The differences in training green horses

Warning: long thoughtful post

I’ve ridden lots of green horses. I like to think I’ve made most of them into better equine citizens. But I’ve probably made a few worse. I’ve spent a lot of time jumping green horses over small jumps (<2’3″). I haven’t spent as much time working out the progression from baby crossrails up to somewhat sizeable fences.

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I wish I could go back and not suck at riding this handsome guy.

Isn’t that the most fun way to learn? (sarcasm folks, we all dream of the million dollar push button pony we can just be perfect on.) To be fair, most of my riding of green horses was for the purpose of making passable lesson horses. Example: Here’s random new horse, lets see if he can do intermediate riding lessons. Amanda, you ride him. Ok, flat work good enough, lets move onto jumping.

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It would be sooooo easy for me to fix this now. Sigh.

While I learned a lot riding as a teenager and college student, the rate of learning has exploded since I got involved with TBS. I bought a baby horse, starting riding a [big] project, and eventually bought and sold a couple of horses. And lots of lessons with high quality instructors, jumping and dressage. Lots of lessons learned, but lets focus on the training process with green horses, and the speed of progression.

Enter Knots.

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Its rough folks.

I’ve been riding Knots for three years now (crazy huh?). In that time we have worked hard to communicate; sometimes its his fault and sometimes its mine.

With jumping, I was getting over some childhood fear/drama about larger fences, and we moved really slow. Probably did 2’3″ for at least a year, and barely tried jumping higher. I made the notably stupid statement (for me, in retrospect) that my life goal was beginner novice for fun. While that’s nice and all, I want to achieve more than that. I just couldn’t see it from where I was starting. Three years later, I feel like we could jump a 2’9″ course with a little legging up, and we’ve successfully completed a beginner novice round, in addition to some random bigger jumps 😉

With dressage, we had an entire host of other issues, beginning with a lack of acceptance of the aids. Luckily, we’ve moved beyond that, and we now struggle with self-carriage, balance, and pace. Still, three years. Sorry for no newer pictures, apparently no one takes pictures of me riding on the flat.

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Some of our first nice moments

Enter Jellybean.

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baby derp!

Her flatwork is coming along really well. Without the backwards training Knots came with, Jellybean is able to learn a lot quicker. She’s also not expecting me to kill her at any moment. Its the small things folks.

But after working through the process of learning to jump with Knots, I have to admit I’ve gotten a little impatient. And something about social media blah professionals blah baby horses blah novice courses blah. So I’ve been pushing the envelope with Jellybean a bit. Oh, you jumped this X without drama, onto a vertical! Woo! Lets do the 2’3″ XC jumps!

You see where this is going. We managed to only have a little confidence issue at home with XC fences, I didn’t get ambitious when we went off site. We shelved the issue for another day. Back to the arena, and again, crossrail, crossrail, vertical, why not a square oxer? Obviously I’m summarizing a bit for the blog, but the theme here is rushing. And when you’re helping a baby horse learn, you need to be supportive, not looking at the jump. And so the square oxer ended with me taking a roll over Jelly’s head into the sand. Just what you want the baby horse to experience: some idiot flying over their head and smashing their nose into the dirt.

Literally one of my most disappointing riding moments…ever. Rob tried to counsel me a bit. Something about teaching students to move on, and why don’t I take my own advice. Well, I never told a student they couldn’t be upset, as long as they get the job done.

So I got up and trotted her over the jumps on the ground, crossrails and verticals. Then I remounted and jumped the vertical, and the day was over.

All this rambling to say that I’m still learning all kinds of interesting things about training horses. Especially how fast is too fast. I’m a fan of the process, and part of the process is sucking. This long introspection is mostly here as a record; a reminder of the ways we progress and then fall backwards. I think if you aren’t experiencing setbacks, you aren’t trying to move forward. Just sometimes the backwards is hard, whether physically, emotionally, or just a blow to the ego.

Moving forward, I’m going to set a time line. We won’t be jumping anything over two feet tall until the end of the summer. We may or may not go green as grass in one of the late summer/fall horse trials. But still, not jumping over two feet. We need time to mature and get solid over baby jumps. Because Jellybean is still a baby, even if some days I see the hint of the brilliance to come.

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She is literally the cutest red mare EVER.

 

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The new schedule

With the conclusion of (most) of my lab work, I’ve been enjoying a new schedule. Even more than new time management, I’ve been really loving my increased activity. Its amazing how much better I feel when I get moving and stop eating. Crazy. I’ve been averaging about 2500-3500 calories burned per day and 12000-15000 steps, and it feels so good!

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Obviously horseback riding messes with the numbers. I assure you I didn’t actually climb 77 floors.

