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