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Define "work ethic"?

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  • Define "work ethic"?

    I would be very interested to read the opinions of others on what is a "work ethic" in a horse. How do you define "work ethic" and what do you expect of a horse with a "good" work ethic?
    I know it can be different with individual horses but give me a range of what you'd expect. Maybe relate your current mount to a previous one, or one you have ridden in the past for someone else, etc. Your trainer's horses. Horses in the barn you know; horses you lesson with, etc. All ages, all experiences.
    Feel free to examine this! Would love to read your thoughts.
    Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
    Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

  • #2
    OK--I'll give it a whirl. I think of it as horses that are willing to focus on their job despite what else is going on around them. They are tuned in and *trying* to figure out what you are asking them to do rather than making up reasons to not pay attention (omg, my buddy's at the trough . . . I need to watch him drink . . . I SO cannot shoulder-in right now)

    Also, horses that really try for you even when they are a little sore, or what you're asking is hard for them--instead of getting balky, they give it an honest try.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by slp2 View Post
      OK--I'll give it a whirl. I think of it as horses that are willing to focus on their job despite what else is going on around them. They are tuned in and *trying* to figure out what you are asking them to do rather than making up reasons to not pay attention (omg, my buddy's at the trough . . . I need to watch him drink . . . I SO cannot shoulder-in right now)
      My old mare was the exact opposite of everything you said here. I would definitely consider her to have a poor work ethic. Just let her plod along and she was fine (because you weren't actually asking anything of her lol), but the minute you asked her to collect and actually work, she would find any excuse possible to tune you out. She just didn't want to.

      Comment


      • #4
        A horse with a bad work ethic will put more effort into trying to evade or half-ass what you're asking than just doing it would take.

        I have a TB who will do every manner of avoiding a shoulder in until we're both working so hard its ridiculous. When he finally does it, its fine, but he just has to be combative.

        He will also quit if you give him half an "out" over fences. You must ride every stride.

        I have a arab/paint mare in training who will do ANYTHING to not "give" to the bit- sneeze, pull down to rub her face on her leg, stop and poop, throw a shoulder and all I want her to do is soften.

        My perchie cross mare has a good work ethic- when she doesn't understand something, she keeps trying something to do something, anything, until I say "good!" and thats that, she officially gets it. One time. Done.
        Big Idea Eventing

        Comment


        • #5
          Oh boy my idea is way different. For me work ethic means a horse who is eager to do a job. They are almost thinking ahead of you they are just so excited to do something. They try so hard and each ride they come out eager and don't get mad when you ask harder things out of them. Instead they try to figure out the hard things and make them easy. They are the the horses that are happy to see you pull at that halter and come towards them...not the horses running the other way
          http://www.benchmarksporthorses.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jleegriffith View Post
            Oh boy my idea is way different. For me work ethic means a horse who is eager to do a job. They are almost thinking ahead of you they are just so excited to do something. They try so hard and each ride they come out eager and don't get mad when you ask harder things out of them. Instead they try to figure out the hard things and make them easy. They are the the horses that are happy to see you pull at that halter and come towards them...not the horses running the other way
            This ^ no elaboration needed. perfect description
            bad decisions make good stories

            Comment


            • #7
              My current event horse has a great work ethic. It doesn't matter what time I ride her (rode her before work for a full season at 5am). At shows she is very focused when I am on her and not distracted by all the other horses, golf carts, noises etc.

              I can compare her to my first horse when I was a kid. He was an appy and a wonderful horse, but hated dressage and flat work. As he started to get a little older and more appy stubborn there were "better" times then others to ride him and god forbid you pulled a 4pm dressage ride. You might as well just put me in last place. He actually tried to lie down during a dressage test once. He was very particular if you rode him too early in the day (needed midmorning nap) and to late in the day (close to dinner time and his day was done). And you really didn't want the arguement if you tried to ride after dinner. On the other hand if you were jumping you could do that 24/7.

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree more with Jlee. I have several horses who goof around and act silly, but it is definitely more because they are happy and having fun rather than they are evading their work. The horses in our barn with good work ethics usually are the ones who get a little cranky a buddy is going out instead of them, comes out eager to go, and seems to truly enjoy being out and doing something.

                I do think some concessions need to be made, though. Vernon isn't a fan of dressage and will go to great lengths to get out of it. But he is still generally happy to come out and do something until he realizes it is dressage (we which we no longer make him do so he's happy all the time again).

