Lessons and working with a trainer has completely changed my equestrian life. Y’all told me – trainers are amazing, lessons are amazing. But up until this year, I didn’t realize just how right you all were. I’m perfectly fine and understanding for people who are self taught, because I had to be self taught for the first 3 years of riding. I had no other option. I couldn’t afford lessons, and when we were open to them and I could afford them, we couldn’t find a good trainer that fit my needs and meshed with me. I’m not a picky person, but I had one request for every trainer I talked with – don’t push me into things I don’t want to do. And I don’t mean that as in, “don’t push me into doing things I’m not comfortable with” or “don’t push me any further” because everyone needs pushes. Sometimes, I don’t want to post the trot for 20 minutes, or work on the canter. Sometimes, I want to give up on my stubborn horse and buy a dead broke, push button pony and call it done. What I mean by that is, don’t push me into using a harsh bit on my horse because you think his training would go faster, then ignore everything I told you about his history. (Yes, I’ve had that happen, and said trainer put a bit in his mouth even though I specifically said not to.) Don’t push me into showing, because, “My riding will amount to nothing without it.” (Also happened.) Don’t try to tell me that all of my horse’s problems are because of his health and issues (that he doesn’t even have.) as an excuse for not being able to get him to do something. I was told that he couldn’t back up or collect well at the trot because of his arthritis. This trainer told me this several times and just stopped trying. Told me to get a vet out and perhaps put him out of misery, and to stop trying.
That same horse, within a couple months of really working with it, is now backing up the entire length of my quite long round pen, like it’s nothing. He’s also got a pretty nice trot if I say so myself.
I needed a trainer that would understand that I have no interest in showing right now because I need to focus on my own horse, who’s definitely not ready either. Who understands that I’ve tried the bit thing, it’s not an option for us. And I found a really great trainer, and I’m so happy at the farm I’m taking lessons at. And for the first time ever, I have major confidence in my riding.
Red bucked. And I had the confidence to stay on. I had enough confidence to be able to ride it out without shutting down mentally like I’ve done many times before (like when he crow hopped when I was on him bareback and I fell.) and then, I had enough confidence to be able to be the boss, do what was best for my horse, and keep riding. I was able to get back on him today with no fear, no reservation. (and with a helmet. Hahaha.)
My trainer put me on a new horse that she has for resell, she’s a little palomino QH mare, she was used for western pleasure. Really fun mare, but she’s pretty spooky. During my lesson before this, on the bay, Larkin, who I normally ride, she had me watch her daughter ride the Palomino, Patty, and wanted to see if I’d be able to handle her spooks if she decided to act up. She saw my video on Instagram of Red being a jerkface and apparently decided it’d be fine, and I was able to ride her today. I knew that she was capable of a pretty big spook, not that she’s a bad horse or crazy by any means, and that would’ve scared the heck out of me a few months ago. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve refused to ride one of my friend’s horses because I know they’ve recently spooked, bucked, bolted, or even just acted hyper. I’ve been afraid to get on my own horse after he’s acted a certain way, even though I know him very well and can read him well enough. But I hopped on the palomino, and I wasn’t holding the reins with a death grip, wasn’t nervous. In fact, I had a wonderful time.
She’s a pretty lazy little mare, so keeping her in a jog and especially keeping her in the lope requires some pushing and prodding, which is pretty different than what I’m used to. Red is decent about keeping in his gait, whether it’s trot or canter. If I do have to prod him any more, typically I just have to give a little nudge every so often or kiss at him to remind him. But with her, it’s pretty constant. Lots of leg required. But her jog is the coolest thing, and her lope is super fun.
She was so comfortable, I think I’d be content to ride a western pleasure horse forever. 😉 You can see videos on my instagram account @takingthestep.
But, during the end of the lesson, she was blowing off a lot of my cues and didn’t want to go into the lope, which is pretty normal for her because she obviously prefers the walk or jog. She spooked majorly, bolting to the side and throwing a nice little buck and bolt combo and hopped around everywhere. Didn’t last long, and we were able to get her back into the canter and made her work a bit more and called it a day, but it was worse than what Red would’ve done. It gave me a big boost of confidence because not only did I handle it well, stayed on, and was able to continue without fear, but my trainer trusted me enough to be able to deal with her if she did spook, because she is known for being spooky at times and can have meltdowns. It made me feel like I could handle my own horse so much more, and I left the lesson ready to go do more canter work with Red, bucks or no bucks.
I planned out my next ride last night, after I hopped on Red for some trot work. He was a good boy, didn’t really want to lower his head how I’d like, but he gave me some nice trot, behaved really well despite Stormie eating hay right in front of him and Mouse, my neighbors mare who he hates, being in the round pen too. So, successful ride all in all. He was good about listening and staying away from Mouse and focusing on us, so that was nice. It’s normally hard for him to go his own way and do his own thing when there’s another horse doing something different.
I will say, he is in great shape right now. He looks kind of straggly with that winter coat of his, but he is hard as a rock. Neck is super firm, booty is firm, nice muscles. And he barely breaks a sweat no matter what we do or how long we work. He’s constantly ready for more more more, as opposed to him checking out after 30 minutes of work.
Next ride, maybe today if it’s dry enough, I will lunge first, hop on, do lots of trot work beforehand, get him going good, then ask for the canter in the round pen. He bucks, I push forward. If he continues, we get to halt, and try again. My goal is one lap around the side of the round pen at the canter, no matter how bad or good it is, or what speed it is, and we’ll stop and call it a day. If he behaves enough. 😉 If we don’t get that, then he gets to be worked even more. (so Red, just canter bro)
My TimeHop showed me today that in 2014, Red and I were cantering in fields at Ivy Hills, our old boarding barn. And it gave me the boost that I needed to say, okay, we’re getting back to that point. I understand that he’s been off of that work for awhile and he feels 100% better than what he felt like back then (and seriously, what horse that was itchy nonstop and still not super healthy would want to buck?) and he’s feeling good. And I think we can put that feeling good energy into a good canter.