The Trust Factor

I gave Henry Monday off, then headed out on Tuesday with the intention of doing a long stretchy trot in the field. Except somewhere between pulling into the driveway and getting out of my truck, I lost any tiny amount of motivation I had and instead decided that it had been way too long since we used our trusty neck rope. How about a tackless hack instead? We could go for a long walk and add some trot in there, and Henry and I would both get a change of pace.

Can we talk about his exceptional Dad Bod?

So I pulled him out, brushed him off, picked his feet, grabbed his neck rope and an Ogilvy pad (aka my bareback pad) out of the tack room, put on my helmet, and off we went. First we wandered down the driveway towards the front pasture, then looped back up the side road toward the chicken coop. One of the barn workers was in there feeding the chickens, and when he saw me pass by, his eyes bugged out and he said “You ain’t got NOTHIN on?? YOU CRAZY!”. Direct quote.Β I just kinda laughed at him and said “You might be right!” and went off on our merry way to the field (where Henry was super, btw, and never put a hoof out of place).

I started thinking about it though, as we kept walking. Is it nuts to ride a pretty fit TB event horse around in the wide open with nothing but a neck rope? Maybe. Probably. I can’t think of another horse I would do it on. But I trust Henry a lot, and we’ve spent a long time building up our relationship to this point. I’ve had him for almost four years. We’ve done A LOT together. I know him inside and out, and he knows me inside and out. I can pretty much always guess how he’s going to react to something. I would also like to think that he trusts me just as much as I trust him. I think he knows that I won’t put him in an unfair situation, and I think he respects my authority as “leader” (most of the time, anyway). I’ve been really careful and deliberate about cultivating that part of our relationship over the years. I want him to always feel confident in what I’m asking him to do, and it’s really important to me that he trusts me.

I ride him bridleless with some kind of semi-regularity, every few months or so, and he is as predictable as any living breathing thing can be. Also, running off just is not something that he would ever do. Of all the things that are in Henny’s repertoire, running for no specific reason just is NOT one of them. Stop and graze with no warning, almost chunking me over his head? Yes. Spook at something and relocate 10′ sideways in the blink of an eye? Sure. But I’m almost as likely to fall off from those things with tack as I am without it. I know for a fact that he just isn’t going to take off in the field and leave me physically unable to stop him. If I fall off otherwise, then oh well, I fall off. Just like I might do on any other given day anyway.


I really do enjoy our little tackless fun days, and they present a great opportunity to work on riding only from my seat and leg. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty neat to do figure 8’s of 10 meter circles in the middle of a giant field with no tack on. We spend a whole lot of time doing hard serious work, so it’s nice to just have a little bit of relaxed, no pressure, pure fun sometimes. Most of all though I’m just super appreciative to have a horse that can gallop around XC like a total badass on Sunday and then trot around the field with no tack on Tuesday. Horses like that don’t come along often, and I’m going to enjoy mine as much as I can for as long as I can. If that means I’m crazy… I’m okay with that.

10 thoughts on “The Trust Factor

  1. All the warm and fuzzies πŸ™‚ I love that point where you have put in the time and you and your horse know each other. I’m especially appreciative of it these days while I work with my green bean, Shiraz. Sitting back on Savvy who is finally reaching that point, well there just isn’t anything better.


  2. Nope, totally not crazy! Henry is one of those you can do that with, so not crazy. Now one that would take off, then yes crazy lol. But those are definitely some of my favorite rides – the ones where the only motivation I have is to take some time to appreciate my horse and the relationship we have. If that means tackless or saddleless or whatnot, then that’s what it is πŸ˜€

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  3. Compare your $900 Facebook Pony to your Pony today. You have both been through so much together and you have demonstrated what it is to be brave, both of you. You have shared so many life lessons on this blog including the loss of your mom, the importance of having a sidekick like Bobby, the wisdom of Trainer, your SO, your eventing journey, tack reviews, real life. Keep up the good work of this blog, It’s s the first thing I read each morning. Thanks from a grateful Horse fan πŸ™‚


  4. So awesome to have that relationship where you can kick ass at a show then go home and putz around and not worry about a darn thing. Good boy, Henry and good job you for creating this environment for the partnership to grow.


  5. Ha! I gotta agree with the chicken farmer… I’d be worried that if I did come off, I have nothing to lead him back with because how would I get back on in the field?! But you know Henry through and through and obviously you have fantastic tackless rides together, so keep doing what you’re doing! I agree that horses deserve a fun toodle day from time to time too.
    I ride Rio with a bitless bridle most days. I’m not brave enough to go totally bridle-less but it’s a nice compromise. No bareback though because he’s too big for me to get on without stirrups! He’s always been funny about mounting so I don’t think he would let me shimmy my way up there. (Next horse will not be 16.3!)


  6. Being able to trust a horse like this is such a beautiful thing. Henry is such a good egg. You’ve motivated me to get out more like this with Griffin this winter, we used to do it a lot and haven’t in ages.


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