With the yucky weather last week I didn’t do much riding. Sometimes it is nice not to have to do anything for a change. There has been a lot of change going on at the farm with horses coming in and out. I am back down to two CANTER horses Sea Flip and Escape by Sea.
Has anybody else been experiencing the change in behavior as the weather has changed to much colder?? Oh boy that is always fun! Last Monday, I was up in Pa with my horse and Bella went along for the trip for some people to look at her. I sometimes think people have different expectations than I do of horses.
It was the first really cold day about 40 degrees and windy. I trailer up early in the morning. Bella had to stand on the trailer while I took my lesson and then I unloaded her and loaded up my horse. My horse gets all gooey eyes over mares and screamed and screamed for her making quite an interesting environment. I took her in the outdoor and she was quite high on life but you know what she is a 3 yr that has very little training under her on her 3rd trip off the farm ever in some really stressful conditions. Our first ten minutes of riding was like riding a horse that wanted to be silly but was doing her best to keep it all in. When I picked up the canter she wanted to go so I did a very strong transition back to the halt to let her know in no uncertain terms she had to listen. Circles and transitions keeping her working in a frame and getting her back relaxed and she returned to her normal self. I jumped some x-rails and a scary box all of which she did a nice job with.
What frustrated me was the reaction of the buyers who basically made the comment that I was holding her to tight. Now can someone tell me how it is possible to take a horse that basically wants to blow and ride on a soft and loopy rein because I am not that kind of a miracle work and if you take a very green 3 yr and just throw away the contact and say fend for yourself you are likely not teaching them a single thing. I do take up a contact but I ride them forward into the contact so I am not just cranking down the head with nothing coming from the hind end. I don’t ask them to come into a major frame just soften a bit and with Bella she likes to come on the bit without the rider needing to do a thing. I use a lot of circles and changes of direction to keep their mind on the job and to get them to focus.
There were many negative things said about my style of riding. I walked away from day a bit frustrated because it is stressful enough to ride in front of other people and getting your riding picked apart doesn’t improve the experience. Riding green horses is not always about looking pretty and you tend to develop a lot of bad habits but I work super hard and being the best rider I can be. I work a full-time job in addition to trying to ride a few horses everyday so I never claim to be perfect. I am very aware of my flaws but I am also confident in my ability to produce a horse with really good basics. I make sure I lesson with the best of the best across disciplines and I am not the type of rider that wants my hand held or someone to tell me nice things. Quite the opposite actually!
I really got a case of the blah’s for the rest of that week beating myself up about my riding but I have to focus on the positive and there are so many positives when you make yourself step back.
Right now I am having the best rides on my personal horse. One of the most rewarding things for me is to fix a horse that was severely messed up. My horse came back from a training/sales barn this time last year with major issues. He is a lovely 5 yr old/tb who is just so extremely sensitive. I have no clue what happened while at the sales barn but he came back physically and mentally fried. I was told there was nothing wrong with him but physically he arrived back home sore. The other things weren’t apparent until I started riding him again. Fixing him has been a long road of trial and error that keeps teaching me to be a better rider every step of the way.
The horse who returned like an inverted giraffe who was terrified of contact is now as soft as puddy and so rideable it amazes me. The horse who jumped in the shape of U (seriously..it was the worst thing I had seen) now jumps round and has gained tons of confidence. The horse who stopped at simple x-rails is now jumping 3ft like it is a walk in the park. Each time I ride him I get off with a smile and sometimes I look at him and just can’t believe it is the same horse. It has been a long journey with him but one that has given me faith in my training program. I am really thankful for all the great help I have received along the way from great trainers. Each time you think you know something you realize you always have so much more to learn. This horse helped me to add a few more tools into the toolbox.
I have started to ride Sea Flip again am going to get him in a steady program now. We are about to start losing daylight and I have three horses that I am riding so I need to write down a schedule for them. If I am really quick I can get two ridden M-F and then all of them on the weekends. Sea Flip is such a good boy although very much a 3yr. He has the typical weak hind end that I see on many of these racehorse that have been let down and lost their muscle. I am working on getting him to stretch into the contact and go forward. One thing I am going to try tonight is the HSprenger duo bit which is really soft and flexible. similar to a nathe bit and great for teaching them to hold onto something. I believe it is really important to teach them about contact from the beginning although I know other people disagree. I am not worried about a frame but they have to trust your hand and be willing to go forward to it. You have to find a bit they feel comfortable going forward into. We have moments of great work and other moments where he is going as slow as a western jog with his head straight in the arm going you can’t make me go forward. You have to deal with this because what happens when you have lack of forward and a really tight and tense horse??? Let’s just say it isn’t pretty. I don’t go off the farm until I have forward..we don’t jump until we have forward..and so on. His reaction to anything he doesn’t want to do is slowing down so I have to work to teach him to think and go forward at the same time. It is also not just forward with the head in the air because that still gets you into trouble because they don’t trust the contact so if you get in trouble and they start acting up and you touch their mouth and the go OMG ahhh don’t touch me you will have other problems to deal with that can result in misbehavior.
Bella (escape by sea) came with forward and understanding of the contact already installed. Others do not. One of the biggest misconceptions about racehorses is that they are really forward and hot. Sometimes they are only this way when they want to be but the rest of the time they have no concept of what leg means or how to go forward in the trot. Cantering always seems easy but many just plain don’t learn now to trot at the track. I am looking forward to the journey with Sea Flip. He has so much talent so it will be my job to install all the right basics so that talent has a chance to emerge.