Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nice horses don't always just come that way.

This is a rant, mixed with a message. Just venting my feelings here.

So many people compliment my horse. They admire his calm demeanor under saddle and his gentlemanly manners.

And I say "thank you". (This is the reason I bought him, because I saw these things, too.)

But I have this feeling that what others perceive is taken for granted. As if I just bought a horse that is like this and I don't actually do anything to make this horse this way.

I bought him because he has the potential to be a very nice horse. But that doesn't mean he'd be a nice horse for just ANYBODY. (As those of you who have read his back story would know.)

I work very hard in my training of Joey to ensure that he always is successful in his desire to please, even if he doesn't get it right. When I first got him, he couldn't stay at the canter without breaking stride. He had a hard time picking up the correct lead and was very unbalanced at the trot. Forget about asking for a flying change. He also was extremely uncomfortable with any use of a crop or dressage whip. And he loves to jump over things.

In short, he was a green, saddle broke horse with a good start who wanted to be a good boy but also went through a rough patch. That's it.

Two years later and in no rush on my part, Joey is balanced on a circle at the trot and canter. He will keep his canter for as many laps around the ring as I want (but it requires a strong seat and leg to ask him to do so as he is a pretty laid back kind of guy). We are getting very good at flying changes, especially from his right lead to his left but it's still a work in progress. He'll simple change with one trot step in between from his left to his right - I need to ask a little more directly now since he's got the idea, just gets a little lazy with the back end. He will back easily, leg yield, turn on the haunches or forehand in either direction and he's good about picking up the correct lead every time he's asked. He also is still brave to any jump and will always do his best to get you to the other side, sometimes he's not pretty about it but he's actually quite effective and never gets strong before or after the jump.

I didn't pick him out because he could do all this. I helped him learn all this. I didn't just figure out a horse that already had the knowledge from someone else. I helped him learn what I already knew, and in the process he has taught me how to ask him to do these things.

This is horse training.

I don't always see a lot of horse training. I see a lot of people buying a well broke horse through someone else's work and adopting it as their own skill. If you know less than the horse, the horse is training you not the other way around.

I guess my horse looks like a horse anyone could ride. I'd certainly like it if he was a good boy and secure enough in his training at this point that another rider, even with less skill than me, could safely ride him.
But I don't ever want anyone to underestimate him or scare him ever again.

I guess my point is, never assume based on what you see.


English Rider said...

People used to tell me how "lucky" I was that I had a pleasant and well behaved daughter. I also used to thank them, but I'd be thinking about all the care and guidance I'd put into those results.
You know what you've achieved. Some of us know how hard you must have worked. Some wouldn't get it if you drew them a picture, so their opinion doesn't have much value anyway. Does it?

Kate said...

A horse training rant in response to your own:

I've always had green horses... from the day I stepped off of lesson ponies, I've only ridden one horse consistently that had more training than I did, and that lasted about 1.5 months before I was back in the position of trainer. In my opinion, the hallmark of a good horse is ride-ability. Some people seem to brag about what a challenge their horse is to ride, but to me that just screams bad training. So as a trainer, I strive to produce horses that anyone can ride. However, a reality that I've had to accept with my mare is that not just anyone CAN ride her. She's very sensible, has feather light aids (borderline too light on occasion...) smart, well balanced, and has all the basics and then some. But she's got an opinion, and by nature she likes to be the alpha mare. So while my coach has hopped on her and had her half-passing across the ring in minutes, I have friends (very successful riders who have produced horses through prelim) who won't ride her. For a while, the fact that I couldn't just pop people on her really bothered me. She's well trained & sensible, why shouldn't I have others sit on her? But the truth is that she's a very sensitive and yet dominant mare, and I'm not willing to alter that/train it out of her just so that I can stick people on her back. She goes very well for me, and on the occasion that another (carefully selected) person like my coach rides her she'll behave quite well for them. but I've had to accept that I can't put just anybody on her back, and for the most part I'm okay with that. I've realized that she just takes a little more finesse than your average horse, & its not the product of bad training- if you give the correct aid, you get the correct response- but rather one of the idiosyncrasies that comes with owning my special little mare.

Jean said...

Very well put. A horse is only as good as his training.

It's clear you've done right by Joey, and he, in turn, is repaying you by reaching his potential to be a good horse.

It's great to read of all your successes. You certainly deserve them, and so does Joey.

Promise said...

I am with you on this...and I ran into this problem with Promise, as well. Plus, there is a difference between making it look easy because you have a great partnership and know your horse...and it actually being easy. There is also a difference between your relationship with your horse and someone else's.

Some horses will do anything for anybody. Joey isn't one of those horses...neither was Promise. He'll jump the moon for you, but I bet he'd throw someone else over the moon for asking. :)

HopeMom1 said...

Loved this. Starting to ride at 60 - and after 3 yr of weekly lessons, bought a very very green and very big horse - nicknamed "Joey" at the barn we bought him from. My trainer only agreed because of his temperament. Your story reminds me of ….us! He was definitely not what I went looking for (elegant, well trained)- but he tries to please, is very self confident, gives me frequent laughs and he takes care of me when I ride. It has not been easy (we still struggle with cantering, lotta transitions
) but the rewards on the days when we trail ride and both of us feel beyond awesome truly IS awesome. Gotta feel sorry for those who never get to know how magnificent horses are and what the relationship is like. It is also just like being a parent- "good kids don't just happen" - nor do good horses.