They get a bad rap sometimes, but we should all be thanking the push-button horses in our lives.
Whether a lesson horse or a fancy show horse, the term "push-button" is used to describe a type of willing equine that simply does what is asked of it, as if at the push of a button. This sounds like a good thing, but somehow the term has come to have a somewhat negative connotation, thrown around haughtily by riders that like to consider their mounts tougher, harder, and requiring more skill.
Despite the negativity that sometimes surrounds these horses, push-button horses definitely deserve your thanks. Here are five of the reasons why.
They make great teachers.
When you're first learning to ride or learning a new skill, you could learn on a difficult horse, but you'll probably be sorry you did. Teaching, however, is where push-button horses really shine.
Push-button horses are so named because, like a machine, if you hit the right button (think: give the right cue) they have the correct reaction, every time. This reinforces that the rider has done things correctly, and teaches the rider what a task is supposed to feel like, thus preparing them for more challenging horses in the future.
The bottom line? It's hard to achieve a collected canter if you've never felt one. Push-button horses are kind enough to allow you to feel it.
They give you confidence.
Push-button horses allow you to rise up the ranks quickly. Even as a relative newbie, new gaits, maneuvers like lead changes, rein backs and half-halts, and even A-rated horse shows seem within your grasp when riding a push-button horse.
These horses make you look good, and therefore give you confidence in yourself and your abilities. A healthy level of confidence is vital as you go on to tackle more difficult horses, and it all begins with your push-button horse.
They let you experience the beauty of partnership.
One of the most beautiful things about riding horses is becoming one with another sentient being; a horse that doesn't have to do your bidding, but chooses to because you're partners.
Difficult horses never really let you get there, or if they do, the moment never lasts long. You often feel like you're fighting them, not partnering with them, because their fear or their egos get in the way.
Push-button horses, however, are more than happy to be your partner, and let you experience the beauty that comes when a 1,200-pounds animal willing puts its trust completely in your hands.
They are enjoyable to ride.
You may have dedicated your life to figuring out that one super difficult horse, but be honest: aren't there days when you long to just hop on a horse and enjoy the ride instead of coaxing and fighting your way around the ring?
Push-button horses give their riders this gift constantly trotting, cantering, halting, pivoting, jumping, sliding, and spinning on command, in every ring, in every kind of weather, every day.
There is an amazing feeling that comes when you know that you can put your horse in any spot in the ring, and they will go there without question...when you know your horse will trot through fire for you. Push-button horses supply this daily, and they are happy to do so.
They help you achieve your dreams.
Achieving a high level of show ring success takes a lot of rider skill on any horse, even a push-button one, but push-button horses are especially known for carrying their riders to victory because they are so consistently good. It's not just that they perform what is asked of them when their buttons are pushed, it's that they don't do anything else.
Unlike the difficult horse, who might explode at any moment because a person is wearing a pink sweater in the stands, push-button horses seem as focused and as committed to the competition as their riders are. For riders that dream of winning a World or National Championship competition, a push-button horse is often the one to carry them there.
Push-button horses are partners in competition and in life, constantly working to bring us to the level of our dreams. In a world where nothing seems certain, push-button horses are horses you can count on, and for that they will always deserve our thanks.