                My favorite display of "work ethic" (don't know if that's the right word, though) is when the BFG throws full blown temper tantrums when he realizes we're packing for a show and HE'S NOT GOING. He did that a few times this fall. His stall's directly across from the tack room and he bitched and moaned and literally threw himself on the ground a few times. Banged on his door, rattled his buckets...NOT a happy camper. He likes going to the parties.
                Amanda

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have a very work-man-like horse Wonderful work ethic, but he does have an opinion. He is, IMO, a nice enough horse, responsive enough, where confusing signals can lead to a break-down. This is obviously a rider issue, he wants to please, not sure there's something I could ask him to do and he wouldn't do...a typical TB that just wants to work, work, work. They want to put 100% into everything they do; an intensity that is hard to verbalize.

                  The point is, some horses which are very work-man-like, can also be quite difficult. Usually, it's rider error sending mixed signals, but we all aren't all perfect riders, just something we can strive to be.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I look at it as a horse willing to try. A horse with a bad working ethic usually puts more effort into evasions than into the actual job required, IMHO. Some breeds, I think, have better work ethics than others, based on what they were bred for. My perch x morgan gelding, Miles, has "work horse" bred into both sides and he is definitely a WORKER. He is one of those horses that if you don't work him three times a week, at least, gets grumpy in the field and starts to bully his pasture mates. He will come running when you call him in the field.

                    My paint, Sam, also had a terrific work ethic. There is a complete absence of the word "no" in his vocabulary. He will try and try until he dies trying.

                    My current gelding, Oliver, didn't have such a great work ethic, being a bit lazy. he was also rather scared when you asked him something new, and would evade instead of trying due to fear. Now that we've gotten his trust, he will try and try and even get frustrated when he doesn't "get it", because he wants to please. Because of him, I think that a work ethic can be developed (not in all cases, just some).
                    "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

                    So, the Zen Buddhist says to the hotdog vendor, "Make me one with everything."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I've just put down the best work ethic I've ever seen. Before he retired here, he had the same owner from age 3. They went through the dressage ranks together, topping out happily having completed 4th level easily. He retired here at the age of about 23. When I moved here he was in residence and we rode him around the woods. We found that, although he was a bit creaky, his buttons were all still in place. He would do tempi changes across the fields during a hack if I only moved one leg 1/8 inch. I realized he wanted to keep working so he went to a therapeutic program down the road where my daughter was teaching. He worked there for 3 years. His vision was failing and although he was used in their program every day, it was becoming clear he really couldn't see well. He'd clunk his way through the trot poles the first time. 2nd time through he'd pick his feet carefully up and not touch a thing. He'd then do the exercise perfectly each time. When the poles were removed, he'd get to where they had been and pick up his feet carefully as to go through. He was always cheerful and did his work like a champion. He was always impossible to catch, however! He came home this past November, at Thanksgiving time, and developed a huge corneal ulcer. He got his meds, wore his eye patch, went to his small paddock turn out each day but it became very clear in a short time that 1. he was miserably painful, 2. was scared of every shadow, 3. was mortified that he couldn't DO what he thought he SHOULD do. After an agonizing 10 days watching him become more and more unhappy, I made the decision to let him go. He was a most extraordinary fellow with a true sense of ethics and responsibility. He always tried his very best even when he was blind and painful.
                      Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        This is an interesting question, and it's actually one I've been mulling over on my own recently.

                        I just bought a horse on Thanksgiving weekend. Prior to this, I believed work ethic was a horse who had "staying power", and could work on a skill or set of skills for a set amount of time - really only about an hour or hour and a half because that's the longest I would school. Sure, we'd take breaks, but the horse would be mentally capable of "working" for the amount of time I rode. I didn't discount if the horse had "opinions", or sometimes showed his feelings on a matter. As long as they didn't shut down or refuse, I figured the horse had good "work ethic".

                        This has changed though, with my new horse. I have loved all of the horses I've owned in the past, and love so many of the horses I rode and didn't own. I've never had a horse like this though. This horse wants to please 100% of the time. He really wants his opinion to be in alignment with mine, to the extent that he is incredibly forgiving of situations that would make similar horses (extremely green 5yo TBs) loose their cool. He only shows his "opinion" when he's confused or frustrated, and it's a very mild showing at that. The first opportunity he sees to really get back to work and progress, he takes it. He tries his very big heart out for his rider. I guess this is considered a kind horse, but that's my point - my new definition of work ethic includes a very positive attitude and kind disposition which then allows the horse to maximize every opportunity to learn and progress in a small space of time.

                        I've discovered that I have a horse who is like this, and the BIGGEST difference I see as a result is that professionals AND amateurs love him, and want to ride him. He satisfies the needs of both groups of riders, because he works to move forward and wants to please us all.

