Thursday, December 8, 2011

Horses, Courses, Success

Yesterday I rode two horses. Both of them are animals I've worked with before, but I had never ridden them back to back, one after the other.

It really highlighted just how different the two of them are.

G is a fifteen hand Quarter Horse who is dangerously close to what people in the horse world refer to as a 'tank'. He is short-coupled, compact, and holds a lot of power in his frame. His pedigree is a laundry list of some of the most familiar names in the ranch horse breeding world - Wimpy, Three Bars, Joe Hancock, Poco Bueno, King... He's close to being smarter than I am and an extremely dominant animal who wants to be top of the heap. Almost every time a new person gets on him, he tests their mettle by trying to slam them into the arena wall. His other favorite trick is to literally fling himself into the center of the arena. He even bucked me off once. But he has never been lame in his life, to my knowledge, and everyone who can handle him loves him.

Bo is about sixteen two and is believed to be a Thoroughbred. He has no racing tattoo and his past is somewhat murky, but he looks and moves like a Thoroughbred. This means he is long in all dimensions...long legs, long back, long neck, long stride. He's not quite as knife-blade narrow as many American TBs, but he's close. Being a Thoroughbred, he is often eager to go, especially on a cold day, although he also has his moments of not wanting to work. Also, like many Thoroughbreds, he spends much of his time rummaging around for a second braincell. Sorry, Bo, but it's true. But he's willing, and the worst thing he does is let you know that he doesn't understand or get what you want (he's still in training, so this happens fairly often) by just stopping and standing there until you explain it again.

Truth is, if you asked me which of the two I wanted to ride, I would be looking around for a coin. If you asked me which was the better horse? I couldn't give you an answer.

If you told me I could have one of them tomorrow...I would take Bo.

Why? I love and adore G, but he does not belong in an English barn jumping fences and trying to do dressage. He lacks the longitudinal flexibility needed to be a good English horse and really wants something to herd...he's tried to herd the barn swallows and even the barn CAT (somebody needs to tell him about herding cats...) He's a tough-minded, ranch-bred horse who would be absolutely great if I wanted something to ride across the plains or chase cows.

Bo, on the other hand, has elasticity, he has the ability to 'float' in his action. He can do dressage and I rather suspect that when we start teaching him to jump he'll be pretty good at it. He's not the better horse, but he's the better horse for the job.

Relevance to writing? There's no sense submitting to the best publisher in the world if they aren't the right publisher for the job. Do they do your genre? Do they treat their existing authors the way you want to be treated...is the editorial style right? Would you honestly be better off with a small press or even going it alone?

Those are all things we need to think about when we're deciding which 'horse' is right for our personal 'course'.