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.


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.


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 ­čśë

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┬áno one takes pictures of me riding on the flat.


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.


She is literally the cutest red mare EVER.