                        So, this is my new definition of what a good 'work ethic' is, because a work ethic involves more characteristics that encourage and allow the horse to maximize their opportunity to learn and work with humans.
                        Final Furlong Racehorse Retirement

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by RiverBendPol View Post
                          I've just put down the best work ethic I've ever seen. Before he retired here, he had the same owner from age 3. They went through the dressage ranks together, topping out happily having completed 4th level easily. He retired here at the age of about 23. When I moved here he was in residence and we rode him around the woods. We found that, although he was a bit creaky, his buttons were all still in place. He would do tempi changes across the fields during a hack if I only moved one leg 1/8 inch. I realized he wanted to keep working so he went to a therapeutic program down the road where my daughter was teaching. He worked there for 3 years. His vision was failing and although he was used in their program every day, it was becoming clear he really couldn't see well. He'd clunk his way through the trot poles the first time. 2nd time through he'd pick his feet carefully up and not touch a thing. He'd then do the exercise perfectly each time. When the poles were removed, he'd get to where they had been and pick up his feet carefully as to go through. He was always cheerful and did his work like a champion. He was always impossible to catch, however! He came home this past November, at Thanksgiving time, and developed a huge corneal ulcer. He got his meds, wore his eye patch, went to his small paddock turn out each day but it became very clear in a short time that 1. he was miserably painful, 2. was scared of every shadow, 3. was mortified that he couldn't DO what he thought he SHOULD do. After an agonizing 10 days watching him become more and more unhappy, I made the decision to let him go. He was a most extraordinary fellow with a true sense of ethics and responsibility. He always tried his very best even when he was blind and painful.
                          What a touching story, and what a grand horse he was. Thank you for honouring him as you did.
                          A Fine Romance. April 1991 - June 2016. Loved forever.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I've ridden a lot of horses, and 'work ethic' is something that's huge for me. It's easier to describe a horse with poor work ethic. I rode a draft cross for awhile that had a terrible work ethic. I would ask and he'd do it . . . for about two seconds, then he was slowing down and wimping out. Then you had to ask again. And again. And again. He had no interest in actually offering anything, you had to order everything and keep right on top of him. He was never naughty, one of the kindest horses I ever rode, but LAZY. As safe as he was, as much of a packer as he was, I ended up very frustrated with him and had to end the lease.

                            My current horse has a great work ethic, in my opinion. You ask her for something mentally challenging, and instead of exploding, she'll offer what she thinks you want. She'll start to wind up if she just doesn't get it, but it's because she tries too hard and offers too much. Even when it's the end of the lesson and she's getting mentally tired, and you can tell, she'll still try for you. She'll flip her head when she's frustrated or pull a TB and try to get quick rather than sit on her hocks, but she takes her corrections as what they are and keeps on trying.

                            I guess that's the best term I have for work ethic. Do they actually try to figure out what you want, and try to do it for you, or do you have to be spot on and manage every step?
                            http://thoughtfulequestrian.blogspot.com - My Ventures Into Eventing

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Interesting question. My Gully will pull this lazy-ass stuff with me sometimes; when we're doing trot sets he'll act like he's about to lay down and die--I've finally realized that it's an ACT and that I have to push him through it at least a little or we'll never get anywhere. Likewise if we take a break while schooling dressage, he can't believe we're not done, can't believe I'm asking him to work again. Sometimes in showjumping he gets too careful/lazy and I've learned to I have to keep right on him. But cross country he is all about try. If we screw up it's manifestly my fault, because he is always working to figure things out. I've been in the middle of a round before and had him turn and see the flags on a jump before I did, and head straight for them--a great feeling. Because of this (and because when he misbehaves it's in a foot-dragging, can't-make-me kind of way, which never gets me hurt) he's a great horse for me.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Fractious Fox View Post
                                This is an interesting question, and it's actually one I've been mulling over on my own recently.

                                I just bought a horse on Thanksgiving weekend. Prior to this, I believed work ethic was a horse who had "staying power", and could work on a skill or set of skills for a set amount of time - really only about an hour or hour and a half because that's the longest I would school. Sure, we'd take breaks, but the horse would be mentally capable of "working" for the amount of time I rode. I didn't discount if the horse had "opinions", or sometimes showed his feelings on a matter. As long as they didn't shut down or refuse, I figured the horse had good "work ethic".

                                This has changed though, with my new horse. I have loved all of the horses I've owned in the past, and love so many of the horses I rode and didn't own. I've never had a horse like this though. This horse wants to please 100% of the time. He really wants his opinion to be in alignment with mine, to the extent that he is incredibly forgiving of situations that would make similar horses (extremely green 5yo TBs) loose their cool. He only shows his "opinion" when he's confused or frustrated, and it's a very mild showing at that. The first opportunity he sees to really get back to work and progress, he takes it. He tries his very big heart out for his rider. I guess this is considered a kind horse, but that's my point - my new definition of work ethic includes a very positive attitude and kind disposition which then allows the horse to maximize every opportunity to learn and progress in a small space of time.

