Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Let's GO!

Yesterday afternoon a friend and I took our horses out on a trail to let them burn off some steam. Lately, more than ever, I've been convinced that some horses (actually most horses) should have the "fresh" taken off before being asked to set their mind to a task. A few months ago I had a friend ask me to help her out with a horse that was trotting off on her all the time when she just wanted to walk. On one hand I know that a horse should always be able to maintain a walk when asked but on the other hand I knew that horse hadn't been ridden consistently in a long time and that she was really excited to be out . My advice was to not ask her to walk... to instead send her out at a trot (make her wait for you to ask) and keep her at a trot until she wants to come to a walk... only dont let her walk just then.... instead, ask her to trot for just a few minutes longer, then walk her for a few minutes, push her up to a trot for a few minutes then bring her back to a walk. My friend then said, "But I dont always want to have to trot her, she doesn't have a comfortable trot." Fair comment. I suggested that she instead lunge her before riding. Then we got in to a discussion about the what we should or should not expect from our horses.... Should we able to just get on and go for a walk? Should we be forced to lounge first? I want to say that a horse should do what we tell them, period. But...

I like a horse with energy. I would much rather contain energy than have to create it. I also appreciate a willingness to move out, a horse that constantly asks me, "What can I do now?" My favorite part about riding Princess is that she loves to go out...so much so that she actually balks at going home! I dont want to take away that childlike enthusiasm, that wonderful spirit she has and so I always try to make a ride fun for her.... because.... as cheesy as it may sound, if she is having fun, I will be too. It is not fun for a horse with a lot of energy to be made to walk when their whole body is yearning to trot....because sometimes I think it takes all of that wonderful spirit in them, that spirit that is making their feet happy and their heart light, and replaces it with a sour, bitter resentment.

I once met a trainer who told me that when a horse steps in to an arena with extra fresh (excited energy) it is like a little school boy who runs home just bursting with joy to tell his mom about how he won first place... he rushes to her, pulls at her skirt, jumps up and down and is so excited he can barely spit it out... "Mom! Mom! Mom! I... in school... I gotta...." Picture that boy's energy as it would be expressed in a horse... Now what if that mother were to turn to that boy and say, "Gerry be quiet! Go clean your room!" That little boy will be so deflated, he might have a temper tantrum, he might just drag his feet and go to his room or he might say, "but... but.. but... I gotta tell you something". Either way all of that natural joy has been taken away and by the time he's gone and done what he has told the excitement he has been replaced with disappointment. But if that mother were to have turned to that boy when he first rushed in the door and shared in that excitement for just a few minutes that boy would have gone off to do his chores still filled with that same positive energy. When I get on Princess she is that little boy (girl), she seems to say with a light heart, "What are we doing! Are we going! Can we go!" I always want to make sure that I answer with the same enthusiasm, "Let's go!"


  1. Whiskey always made these Pfft, pfft snorting sounds when we walked (or should I say jogged) to the arena. Best feeling in the world when your horse is pumped to go work for you.

  2. I too love a horse that likes to go! But in control. I think if a horse has been turned out, no reason they can't walk till you want more though. It is soooo much more fun when they want to do what you want to do to!

  3. You make a great point here, Chelsi. Obviously I love horses with a lot of spirit. That's why I ride Arabians. It is so frustrating to see horses at horse shows that are lunged to death so they will "behave" quietly in the ring instead of being trained to behave. It takes a balance to teach the young horse to maintain their enthusiasm and still go slow when asked but still, isn't that what good training should do? I know I don't want my horses to lose their sparkle because they are bored to death or, like your example, have had their enthusiasm squashed. I want them to be happy that we are going to work and that showing is fun. It probably takes me longer to get my horse finished for the ring but my horses don't get "hot" at a show even if something comes up and I don't get them schooled before a class.