Take Your Pick

I was thinking last week about how different all three of my horses are.

I don’t mean different like “different” but that works too

They have some similarities, to be sure. They’re all blood horses, all are pretty forward-thinking, and all are sensitive. Some more than others. Certainly none of them are heavy, plodder, kick-ride types, though. Thank goodness because those are not my jam. That’s about where the similarities stop though, since all three of them are in different stages of training, working on different things, and need/want to be ridden in different ways. It’s been such a long time since I had this many horses to work on a regular basis, it’s been fun for me to have to be more adaptable. I get bored easily, but it’s pretty hard to be bored when you’re juggling three horses that are so different.

The spanish moss keeps attacking me

Henry is like slipping into your favorite slippers, he’s so familiar and feels like “home”. I know him better than I know myself, really, and we’re very tuned into each other. Especially when we’re jumping – I just think something and he does it. He’s the most trained, the most been-there-done-that, the most reliable, and probably the simplest of the bunch. Makes sense, he’s got 10 years on the other two. This makes him fun though, because he doesn’t require quite as much brain power as the others. I can hack him out on the buckle without a second thought, I can set up whatever weird jump exercises I can imagine, etc etc. Plus he really doesn’t care what kind of headspace you’re in – he’s the same horse every time. Granted, riding him is a constant effort of putting him together and trying to ride him more uphill. He’s simple, but he’s not necessarily easy due to his conformation. I mean, if you want to just sit up there in 2 point and float the reins at him he’s happy to roll peanuts all day long, but… we try to do things properly and keep him fit and strong and working correctly. That’s a bit of a job.

Presto is… a lot different. Both physically and mentally. First of all he’s a big narrow lanky horse. A big narrow lanky LONG horse. It’s very far from that little walnut size brain to his hind feet. Despite his size though, he’s quite light and maneuverable and balanced. Sometimes he’s almost a little TOO light though, and if you ride him with much hand (like… more than a teeny bit) he does not like it at all. He wants to be ridden 98% from your core and your seat and your leg. If you can do that, he carries himself quite nicely for such a big horse. If you can’t do that, or if you resort to your reins when you should have used your core or seat or leg, he will let you know immediately by rooting your ass out of the tack then flinging his poll at your nose. Subtle as always, Presto.

whaaaaaat? I would never.

You have to be deliberate and make sure that your hands are just kind of there in one spot, while using your body and leg to actually ask for everything. When you get it right he gives you a lovely feeling, like… SO NICE. You’re just floating. Boy is he ever a core workout though. Like your abs will be throbbing by the time you’re done. His gaits are big and lofty and you have to have decent body strength in order to stay with him. You also have to be very mentally present. If you only show up with 50%, he’s probably going to take advantage of that. He’s still young and mentally immature, and… well, he’s Presto. He’s not exactly the most serious, studious, focused horse in the world. You have to be the leader and the boundary setter, and you have to insist that that’s your role, not his. If you do that, he’s great. I actually really love riding him, he’s constantly making me think and do better and have more finesse. He finds his job to be quite easy and will jump anything you put in his path although he’ll try to do it his way. He’s certainly not the one you would pick if you want a leisurely carefree hack around, though. He’s work and you have to be a step ahead of him, but he’s the kind of horse that will definitely make you a better, more educated rider.

Then there’s Gemma, the greenest of the bunch. I will admit though, as green as she is, she learns SO FAST that I think she’s really fun and rewarding to ride. I mean at this point she’s had about 2 months of post-track rides and she already goes around like this.

She puts more weight in the contact than Presto does (but not as much as Henry) and seems to find comfort in it. She’s also really responsive to seat and leg aids. Sort of a mix between Presto and Henry I guess. I feel like a dressage rider would love her because she just gets the flatwork so quickly and finds it pretty easy. She’s at the point where you can start asking for more – more forward, more bend, more suppleness, more quality in her gaits. Her leg yield and shoulder-in are pretty darn decent. The transitions are still… abrupt (she may have missed her calling as a reiner) but they get better day by day. Gemma is physically a bit polar opposite of Presto – she’s a hand shorter and much more compact, so she’s pretty easy to sit and not hard to put together.

What I really like about her – and what I really like about thoroughbreds in general – is that she always shows up to work and she always tries. She’s sensitive, but not stupid or explosive. She does have a pretty strong sense of justice though, and if you ask for something too harshly (in her opinion) she isn’t shy about pinning those ears and making a nasty mare face. There will be no guessing how Gemma feels about anything ever. To hack out she’s pretty solid – she might look at something but she’s never belligerent or stupid. Gemma hacks down the road better than Presto does, honestly (Presto is always looking for reasons to be silly, which should surprise precisely no one). I still haven’t jumped her a lot but she does poles and cavalettis basically every ride, and she’s starting to understand how to use her body more, and where to put her feet. She’s pretty darn honest to the jumps, too. Sometimes has absolutely no idea what to do with her body and flings herself into the air like a deer (gymnastics will be the name of the game with her I think), but she definitely jumps whatever I point her at.

I think all together they make a pretty good mix. Each of them is a totally unique ride, working on different things and making me think in different ways. It keeps things interesting, that’s for sure. And if you’re gonna have two 5yo’s, having a Henry there to offset them is definitely the way to go.

Which one do you think you’d like to ride the most?

