Though Moe and Gina are the same breed (Thoroughbred), they’re very different horses. Physically, they look nothing alike. Gina is about 16.1 hands with an average build. She’s well put together and her regal appearance supports her noble lineage. Moe is a runty 15.3 on a good day, with a host of conformation faults that make him look as if his parents were a camel and a donkey. He’s extremely narrow, which makes riding him feel a lot like riding a 2×4.
Some of this can be attributed to breeding: Gina’s ancestors are all of the heavier-boned, big Thoroughbred variety (Mr. Prospector, Affirmed), while Moe is linebred to Turn To. (His breeder’s plan surely backfired.) Some of their differences are the result of training and life experiences. Gina has bounced around from broodmare to hunter to jumper to dressage/eventing and had numerous owners; Moe went from the track to a trainer to me and has been an eventer since his failed career in racing.
I alternate between the two of them throughout the week when I don’t have a competition coming up. It’s harder than it seems!
Gina is basically the easiest dressage horse, ever. Small children and competent beginners can make her look good. She accepts the contact quietly, stays steady in it, and maintains a good rhythm in whatever gait she is in. Her lateral work is fine. She always scores pretty well because she’s flashy and fancy. Riding Gina has completely changed my opinion of dressage: now it’s something fun and challenging in its own right, rather than something to be suffered through.
Moe, on the other hand, is a hot mess in the sandbox, and has been for the last decade. He is tense and evades contact by inverting his neck and doing his best impression of a deranged llama. When he isn’t trotting sluggishly, he is flailing wildly. He leaps into the canter. Halts typically occur somewhere in the neighborhood of G instead of X. He’s so narrow that I have trouble getting my leg on him in a dressage saddle; recent dressage work reminds me of why I used to wear spurs in dressage.
Moe makes up for every dressage failing by being the world’s gamest jumper. I don’t know why he’s so enthusiastic about jumping- he came to me that way. He is, for the most part, completely fearless. He will occasionally look to me for reassurance, but typically approaches jumps out of a headlong, wildly exuberant gallop that is more suited to Rolex than Novice-level events. Moe jumps everything: picnic tables, drainage pipes, Christmas trees, the hood of a car, regular old verticals. He’s endlessly forgiving of his rider’s faults, too- you don’t have to have any real skill to get over fences with him, you just have to hold on. On the down side, Moe’s preferred method of jumping involves leaving very, very long which leads him to sometimes knock rails.
Gina is basically the opposite of Moe. She is a careful, neat jumper- when you can persuade her to do so. She is much better over natural obstacles than show jumping fences. She’ll gleefully fly over big coops on the hunter pace, but have a total meltdown over an 18″ cross rail in the arena. She’s much more adjustable than Moe, which means that when she deigns to bail her rider out, she picks better spots. That isn’t often, though. Gina is an unforgiving horse who requires decent riding to jump. She also requires lots of encouragement in the form of verbal praise and neck scratches or rubs.
Both horses are surprisingly pleasant to hack. They go out alone without fuss, never whinny for their stablemates, and don’t become especially anxious. They’re also pretty good in groups, although Moe is a real pain in the ass to stop once he gets going in a group. (This is why Moe does not go to hunter paces.) It’s been fun to hack them down the roads near the barn, because it really highlights some of their differences. Gina is terrified of trash cans, mailboxes, loud rattling trailers whizzing by, and changes in pavement color (like between a driveway and the road). Moe is unfazed by all of these things, but completely loses his shit when he sees a neighboring miniature donkey. Gina’s spooks are explosive and sideways, while Moe halts dead in his tracks or backs away from the object of his fear.
I like riding both, and I know they both make me a better rider! It’s easy to say Moe is my favorite, because I’ve had him a very long time and I’m very comfortable on him. Truthfully, though, my favorite depends on the activity; dressage on Moe is a level of self-torture I am not a huge fan of!