Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Looking formal for his lesson
The weather has finally been consistently good enough that I felt the need to schedule a lesson. We're still working with my friend/trainer the biomechanics guru, which I am super excited about. We mostly worked on my aids and effectiveness, which was excellent training but not great for pictures. More importantly, we talked about pressure.

At this point, I'm not interested in hauling him over to the expensive event trainer for a lesson because he just mentally can't handle pressure for a solid hour and I refuse to pay for an hour when I only need twenty minutes. To deal with this, I've been very careful about putting pressure on him (trot fancy with your head down) and then taking it off (free walk on a long rein for a circle).

It seems to be working slowly--last week he could only do about ten fancy trot strides before he just sort of lost it and leaped or flailed a bit. I mean, the horse can trot around all day. I can now get him to trot in balance on the bit while engaged behind, but only for short periods of time.

The best at taking instructions
Our instructor pointed out that while it's good to know that about him, it's also important to increase his tolerance by putting more pressure on him. Essentially, if I want to do clinics and lessons and shows, I can't keep him in a stress-free bubble forever. So pressure on/pressure off, but take one or two days a week to work really hard, then give him a couple easy days.

Sounds like a plan. We acted on it by really putting both of us to work--I had to be very consistent about my aids, thus creating a "box" for Courage. When he understood and trusted the consistency, he was quite willing to go into it.

I was pleasantly surprised--we did lots of serpentines and figure eights, which meant changing bend and direction, without taking any breaks, and Courage handled it well.

Then we moved on to cantering. I didn't realize I was riding him a bit tentatively at the canter. Even our instructor who's only seen him a few times was like "Just kick him! He's a good boy and he's not going to do anything."

Oops, haha. We got rolling in a lovely forward canter and did lots of circles and laps around the whole arena. Our instructor had me sit tall and close my eyes so I could focus on the feeling of him moving under me and keep my body more still. I was pretty proud of Courage for the effort. Canter circles were a major stress point for him last year, but he was handling them so well.

Then we went to the right, which is his harder lead. We did a couple of circles, then around the arena, then circling at the other end of the arena.

 I was focusing on riding him forward from my leg and we were cruising around and then all of a sudden we were sort of flailing and I was staring at the sand with an alarmingly small amount of horse underneath me.

And then we were just standing at the fence.

Our instructor was like, "Um, ok, let's just try that again."

Looking so fancy 
So we trotted a circle (to remind him that we can still turn right there), then picked up the canter and finished out the lesson like nothing.

It wasn't anything earth shattering, but I felt like it was a great lesson to launch our season. My main take away (aside from the much-needed position help), was just that he's ready for more. Keep it fun, obviously, but it's time to turn up the heat and see where we can go. He's learning fast and handling things that just last fall would have fried his brain.


  1. It's such a cool time when you realize your pony is ready for more challenge! I'm so impressed by Courage's brain. Those TBs, they are such good ponies. ;)

  2. Awwwwm Courage is the cutest! Yay for you guys! :)

  3. How exciting! I love lessons like those :)

  4. I'm so guilty of not putting enough pressure on my own horse. It's so harrrrrrd but so cool when they rise to the occassion.

  5. Courage is the BEST at being ready for more.

  6. Sounds like you're both ready for more! Woot!

  7. When Pongo was greener/just coming into 'real work' we played a lot with these concepts too! For a while (like over a year), he needed tons of walk breaks when I rode to mentally handle the work. I'd push him a little, then we'd walk on a loose rein and I'd leave him alone for a couple minutes before resuming the training. I'd do a lot of short rides too, just get on, get to the point, get the result, get off. 20 minutes. Those worked well too, there was no need to hound him for 45 minutes or push the envelope. Now, a couple years later, he happily plods along and lets us torture him for as long as I feel like, haha! Really great job letting the training progress at a pace that's comfortable for his brain and body!

  8. My old coach used to work with the same concept, each ride ask a little more, a little more pressure, a little more stress. They learn to accept it then thrive on it. Good plan.

  9. Go Courage! Sounds like it was great!

  10. Nice lesson! I'm hearing the same thing from my trainer

  11. I hear you on the canter. My boy used to freak out about canter-work, so I kept it bite-sized for the first year at least. When their strength and balance improves, they handle pressure better because they are more capable of the work. It makes sense to take it slow since it was a long winter. No need for spring injuries, right?

  12. Sounds like a great lesson! I'm in the same 'baby horse' boat. Little bits of work and a break. Seems to be working so far!

  13. I'm finally about caught up on your blog. Sorry I've been absent again. This is a great post!!! I think Chrome is in the same place as Courage (brain wise, obviously Courage has way more experience being an OTTB lol). I've been keeping things stress free so far and I think it's time to start adding a little pressure. I have to quit treating Chrome like a baby horse. I really like the idea of a couple of hard days (mentally probably more than physically) a week and then easy days to give his brain a rest. I like that. :D Thanks for sharing what you're learning with Courage. It's so relevant (well minus the jumping for me, but it's still fun to read about and to cheer you on) and helpful. Keep up the great work with the little man! You're doing awesome!


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