Monday, August 10, 2015

A Fundamental Shift

Early this spring, I started riding with a new jump trainer. He's an eventer and I'm kinda not, but he gets the OTTB brain thing and did some really good stuff for Courage in just two lessons (and then I started showing and had no dollars and haven't been back, but I will get there. Eventually.)

Anyways. He said something that stuck with me: "Once we get the thoroughbred to work for us, they are very cool horses."

And I remember that when he said it, I was just kind of upset. Courage and I were having lots of problems (like not turning right) (or getting along) and I just wanted to scream "THIS HORSE FIGHTS ME EVERY STEP OF THE WAY".

Which is true. He did.

But since then, we've ridden in several dressage clinics and taken a good number of lessons with our on-site dressage coach. And if I were more competitively-minded, I'd complain about how slow we're going with Courage and how we ought be farther along.

But you know what?

I put a solid dressage ride on Courage the other day. He started out stiff and unbending. We worked through it. Then he got rushy. We worked through it.

Then we were just trotting along in a perfectly fine training level balance to the left, and like... Courage slowed his cadence a little. Kept his stride length the same. Reached down into the contact. Maintained impulsion from his hind end. Swung through his whole back. We were probably going 40% slower than we had been 2 steps earlier, but now my posting took twice as long and we were covering the same amount of ground.

And I hadn't even asked for it. That was Courage, working for me, trying to figure out what I wanted.

Guys. A tear.

What's more, I was able to consistently replicate it going to the left. We aren't quite there to the right yet, but that's ok. We always get things to the left first.

I'm really kind of overwhelmed. Yeah, this year has been slow in terms of progress, but by taking things slow and really showing Courage what I want and helping him understand, we've built a whole new partnership. We certainly still have our spats (and I suspect always will), but there's an element of our relationship that didn't exist before.

You guys. He's trying for me now. And that is very cool.


  1. So glad to hear this! OTTBs are the best, aren't they? :)

  2. This is so wonderful and made me shed a little tear of happiness!

  3. Gary is so right. :) I could really see myself never riding anything else (except maybe a Knabstrupper/Trak cross!) now that I have Apollo. OTTBs for the BIG WIN!!

  4. Yesssss! I had a trainer say to me "your horse is the type who HAS to understand his job before he'll do it. That means you might have to do things very unconventionally to get him to understand. But once he makes that connection, you're good. He's got it. He'll do it more reliably because he understands it more completely."

    It made SO. MUCH. SENSE. Go Courage! :)

  5. This is so awesome! My OTTB certainly has taught me about patience. :-)

  6. Yeah the tbs tend to be very interesting horses - so much personality and thoughtfulness for a horse!

  7. And that's why I love my Thoroughbred :) They can be so great!

  8. Daw! Yay for Courage. He's grown so much lately. Things never happen on our time, the ponies are on a completely different clock. :) I have the Copper-clock and you have the Courage-clock.

  9. Having a horse that tries is one of the most important things for me when riding. Otherwise it's just an uphill battle all the time, and that's no fun for anyone.

  10. Trying is so important in the relationship.

  11. That event trainer is so incredibly right. You need to print out that sentence, laminate it, and put it up every where: "Once we get the thoroughbred to work for us, they are very cool horses."

    You are not going slow with Courage, and you shouldn't be further along. You are doing exactly what Courage needs, and you are going to end up with a horse who will give up all his heart, strength and ability for you to use. That's why I ride Thoroughbreds, there is no other horse with more try, and all you have to do is earn their trust.

  12. So cool. Now, how do I get the drugs that convince MY thoroughbred to try FOR ME?!

  13. what an awesome (and rewarding!) feeling!! at a david oconnor clinic recently, a rider went immediately to the stick when her horse wouldn't get into the water. he told her she had about 7 tools to go through before resorting to the stick, and that the whole purpose was for the horse to *understand* the exercise, not just do it bc we made them. seems like the same philosophy you've taken with Courage - and so glad it's paying off!!


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