cancelled horse shows.

I had a fresh appreciation of the privilege it is to be a horse show judge. The restoration of horse shows and fairs brought fresh meaning to the Codes of Ethics signed by judges for AQHA and Equestrian Canada:

“Designation as an AQHA-approved Judge (EC licensed official) is a PRIVILEGE, not a right, bestowed by the Judges Committee to individuals whose equine expertise and personal character merit the honor.”

Grumpiness (complaining about everyday irks) turns to gratefulness with each little loss restored. 

Delays in a long horse show schedule? Waiting for a tardy entry to arrive in the class? Food booth runs out of coffee? Porta potty?   No problem –it’s a PRIVILEGE to be judging a horse show!

 “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. “
From the letter to the Corinthians, The Bible