Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Adding More

 I’d like to say it’s that I always seem to have a young horse. A young mare, usually. Sometimes even a chestnut one, or pony one. But really, it’s just me.

I do this every single time, and I never learn:

Me, first few months under saddle: “You are the smartest, bestest horse. You’re so special!” “It’s OK, I felt you try a little there” “Here, let me help you more with that” 

Is best pony


“Actually, I’m gonna need you to listen the first time I ask.” “I know you know this” “Seriously, I mean it!”

And, things get ugly for a little while, because how dare I change the rules. Pony KNOWS her job, thank you, and what I am asking is certainly not part of the job description. “But we just toodle  around and have fun!” they insist.

“What is even happening?!”

After last weekend’s lesson where I was kindly reminded babying them now and changing the rules later doesn’t do anyone any favours, I’ve been trying to be more clear and concise in my expectations...a lot less happy, fuzzy, “close enough” thinking, a bit more insistence and follow up when the response is lacking.

Sophie is not impressed. I’m not impressed with myself either. I would have done well to go back and revisit all the things she does know, and tuned it up a little first. Instead, I got all hung ho about adding our “homework” into the mix plus insisting on things like sharper transitions. 

This week’s can of worms I’ve created: 

Objective: pony can learn to find balance more consistently in trot and through transitions. (Walk is solid, trot is an opportunity to fall in and out and giraffe and check out our surroundings)

Working on being straight again...I’m all talk tho, look at me trying to “help”her and not carrying my hands in any of these pictures

Results: I temporarily broke the forward button completely, because obviously if I am touching her mouth she cannot move forward. Forward has been restored somewhat, but now straightness is completely lost, because she’s probably wondering why moving forward at her leisure is no longer the entire piece of the puzzle and:

Objective: add in some leg yield in trot to better prepare canter.

Result: my legs now mean sideways, move haunches, move shoulders, but she’s pretty sure they do not ever mean just go forward.

All in all, normal baby horse things, and lots of good moments by the end of the rides. I think breaking it down further on the longe with some loose side reins will remind her she knows how. 

This is nicer

I’m not too fussed that we’ve slid back a little, that’s normal! Sophie is a lovely, smart, pony, so of course she tries to figure out what I want. I just really wish I had been better about keeping expectations consistent from the start so we could avoid some of this week’s confusion and have that safe space to revisit on tough days.



  1. Training progress is never linear lol

    1. True! I feel like some of my show barn mates get relatively linear results, where as my results graph would look more like a ball of yarn :D

  2. Funny you should post this today. After working my young horse on the ground I was questioning if I am expecting too much from him. Good to have the reminder about being firm when something is well understood by the horse and setting the tone for the future training. So hard to find the balance!

    1. I suspect a lot of us are way too forgiving. I am, for sure.

  3. I do exactly the same even without baby horse things. I make things really easy because she's good, then I insist on more work and she gets her feelings hurt.

    1. “She gets her feelings hurt” is a perfect description. Strangely, Sophie came out a couple of days later and was super...almost like she totally understood what I wanted all along, lol

  4. Don’t feel bad I’ve babied Carmen for years! She’s not so thrilled with me either. One thing I’ve been doing with her Kate,t to cut through the tension is:
    Halt, ask for softness in contact, repeat a few times until it’s good. Then ask her to walk softly into that contact. If her head comes up we stop, repeat then walk to trot. It really breaks it down for her.

    1. Thank you. I read this a few days ago and it was the perfect way to get the point across while keeping the excitement to a minimum. I had been doing walk-trot, but halt-walk is where I should have gone to as soon as it turned into an argument. A perfect reminder at the perfect time :)

  5. I'm guilty of this too sometimes. My trainer says it's easy to forget how far your horse has come if you've had them since they were young, sometimes we still think of them as babies!

    1. Totally! I caught myself telling someone S is a baby, but when they asked her age and I answered “4” I realized I need to stop doing that. 4 is certainly young, but not an age where she’s completely green or inexperienced with the world.