28 thoughts on “Take Your Pick

  1. I own one of Presto’s dam’s half brothers (for other readers, Amanda knows this already) and I’d like to ride Presto just to see how he feels compared to Uncle Weston. Weston also considers using your hand to be a personal insult and would prefer if I would just get out of the way and let him do it, because he obviously knows better.


  2. Presto has the most hunter potential, so he’s my pick to ride. 😉 But I bet he’d be super fun foxhunting, too.

    I swear I own the only OTTB with a lackluster work ethic…….


    1. He’d probably do a whole lot of yeeting if you took him foxhunting. Wear a good helmet, that mofo can spin. 😂 I think Henry is the most huntery of the bunch really, Presto’s canter is super uphill and his neckset is high. Henry will lope around on the buckle with his head low and jump with his lil knees up every time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Now that you mention that, I can see how H might be more huntery being he is a bit downhill. I think that is probably what I liked about Simon when I bought him, but he never grew enough to even out and has also ended up being a bit more downhill than is ideal for a horse that jumps for a living.


  3. Gemma all day long!!! I love a mare’s brain and as you said, the OTTB work ethic is unparalleled. She is soo pretty under saddle too.


  4. Gemma, I would love to ride a calm OTTB. My 14 yo chestnut boy is silly and unfocused and acrobatic. After 5 years together and many up’s and downs and unscheduled dismounts, we are getting much better together.


  5. Gemma for sure! I love a good mare and especially an OTTB one. Henry would probably be a close 2nd just because it would be fun to ride something more trained again (I’ve been riding green beans since I had to retire my old guy in 2020). I would probably also hop on Presto just for the fun of it, but I think he’s the one that I would mesh with the least. I like a horse that is ready to get down to business and work, and I think his goofy nature would be too much for me lol


  6. I’d pick Henry, then Gemma. I don’t think I am a quick enough thinker to ride Presto. Mainly, I just want to meet all the horses I’ve “known” for years. Riding them would just be an added bonus.


  7. Depends on what I’m doing. If I’m jumping, I want Henry. I’m not a great jumper. If I’m doing dressage, I want Gemma! She’s LOVELY.

    And having a silly deer-jumping Arab myself, if they’re athletic enough, they can still deer-jump in a gymnastic…my trainer set a bounce to a one-stride, and the first time she set an oxer (as opposed to the single we did first) as the last jump my horse looked at it and deer-jumped it (clearing it by like a mile). She did the same the first time the oxer was raised (a whole 2″, mind you), until she finally settled and remembered she can indeed jump like a horse!


  8. My heart wants Gemma, my brain says Henry. I am someone who has ridden my whole life, but was never particularly talented at it. Basically, I know what I am doing, but I’m certainly not skilled enough for much of anything. So….. I love mares, and Gemma makes my heart sing, but I probably would do better with a pro who accepts cookies as forgiveness/bribery.


  9. Gemma! She just looks so balanced, businesslike and rideable. Presto is fancy but I’ve seen his spinning GIF, no thanks! It would be fun to take Henry dolphining, though…


  10. Definitely Gemma! She sounds so fun and a good middle of the road horse on the contact. Also, I definitely lean towards dressage even though I like low level jumping. She would be fun to event at BN or N and then take up the dressage levels a little more. I have never owned a mare but one of my favorite horses I rode as a kid was a mare and I think it would be fun to try her out!!


  11. I’m an outlier here – I’d pick Presto. Ridden my share of OTTBs, and although I love them I’d like to sit on a horse of Presto’s quality again – haven’t done it for – eek – 35 years. Plus I love horses that look for reasons to be daft and make you be 100% with them.


  12. Gemma for sure! I love mares, especially the sensitive and clever ones. I also very much love when horses have a strong sense of justice. i love when the line is very clearly drawn on how much pushing they will tolerate, I find those types are great to communicate and form partnerships with. I’d like to add Sadie to the list too because she seems to be quite my type!


  13. Another vote for Gemma. Her height is perfect for my 5’4 self, and I think she would enjoy dancing with me in the sandbox and going out for hacks. Henny would hate my guts for asking him to do dressage, no matter how many cookies I would give him. I am a huge superfan of Presto, but without a doubt I lack the skills & talent to ride him. I would look like a deranged monkey.


  14. Presto has made me obsessed with breeding to mighty magic some day so I feel like I have to pick him! I am tall too and I love my big noodly 17h mare so I think he could remind me a lot of her as a young horse. But honestly-they’re all quite special so a spin on any of the 3 sounds like fun to me!


  15. I wanna ride all three! Presto would probably spook me off, Henry would think I’m a chicken, and Gemma would just know I’m a gelding person. But still… they all sound so fun!


  16. Henry. Always Henry. I want him to cart me around BN. I am also well equipped to deal with dolphin bucking. My mostly retired TB has been practicing his Carolina Dolphin impression longer than Henry has been alive. I think I would also love something like Gemma as a dressage horse, but I cannot get over my love of a brown thoroughbred. They are the BEST!


  17. If Henry needs to retire North you can send him to me in WI. But Gemma is creeping up in the rankings…
    Betsy in WI


  18. At this point, 17hh seems like a LONG LONG LONG way from the ground, so while Presto is the one I’d most like to meet in real life (and feed ALL THE oatmeal cream pies to!), I think Gemma is the one I’d love to sit on. She sounds safe, elegant, and amazing!


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