The Versatile Horse

Finally – a long weekend! I really needed that, my brain was running on fumes. Plus since the weather was warm (for real, it was 80 and humid) it meant I was able to squeeze in lots of pony time.

On Thursday after work I went out and set all my jumps back up (damn wind) and raised a couple. I need 3’3″ to look small again before our Training debut, lest I canter up to the base of an oxer, pick 15 different spots, and then curl up into fetal position at the base. Not that I’ve ever done that before or anything.

Image result for who me gif

I set everything 1m – 1.10m and set off to our little warmup flower boxes… and sucked. Rhythm was not happening, none of the jumps were coming up right, and I kept staring down at everything. After the 3rd Epic Butt Save in a row, Henry finally laid on the brakes at the next one and pinned his ears back at me like GET IT TOGETHER, WOMAN!! Sigh. Times when I really wish I had my trainer around. So I walked a lap, picked up the canter again, went over my mental checklist of How to Ride, and finally things started working out a lot better.

It still wasn’t exactly a great display of riding on my part, but at least I wasn’t chasing my horse to nothing and then abandoning him at the base. I managed to do the course without any major mistakes and decided to quit on that note. No use torturing my saintly pony.

The next day I decided to give both of us a little bit of a mental break and pulled out our fancy custom neck rope from Reins for Rescues.

It was a dreary foggy day, but we set off through the fields on a bareback and bridleless adventure. I love having a horse that can be jumping 1.10m one day and then hacking bridleless through the field the next day. We meandered around all 120 acres for a while, I let him pause to graze for a bit, and then we called it a day.

The next day it was back to the dressage work, which he was a little tense about. He also didn’t meet me at the gate that day either, which he always does. He just glared at me as I walked out to get him, like “oh Christ, it’s her again”. I swear he was still mad about my shitty riding on Thursday.

He got Christmas off, and I shoved him full of all kinds of treats. That seemed to do the trick, because yesterday he once again met me at the gate, ears pricked.

I did another dressage ride, with a really long walk around the pastures first. By the time I picked up my reins and went to work he was really super. And for the first time ever, I actually succeeded in getting him to do a real canter-walk transition. Like… with no trot steps and not on the forehand and dragging me! MIRACLES. As soon as he did that I immediately stopped, loosened my girth a hole, unbuckled his flash, and was done.

It was a fun long weekend with Henny, and lots of variety. So fun, having a horse like this. We never get bored.

14 thoughts on “The Versatile Horse

  1. Ha Elisa Wallace was just doing this with her Johnny. Such a great way to build trust and relaxation! I love me a versatile, do-anything horse! (Tho…. It’ll probably be a long while before I try the same on my own horse, if we’re being totally honest here haha)


    1. We’ve worked a lot on half-halts from the seat this year, so it’s a really good test of progress. Granted, I’m never actually worried Henry will try anything. I’m in more danger from him trying to sneak a bite of grass and tripping over his own two feet than from him trying to jet.


  2. I am also amazed/jealous about the bridleless/bareback work. Maybe I should add that to my 2017 goals. I agree that having a horse that you can switch between low key hacks and focused training on is awesome though. Henry sounds like he is such a good solid citizen now and I know it’s your work that has got him there!


  3. Curious if you know this exercise to help with the canter-to-walk (I am also schooling this on my pony right now, so it’s on my mind. Forgive the unsolicited advice, I just want to pass on something I have found really helpful): Canter straight for half the long rail or so, to get your balance and rhythm, and then collect the canter enough to do a 10-5m circle (I err on the small side, a large canter pirouette, but my horse is 14.1hh). It should feel good for a couple strides, but then right at the moment when you feel them start to lose their balance you ask for the walk. This really encourages an uphill downward transition, since their weight is on their haunches thanks to the collection and the small circle. Really try to keep your elbows at your sides and hands at the saddle…don’t pull BACK but don’t give forward too much either, so the horse learns to carry himself through the transition. Think of how side-reins work and emulate that type of contact. I also count to myself slowly (1…2…3) for each step of the walk after the canter because my pony tends to rush those steps/tries to go on the forehand immediately.

    Another thing to think about with this transition–and all downward transitions really–is how you’re using your breath. Someone told me ages ago to exhale on my downward transitions. I realized then that I always held my breath, which completely restricts the use of your diaphragm (part of “the core” that trainers love to vaguely talk about. I really wonder how many riders actually understand each individual piece of anatomy that make up “the core” and what role each piece plays. I certainly don’t, but I’m making a point to learn more about it because I’ve realize how important it is.) I have used the exhale on downward transitions consistently with my pony and it has gotten to the point where I can stop him simply by blowing out my air, changing nothing else. Pretty nice tool to have in the box!

    I also ride alone and travel to shows alone. It can feel lonely, but it also provides some really sweet zen-like moments on my horse since there aren’t usually many distractions around. I wouldn’t mind a few more rider friends in my life though. That’s probably why I turn to horse-blogs for the sense of community, the idea swapping in the comments, and to see other people struggling with and mastering the same things I’m struggling with and attempting to master.


    1. I’m actually doing the canter walk on a spiral-in to about a 10m circle (trainer’s trick). Haven’t mastered it enough to try the same principle on a straight line yet, but that good more collected canter is def the key.


      1. Yes, exactly. I meant: do your transition once you’re on your circle. 1) Go straight to get your canter rhythm and balance (2) Collect and start your small circle (3) When the circle gets so small and collected that they start to lose balance or want to break, ask for walk at that moment. (4 & 5) Make the walk steps sloooooow (if Henry like to rush and fall on forehand). Exhale through the downward transition (helps to keep you from getting too tense/holding breath.)

        A spiral-in from a larger circle the way you’re doing accomplishes the exact same thing though, so you are doing the same thing that I’m doing just with a different set-up. 🙂


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