All is quiet in the world of CANTER horses so I’m going to talk a bit about the thought process that goes into how I chose horses. My client had asked me to keep an eye out for a horse for her. I was to retrain it and later on we would sell it. I tend to look for the type of horse that anybody can ride. Yes, they need to be talented but they have to be sound, pretty, have a good mind and be amateur friendly.
We had started the CANTER program at Delaware Park and were making the rounds. One of my favorite trainers tells me she has a really quiet 3 yr who is super smart and friendly. He was all tacked up to go out to the racetrack but when brought out for pictures he was falling asleep!
He started to run better and was off the market. Later in the winter she called and said he was available again and that is when my client had asked me to find her something. I went over to look at him and he was very racing fit but quiet, sound and seemed like the right type.
He passed an extensive vetting and settled in nicely. His first ride was an off the farm trip to my mom’s farm (our footing was to slick for 1st rides!). He so relaxed it was kind of freaking me out. Both my mom and I rode him and he was in the ring with other horses just going around doing his job. Cool!
He had continued to be this quiet each and every place he went. We had started trail riding, going for lessons and introducing some poles and the concept of contact. About two months into his retraining someone wanted to come see him on recommendation of my vet who said he was quite lovely. This person was not at all impressed and said they wouldn’t take him even if he was free. His conformation wasn’t perfect, didn’t canter well enough and just not a good enough mover. Not to mention he really hadn’t jumped at that point so when I tried to trot poles and x-rails he was like WHAT the heck. I laughed it off because I’m a believer that you have to have the vision when it comes to green horses. What you see at the moment is not what you are going to have a few months from that point.
It was pretty funny because he only had one speed at the canter which was more or less a gallop. If you touched the reins he stopped so it was quite the experience. His jumping form was pretty darn ugly. Can you say holy hanging knees?
The good thing was that he learned super super fast and he was dead honest and brave. He might not have been jumping pretty but he sure as heck was trying anything you asked of him. His flatwork improved every single ride and his balance started to change. When they aren’t real good over the poles in the ring I find it very important to find some solid obstacles so we just start going x-c.
He learned to push off a bit better and slowly but surely the big picture was starting to come together. I was taking him various places to school new jumps and he was always excited with his ears up and looking for the next fence.
He went to his first event and was so quiet in the crazy warmup that again I was a bit amazed. He put in a good test for his first time ever inside a dressage ring. He even got the right lead.. a bit late but hey we got it 🙂 Now going to x-c he had to go through the water which he is simply not a fan of and he didn’t wanna. I waited for someone to come by and he got right on their butt and went which was good. He was a bit overwhelmed which in some ways was unexpected because he had always been foot perfect but the atmosphere at fairhill is so busy. He had one refusal in stadium because he was convinced he was going to die if he went all alone down the scary hill. Overall, I was thrilled with stadium. He loved x-c so I figured this will be fun but a tad bit nervous because the intro course looked like BN and was highly decorated with straw spread in front of 1/2 of the fences. Wasn’t I a bit suprised when he pulled the I don’t wanna move for the first 2 fences 🙂 We had a lot of protest and I had to give him a bit of a spanking but then we got going and he was jumping the heck out of everything and galloping off looking for that next fence. Wouldn’t you know he jumped all the bigger scarier stuff the best.
He got a bit of time to relax after the show and then for the next 2 x-c schooling I practiced going away from the crowd and he quickly realized it was no big deal.
This weekend we headed down to Va to meet up with his owner who was getting to see him go for the first time. He trailered down quietly and walked into his stall like he owned it. A few hours later we threw him back on the trailer to go school some x-c. The best thing about his horse is that he is just so darn sensible. He is 4yrs old and acts like he has already seen it all. He is never nervous or silly and doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything. Another rider was galloping around just flying past Mobster and he was totally chill like he didn’t even know it was happening.
We hadn’t cantered many fences yet but it was as good as time as any so off we went.
Then she told me to go canter up the hill and jump the one with the big bed under it. I was so thrilled with how brave he was there never even peeking as he jumped the log with the big wide flower bed under it.
He gave it more room on they way back down
We cantered straight down the hill and I was going OMG as he flew down quite out of balance. A couple alternating rein lifts got the balance up a bit and he had a good jump.
We then were supposed to canter a coop to a red box on a related distance which was a big question for him. The first time we were long to the first and really long to the second. Looked a bit like this 🙂
She wanted me to come down and not help him just let him pat the ground with his feet and put in a shuffle step if needed. Hardest thing to do is not help them but of course it’s absolutely the right thing to do and resulted in a much shorter distance.
He is not fond of putting his feet into things that may be questionable so the water causes him a bit of anxiety. He didn’t want to go and he does a little spin move left which is really not a big deal. I only give him the right turn as an answer. She really wanted me to loop the reins and just let him go down on the buckle so he didn’t feel any reason to think I was holding him back making is scarier. Look at his face jumping this log going into the water. Hilarious!
We ended with that and made a plan to go school another water the next day. Poor guy as super tired but once again came out like a superstar! We worked in the ring first using the fence and a bit of counterbend into the fence to produce a right lead canter. Then just canter off the fence on the diagonal to the x-rail and keep turning to stay on the right lead.
She wanted this done on a long rein to make his neck longer and for him to get used to balancing himself. I have to make the canter bigger and more forward thinking before collecting it. He was so good about cantering on the diagonal basically with a huge loop in the rein. We met the fence on all sorts of distances and he just worked it out so nicely.
The story of the flatwork was more right bend..and even more right bend.
We walked down to the water jump and for the first time we had no spinning away. He stood quietly and took a look and then walked right in! What a good smart boy.
It is always nice when a horse shows off for his owner 🙂 I have been in serious love with him from the day I bought him simply because he tries so hard. This weekend he was loaded and unloaded and 3 different farms and was so relaxed and happy about the whole process. He gets better with each ride and he just tries so hard to do what you are asking of him. Not to mention he has to be the sweetest horse. He would curl up in your lap if he could!
I am always nervous when I pick out horses for other people especially when they have never even seen the horse and just buy it on my word. It is exciting to see him living up to his potential. He is the ultimate ammy horse but I will continue to take my time and introduce everything the right way. It’s easy to just start jumping bigger and bigger because they are that honest and brave but I want him to be happy and comfortable in his work. It is my job to build his confidence with each experience and so far that has been the case.
I was in a constant state of awe this weekend at the amazing countryside. Her farm in Delplane but all around. Absolutely incredible horse farms and almost every farm had coops in every field for the hunt to jump in and out. The barns, rings and x-c courses were breath-taking. What an awesome weekend it was!