                                I've discovered that I have a horse who is like this, and the BIGGEST difference I see as a result is that professionals AND amateurs love him, and want to ride him. He satisfies the needs of both groups of riders, because he works to move forward and wants to please us all.

                                So, this is my new definition of what a good 'work ethic' is, because a work ethic involves more characteristics that encourage and allow the horse to maximize their opportunity to learn and work with humans.
                                Sounds like my TB. When I saw him I thought he was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. What sold me on him, though, was that he had a bad curling habit, and I asked him to go forward into my hands at a walk our first ride. He tried trotting, he tried just walking faster, then he gave me this tentative little stretch forward in his neck. When I told him he was good, he continued to do that every time I asked.

                                I have to be careful when I tell my horse he's good, because if I do, he will repeat that action EVERY TIME he has the chance. He has recently learned he can reach his halter, so when I get within sight of his stall he now grabs it and holds it out to me like "hey, mom, let's go!" I don't bridle him - I let him put the bridle on. As soon as I have it straight, or if he can get to it before I do, he puts the bit in his mouth. If I don't ride hard enough, he refuses to let me take it out. He makes it VERY clear that he wants to work, and he makes it very clear when I'm riding that he wants to work in a way that I find is correct. It's a gift to ride a horse who is so willing and tries so hard.

                                Now, that's not saying he's always attentive or never goofy. He's a high energy TB, and he needs regular turnout. If he hasn't had the chance to run lately, our rides involve spooks every few minutes. That's not a lack of work ethic, though, that's an inability to control his energy at times. I think that energy is why he loves working so much, though, so I learn to handle it. It seems very little for me to give in return for the hard work he wants to put in every day.
                                Originally posted by Silverbridge
                                If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  To me, it's a horse who is willing to try and keeps working, no attitude.

                                  I specifically went searching for that, and now also look for that in my resales-- it is the MOST important trait a horse can have, IMO.

                                  My gelding will work all day. He's open to learning new stuff. He actually does better, and seems happier, with the more "busy work".
                                  I love that about him. It makes up for all his diva-ness and distracted-ness.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Kewl stories! More?
                                    Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                                    Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      A horse who is willing to give it a try without even a fleeting thought of how to get out of it, has good work ethic. A horse who puts more effort into getting out of what you're asking, than the amount of effort it would take to do it, has bad work ethic. I don't think a bond with the horse should play any factor in defining good work ethic. A horse with good work ethic will try for 'mom' or for someone is doesn't even know.

                                      My Intermediate guy has the best work ethic I've ever seen in a horse. Most my coaches throughout the (almost) 10 years I've had him call him a 'trooper.' He's actually very difficult to tell when he's sore, tired, or downright in pain - he pushes through everything to get the job done. When I was younger, naive, and listened to everything my coach told me, I evented him through a Kentucky drought, trying to get qualifiers for a CCI*. It was like eventing on pavement. At one event, we went out XC and he kept wacking the jumps with his forelegs - VERY unlike him, he was extremely careful back then. I was garunteed a clear SJ round, no matter how pathetically I rode! I tried putting him deeper to the fences, holding him off a bit, everything I could think of. It didn't cross my mind to retire until he hit a fence so hard, I got thrown off. When we got home, my coach insisted that he was being lazy and began throwing him over bigger fences. He started quitting - again, very unlike him. Coach insisted he was being bad. Weeks later, I finally clued in and got the vet out. I learned two valuable lessons that season: Don't be afraid to retire and LISTEN to your HORSE before your coach! Turns out his front coffin joints were so inflamed, he got injections for the pain and had the next 8 weeks off. He got pads, rockers, and pour in pads. He still wears the rocker throughout the year and pads in the summer, as precaution. He never had a lame day and never quit at a fence until my coach got rough with him. It's still difficult for me to think about how stupid and selfish I was - I can't believe how ignorant I was. I will never take advantage of a horse like that again and it brings tears to my eyes to think of what an incredible horse I have. He's taught me more about horsemanship and life than every coach put together.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        My current horse(TB mare) has a good work ethic. She likes to do stuff. She had been off for an injury for about 6 months. I had planned to give her off until spring, but she started acting ugly to me and the barn staff.She was totally bored. She is moving sound,so I pulled her fanny out of the pasture and started to rehab her. The first day I tacked her up and walked her to the mounting block, she stood perfectly still. She walked around on a loose rein. It was like she had never been off for 6 months. She is willing to try anything I want to do. This mare puts up with dabbling in dressage, continuing some hunter lessons, team penning, parades, camping, foxhunting, games days.

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