TOABH: All My Own Mistakes

The majority of the ponies have been given their African horse sickness shot, an effective but extremely strong vaccine that necessitates three weeks of very gentle or no work after each of the two shots. I dislike this enforced rest period, but this year it’s arrived at a good time in their training; Arwen is getting stunning, Magic is being good and has sore teeth now, and Baby Thun is being his usual awesome self. They all deserve a rest, especially Arwie, who has worked her muscular little grey bottom off.
So, my dear readers, as I am in the process of looking for a project pony to keep me amused for the next month and a half, you guys get blog hops!
I apologise for not doing the InLinkz properly. I plead mobile blogging.
Beka from The Owls Approve asks:
“Last week, we talked about our babies. This week, let’s talk about our greenies. Who trained your horse? Is your ponykins still in the process of figuring out this whole monkey-on-my-back thing, did you send off for thirty or sixty or ninety days, or did you buy a horse with all the bells and whistles? Who has helped your horse become what he or she is today?”
Skye was what I think you Americans call “green broke” when I got her. She knew what whoa and go meant (sort of). She did not try to throw me 80% of the time. She could kind of turn, but like an ironing board turns; stiffly and with very little agility.
I really cannot say that I taught Skye as much as the brave old charger taught me. She still needs a Western curb for those moments when one requires a handbrake. She doesn’t canter on the left lead, ever. She doesn’t jump. She doesn’t bend. She only neck-reins when she feels like it. She’s the most trustworthy horse I have ever known.
I owe her majesty a lot of things I can’t repay. After all, she was a green young mare and I was a ten-year-old with the self-preservation of a lemming; any horseman could tell you that’s not a match made in Heaven.
I can tell you that a match made in Heaven was exactly what it was.

Arwen is my personal pride and joy when it comes to training horses. She was halter trained when she arrived and that was about it. The Mutterer, with no fuss and very little trouble, introduced her to saddle, bridle and rider in fifteen minutes flat, becoming instantly my hero.
Arwie was my sister’s ride for a while and this did not work out, something we realised somewhere around the third disastrous fall. Arwen became a paddock ornament for a few months before a bored, twelve-year-old me saddled her up and tried her out. She was, frankly, quite horrible. She reared on outrides, she bucked at the canter, she leaned on my hands, and she spooked at anything that dared to exist. She couldn’t do a trot circle, much less canter in a straight line.
It took five years of constant work and was a tremendous learning curve as we both grew up. At times I despaired that she would ever be brave or fun. But look at us now; attacking xc courses, clearing 1.00m courses at home and floating through novice-level dressage. She was a perfect project for me. Glory to the King.

Magic is a different story. Unfortunately, his youth was spent as a commercialised part of the racing industry. And not the American racing industry where OTTBs come able to do lead changes. I don’t know what they did to Magic, but it cooked his brain. He couldn’t function in a group or stand in the rain without freaking out. He was so touchy you couldn’t groom him. He was… interesting to ride with his nose in the air, his gaits choppy, and the feeling that he was just about to explode at any minute.
Needless to say, I loved him instantly.
When I bought him, he was a little calmer. He still stargazed, refused to canter on the off lead, overjumped massively and startled at any sound. I threw him in a paddock with Skye, which I did more for convenience than anything else, but it was the best thing I could have done. He learned to be a horse again. Skye re-taught him the equine language he’d all but forgotten.
Now? Well, we have a loooong way to go. But I’m most humbled that this great horse has accepted me as his leader and friend. He’s calmer, happier, and looks like a million bucks under saddle. We’re a trot leg-yield away from Novice dressage and jumping 80cm courses comfortably.

Thunder is… well, Thunder. He has only my work in him, really. In the four years since he was born and I breathed into his nostrils as one horse does to another, I’ve trained him largely on my own. Of course, the Mutterer guided me through every little step; but the actual hands-on training has been just God and Thun and me. The Mutterer worked with him in hand once when he was being a colt and I didn’t know how to handle it. Thun has never had a pro rider on him. Just me, and a few students and friends.
I think even if I had all the money in the world, I won’t buy myself a schooled horse. There are plenty of riders who can school horses so much better than me. It’s not even a matter of pride anymore – of “Well, the others can win ribbons but I can do it on a horse I trained myself”. It’s that I wouldn’t trade this bond for any amount of ribbons. More practically, a horse I raised is tuned in to my preferences; he is halter trained to the point of in-hand showing, he doesn’t get too pushy about treats, he doesn’t graze when you’re on him, that sort of thing. Also, having had only one rider all his life, Baby Thun responds amazingly to my aids. Each rider does give his aids slightly differently; we’re all built differently. One of our client horses is a prime example. She leg-yields beautifully for my clumsy aids, but doesn’t leg-yield at all for the Mutterer, simply because his legs are longer even though his aids are better.
Baby Thun is so used to my aids that sometimes I just think something and he responds to subconscious changes in my body before I can move my hands and legs. I wouldn’t trade him for Valegro.

4 thoughts on “TOABH: All My Own Mistakes

    1. She’s a stubborn beast and usually gets her way, so a lot of people don’t like her, LOL. But she is pretty amazing. I think of her as my battle steed; you wouldn’t want to ride across town on it but when the chips are down, you know it’s got your back.

  1. It was really weird while I was reading this. I could “see” everything as you spoke. I could see Magic doing those overleaps – lol maybe it’s because I’ve seen pictures of him doing it. I could see Thunder skipping after you like a kid following its mother. I have to admit, I laughed out loud when I read, I was a ten-year-old with the self-preservation of a lemming You certainly know how to put us in the moment, Firn. I thoroughly enjoy reading about your babies ๐Ÿ˜€

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