Mondays and Tuesday mornings are riding mornings. Monday is generally a dressage lesson with Sarah Denham, and Tuesday is going to be an opportunity to ride two horses in the morning. I might be able to squeeze in a ride Wednesday night, either before my lesson or during. And depending on the week, I should be able to ride Thursday and Friday afternoons. Weekends are variable, we travel with the barn or work or just for fun.

This is really exciting, and hopefully an opportunity to get back on track and start making forward, linear progress, instead of the general bumpy trajectory I normally follow.

Spring Break Barn Fun

I did something wild this year. I actually took the entire week of Spring Break and didn’t head up to the lab. I didn’t even think about lab actually. I still haven’t graded my quizzes from two weeks ago… (sorry?) The weather was in the 80s for most of the week, what could be more perfect?

With all this not-in-lab time, I got to spend lots of time with the ponies. Tuesday and Thursday we had barn work days, and then Friday the farrier AND vet came out. I got lots of rides in, and Rob even got to ride. And the week isn’t quite over, we’re heading to the High Point Farm Bluebonnet Derby tomorrow with some students.

Since there were actually multiple rides, I’ll summarize a little. On the flat, Knots and I worked on being relaxed through changes of rein. Nothing too exciting, I was also teaching a lesson. During another ride, we worked on placement to the jumps a bit. We cantered into some smaller jumps and worked on a good approach. No rushing, no ducking, no letting go of the reins. The struggle is real. Anyways, we had some good jumps and ended over a 2’6″ oxer for fun.

Jellybean got a lot of attention this week. We rode in the dressage lesson Monday, on the flat in a dressage arena on Wednesday, and over fences Thursday. Whew. The flat work was ok, I was working on pushing her into the walk and trot and continuing to focus on her bending her neck. Over fences we were working on me not sucking. I needed to ride her up to and over every fence. And we didn’t need to putz. We were moderately successful at this; I did take my stirrups up more and that helped. Its really fun that she pricks her ears and looks for the jumps. She seems to enjoy going along.

There was some derp though, she stepped on the random pole in the arena that we were going over several times. And she had some weird baby moment where she lost her feet, and I thought we were going down. Not over a jump, but just cantering along. Sigh. Highs and lows.

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Finally, to end out the week, we had a party with the farrier AND the vet, ON THE SAME DAY. All the money was spent :/

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Jellybean, Gracie, and Knots all got the basic shots for the area, a coggins test, and then Knots got his business cleaned up. Jellybean, of course, got a shot of sedative as soon as the vet walked towards her with the vaccines. Sigh. The farrier enjoyed the sedate Jellybean though. When the vet comes back again this spring, we get to float Jelly’s teeth. I’m sure Rob will get lots of pictures of that level of derp.

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All in all, a well-deserved break, and a mental reset for the things coming up.

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Jellybean makes a new friend [again]

Its Spring Break here in Texas, which means extra ride time. Combine that with my recent defense of my master’s degree, and bam! Riding again!

Monday was dressage day. I took Jellybean to Sarah’s and she was a mess. Which is mostly my fault. I have got to start holding her accountable for being a horse and stop making stupid excuses for her. If she won’t poop under saddle, its not my problem; we’re still working! She tried the spooking game. She ran from the log, she ran from her shadow, she was worried about the flower box that the dressage letters are painted on. Luckily my new saddle has some stick, she ran sideways a couple of times and I felt glued into the seat.

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We worked on keeping a constant rhythm. Her walk was crappy and we worked on actually striding out. Then more at the trot and the canter. Use those gaits and cover some ground! I have been struggling with making her movements too small. In any case, we had some improvements, and it gave me a lot to think about with my riding.

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Tuesday was a barn work day, which means lots of projects to do and lots of time spent walking around. I logged 25,000 steps. Whew. We cleaned out the cross country field and did some general cleaning and maintenance. I also had another student try Jellybean. There is the potential for some mutually beneficial situations, but we’ll see.

We went to the cutting pen and Jellybean was doing the spooky thing again. We were concerned about grass in the wind… We worked on a circle and she calmed down and then I had the student ride her around. She was a little tense in her arms, and she wasn’t quite comfortable with Jellybean’s low head carriage, but those are easy to fix. I had her ride around and hang out and see what she thought while I walked off to do a couple of workday things.

When next I saw them, the student was telling me that Jellybean was being a little bit silly. Something about a shoulder shake and pseudo-spook and kick out. And a separate moment with Jellybean tripping and the rider moving around and Jellybean being worried. I’m was pleased that we were getting an accurate view of what Jellybean does. I always hate when you try out a horse and everything is oddly perfect.

We’ll see if this works out, it would be nice for Jellybean to have a person that can ride her on the regular. It would also be fun for this student to get more ride time with a horse that can learn a little quicker than the lesson horse. Stay tuned.

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