Canter & Candor

Canter and Candor; an honest account of an amateur equestrian and her life with an OTTB

Asking More in Baby Horsedom

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This last weekend, C and I did a little at-home schooling show, which I’ll do a recap for once the media comes through! For now, a little discussion– I’d love to hear some other opinions here, because it took me a while to realize this for myself.

Every once in a while N does a training ride on C, and I usually either watch or ask for a text recap so I know sort of what’s going on. I missed the latest one, and the summary I got was: “He was a little confused as to why I was asking him to get round, because mom doesn’t make him work that hard ;)”

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CUTE THINGS SHOULDN’T HAVE TO WORK

Okay.

Fair enough.

Immediately following that was the schooling show and our first dressage test since the UC Davis Derby back in November. It wasn’t disastrous– we got all our leads, and I didn’t forget the test– but it was just… meh. C took some contact, sometimes, and other times was above the bit. Sometimes we got bend, and other times we were straight as a rod. Sometimes we got round-ish and sometimes we were flat.

And when we exited the ring, N was like, “You need to be asking more of him. He’s ready.”

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Honestly, look at him… this horse is healthy enough to be doing more, too.

But he didn’t buck! I thought. He didn’t leave the ring! And nice as it may be that those things didn’t happen, those aren’t acceptable standards for him any more. Sure, he’s still a baby, but he should be further along than he was five months ago. Our standards shouldn’t be we stayed in the arena!  any more; they need to head towards we maintained steady contact! or he wasn’t above the bit!

As N put it, we have the forward energy. We have acceptance of contact. We just need to put those things together and get him working rounder, using his hind end more, getting steady instead of fussy. It’s been hard for me to wrap my mind around not babying him quite as much, but I know she’s right– during my ride today, he was shocked when I asked for bend and for him to use his back. We had an argument, and I won (though my arms are sore, and probably will be moreso tomorrow) and suddenly his back felt an inch taller, and I could feel his inside hind coming under his body instead of trailing behind us as he dragged himself along.

By the end of the ride both of us were puffing and sweating and while 90 percent of it was a “discussion” (C: I DON’T WANT TO WORK HARD. M: Get on your ass!) the end results were incredible. He was using his body like he was supposed to.

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C: “0/10 would not use body again”

I know he’s a baby, and obviously I’m not going to go out and jump 3′ with him. But it’s definitely time to step things up, and that doesn’t just mean him, it means I need to step up too.

My body is so not ready.

— M

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15 thoughts on “Asking More in Baby Horsedom

  1. Yay Cori! Time to work harder!! The thing I have found to be the hardest in my own riding/training of the bebbeh horse is figuring out the LEVEL of harder to ask. I wanted to jump from “baby horse” to “super trained horse expectations” immediately, skipping all the intermediate steps of “somewhat trained horse” and “slightly less feral horse” which, as I think we have discussed, resulted in a rather upset horse. Live and learn! I can’t wait to hear Cori’s opinions on the matter. 🙂

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    • Yes, I think that’s where N will come in handy– she’s worked with a lot of young’uns, so I’ll check in with her and make sure it’s going as planned. I can definitely see not asking enough. I’d be surprised if I overfaced him, since I do baby him quite a bit, but I guess only time will tell! Cori’s opinions mostly involve head-flipping, side-stepping, and begrudging acceptance. I’m just glad we’re reaching the last step 😉

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  2. I went through this too with my young horse. Obviously we can’t baby them forever but then you can’t expect them to be instantly perfect. It’s hard to make the call sometimes! What I always remember with my guy is that the stuff you really require now will stay with him for life, so make sure that you’re being fair but keep in mind what is most important.

    With TC it was having a go button, a whoa button, and making sure that he knew that being on the bit was not optional. Outside of that, I took my time with his training. Sure he had some straightness woes and pushed more than he carried, but the horse is never not on the bit, he never balks and, well, we’ve had some bolting, but he knows the whoa aid from my seat very well. After owning a horse who wasn’t told to go on the bit until he was 8 and I made it very clear that it was optional for him… I never want to do that again, we had connection problems the entire time I rode him. I never want to have to hope that TC will be on the bit or will go when I ask him to!

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    • I was actually thinking of your recent post about riding the horse you made while reading this post! It seems like the same concept applies.

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    • I just read that post, and goodness did it resonate. Thanks Megan for more of your insight! Yes, that’s where we are right now– telling him that he can’t avoid contact just because he feels like it. It’s a little more challenging for me because coming from hunters, I didn’t do much dressage in my teens with lease horses. Flatwork, yes, but real dressage, no. So it’s definitely a dual learning process, which is why I’m trying to get my trainer involved more. I definitely don’t want to leave many holes in his training and while it’s nice to grow and learn with him, I completely need the extra support. Thanks for the thoughts!

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  3. It’s hard when you ride your horse almost every day to remember to keep asking for more. It’s much easier for a trainer once a week or less to get on and have expectations that the horse should be better than it was for the last ride. That’s a big struggle of baby horsedom, but after four years off the track, it’s something Val and I still struggle with. I find it helpful to look back to what we were doing a few weeks or months ago and what we were struggling with. If I’m not asking harder questions and getting better answers, it’s time to up our game!

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    • Exactly how I feel! I was just thinking that there was a reason our flatwork had started to feel ‘easy’… and it was because I wasn’t challenging him any more. I think I’m going to start using my blog more by looking back and seeing more month-to-month changes. Maybe that’ll help me pin it down!

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  4. I can totally relate to this. I actually had this moment on Monday night. I didn’t realize how little I was asking until I had a lesson with my trainer friend who hasn’t seen us in months. Now I know what is reasonable to be asking to push for more but not over face her. Mostly flat wise.

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    • Definitely flat-wise for us too– C has no problem with fences and he has no lack of scope, so really it’s more going to be nailing down the dressage for us, I think. It definitely helps to have the trainer point these things out, because I didn’t really realize…

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  5. I’m terrible about settling for the small wins and mediocre successes when there’s more right there waiting for me to just try a little harde. Ah well. In a way tho, I always kinda feel like it’s exciting when the trainer tells me to up my game and push for more. Regardless of their intent, I try to hear it as encouragement to get to the “next level” – whatever that may be.

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    • See, I was kind of like that too, and I had a lot of people tell me to give him time to grow up, mature, all that jazz. It’s hard to think I’m being too soft/not demanding of him, but it’s definitely exciting that he’s ready to do more, I just need to learn to be able to identify that myself, I think!

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  6. Great work with him!! 🙂
    But hey, this is why I don’t need or want to work with some trainer who is pushy, has their own agenda, or who even spreads a LITTLE bit of negativity. It’s my own journey. My own horse. My own riding, and learning to both ride AND teach my horse better.

    Too high expectations from others make it less fun. For me.

    I’m sure the two of you will do very good and go far! Just make it yours 😉

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    • This is true! But I also can appreciate that she can recognize when he’s ready to step up and do more, because he’s my first horse and more importantly my first young horse. You’re very right though– if I felt it was too big a push, I wouldn’t agree with it!

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      • Yep, it’s gold worth to have someone there to back us up, to make us reach for more, and all of that. And like you said – recognize when he’s ready.
        I’ve just had so much “pushing” in the past (stuff that wouldn’t normally be said to paying students or athletes in most other sports…) that I’ve become allergic to negativity in my lesson environment 😉
        Want to keep it fun, want to keep it challenging, but motivating!
        Keep on going with your guy!

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  7. Your horse is super cute! He reminds me a LOT of mine 😉

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