Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Trust, Confidence, and Courage

Part of our not-so-subtle transition from "I swear we'll jump something someday" to just straight dressage queens was prompted by a dressage clinic in which the instructor kept asking me if Courage was jumping a lot. He wasn't and I told her that. But. When I asked for clarification, she said that until he really learned to draw his hocks under him as a default instead of going inverted, jumping was just going to exacerbate the problems we were dealing with. 

That makes sense to me--I'm working to counteract the effect of six years of racing on a naturally tight horse. Whenever he feels pressure, he defaults to the rigid, inverted frame he used to run away with people, which creates body soreness and a vicious cycle of tension.

So we totally stopped jumping. We were going in to winter anyways and I hate setting jumps inside. A few months back, I tried lunging him over poles and it was a total train wreck. He's never been the best at them (championship aside) and he was spinning and spooking and leaping and running inverted and all kinds of things that weren't helpful.

But the other day, he was acting wild while we tacked up (ugh means leaping day) so I figured I might as well give him something to leap over and see how it went. Best case scenario, he'd look slightly less crazy because he was leaping things that actually existed. Worst case, well, that would involve getting fried and prancy and bad things and let's not think about it, but I'm getting more confident in my ability to read him. If it went poorly, I could just pull the poles out and pretend they never existed.

An interesting thing happened:


I mean, these are all obviously varying degrees of fails and trust me when I say he was wild enough that I had to hold on to the line with both hands for the worst of the fails or you'd have video and they'd be even funnier.


He's not just leaping and flailing and checking out. He's staying engaged with me and trying different ways of going over the poles.

That makes me excited.

It's not even really about the pole. It's about his willingness to trust me and try new things, especially things that have historically been very hard for him. Mentally and physically leaving is his default and after almost a year and a half of solid work, we have we made strides in changing that.
so attractive
This is a new chapter for us.

PS there are a few more days to submit your entry to our fail contest!!


  1. That is amazing!!!! That last picture is so nice!

  2. Very exciting stuff here, so happy to see his brain starting to think in new ways!

  3. I love the second-to-last photo. He looks like he's trying so hard. I think the biggest thing you've done for him is built up his trust in you, that you're not going to put him in situations he can't handle. You're doing a great job with this little horse.

  4. Thinking is so hard, but it looks like he's actually doing it!

  5. I second (third?) the comments above. That last pic is the bomb and I agree with Marissa. You're doing a great job with him!

  6. You're giving Courage courage :)

  7. I like the hock action on some of those pole pictures. I love poles for getting their back end up. He looks good in last one too; really thinking.

  8. i love it!!! (and still desperately need to figure out the fail contest entry thingy.... lol)

  9. I feel it took a solid 2 years for my gelding to trust me. And he came fully trained, and generally took care of me. But didn't fully trust me for a long while. And now he does <3

  10. Woohoo! Congratulations to both of you. He really does look good in those pictures. Even the ones where he's a little tangled up, at least he's tangled in the right direction ;-)

  11. I also notice that his butt is tucked under him for most of these, which is kind of exactly what you seem to be working on so that's also progress!


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