Monday, June 20, 2016

A Supposition

Courage and I have been to four shows this year (if we count a two-day dressage show as one). He's been incredibly good at two of them and incredibly bad at two of them.

Now, obviously there are a LOT of factors that go into both of those, but there's one factor I wanted to play with: braiding.
hot mess

You see, he was totally rideable at both the shows we didn't braid for and a loony toon at the ones that we did.

That's weird.

We did braid for one show last year, but that wasn't until he'd been getting out and showing a lot and then we had other issues.

So here's my hypothesis: Courage is a sensitive horse that likes to be tight in the neck/back. Tight braids exacerbate that tendency and increase the amount of tension I have to ride through.

To test said hypothesis, I read Austen's write up of how to do her fluffy loose braids, bought myself some yarn and a needle, and went to work.
I was really, really glad I was doing this in my free time at the barn--it definitely took a few braids to get the hang of it. By the time I got to the last braid, I finally figured out a specific method I liked best and of course, next time will be better.
Here's the really interesting part. Courage is an old warhorse who's totally used to be being messed with and pretty well lets me do whatever. He does hate mane pulling, but he tolerates it without escalating. When I braid, he just stands with his head down and lets me go nuts. No problem.


When I finished putting in the floofy dutch braids (which are super loose and don't pull his hair), I stepped back to admire my handy work.

He instantly started licking and chewing and yawning and stretching and it went on and on and on.

He got really in to it.

He's never had that reaction to braiding before. Not even sort of. He's always just been sort of resigned to his fate.

What's more (since I have a lot of time on my hands), I then tacked up and threw him on the lunge line.
uh yeah i'm in love with this picture



covering ground
I mean, a big storm was rolling in and he was a little up, but he gave me some of his best work yet. A huge part of that is all the under saddle work and lesson (sorry, need to do a write up) we had, but he was slow and cadenced and even sort of looked like a dressage horse.

Obviously, the braids didn't turn him into a dressage horse, but I'm starting to wonder if they might be another piece in the puzzle for us. I mean, when I took them out in his stall (with scissors because whoops didn't get a seam ripper), I didn't even halter him. He just stood next to me with his head down and his eyes closed and let me take my time.

That's... unlike him.

Of course, to fully test my hypothesis, I need to ride him in braids, both at home and at shows. Until then, I'm intrigued by my preliminary results.


  1. Courage wins at having opinions. Hopefully your experiment will pay off. :)

  2. Good on you for paying close attention to that. It's not really in the same direction, but Connor definitely reacts positively to being braided. He seems to take shows more seriously when I braid - not sure if it's the actual act of being braided that makes him think about things differently, or that I myself take shows more seriously (i.e. rated) and handle him differently.

  3. I would believe that the braids are irritating for horses that are sensitive. I prefer how the poufy ones look anyway.

  4. Ah! Love to hear this!! The looser feel of the braids is definitely something I consider a plus.

    Pig lets me know when I have a braid that is too tight. He isn't bad about it, but he'll pointedly rub just one and kind of flinch when I mess with it. Funnily enough, he stands like a rock for mane pulling -- even so far as to go to sleep.

  5. This is really interesting!! Anytime I braid my horse's mane too tight he pretty much goes giraffe..I think he is annoyed with the pulling sensation, kind of like how a really tight ponytail would leave us with a headache or a sore scalp.

  6. That's really strange, I'm doing the same experiment myself! No braids , I had the best show test results in a long time. I think it might be part of the equation. Carol

  7. The braids are definitely magical. Without a doubt =D

  8. That's an interesting point, and it does actually make a lot of sense. Here's to hoping it makes a difference at the next show!

  9. Courage just wants to rock a very specific 'do :D

  10. Mikey never liked it when I did fewer tighter braids. He always went better when I put in 17-19 braids vs 9-11 (I do them super tight). He probably would have enjoyed the fluffy dutch braids instead of the button braids (he always carried tension, but not as much as Courage). Doing every day work in braids is a good way to let the horse get used to the feeling without the stress of the show.

  11. Yup. Def a thing.

    Sidenote I want to do floofy braids. They're lovely.

  12. Interesting. I always do those braids, because I am far too lazy to do Hunter braids and also because I call them "cobra braids" and I like to say "COBRA" and do a snakey hand motion. They're very haute couture in dressage. The braids, not yelling "COBRA" while doing snake hands.

  13. Super interesting! Curious to see if it works!

  14. Very, very interesting. I wonder if the routine of braiding on the morning of (if you do it then) the show also influences thing -- it's a tension adding activity on an already tense day, and if you're anything like me you probably end up kinda in a bit of a rush during braiding anyway. Something to think about for sure!

  15. magical floof braids! I will not argue with this!!!

  16. The dutch braids look really good! I wish I could have figured out how to braid Sydney. Her mane is just so thick, and I couldn't justify the amount of pulling that would be needed to make it more manageable. I finally gave up this year and gave her the Trojan horse look, and I don't think I will ever go back to having a long mane on her.

  17. Braids = insta fancy. You need to braid him every day, because holy crap *heart eyes emoji*


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