Friday, August 31, 2018

The Horse You Bought

I promise, endless Spud media is coming, but my previous blog post kinda sparked an interesting thought as a few readers commented on looking back at where we started. If anyone else wants to participate in this, feel free to make it an unofficial blog hop, haha!

And although my previous post looked like a whine-fest, I promise you it really wasn't. I suppose the "am I the right rider for her?" was a bit melodramatic, but it wasn't intended to be that way. It's more of, "do I have enough experience and expertise to bring this horse along in a way she should be brought along"?

A lot of my worries with Annie weren't something I considered with Suzie, simply because Suzie was a senior mare. As far as she and I were concerned, a lot of her behaviors were things that were not going to change and I could work on them to chip away, but the majority of them were ingrained in her. With Annie, I have kind of a clean slate. I don't know any past history on her because there isn't any - we are making it each and every ride. And that's kind of scary in a way. At least for me it is.

Exhibit A: Our first show wherein I did not particularly prepare the horse
and did a class we probably shouldn't have done. Mare was very
stressed and overloaded on that particular day.
So when we back-slide into issues we had earlier this year and late last-year (cross-firing, I'm looking at you!!!), I kinda hesitate and wonder what the heck I did to revert back to old habits. I have a pretty good idea as to why, but Annie can't exactly vocalize and tell me. I've taken a few videos of the behavior and the handfuls of clinicians we've seen this year have seen small glimpses of it and all of them seem to be on the same page.

What I do need to remember is the amount of time we spent creating this whole canter nonsense history - to the point where Trainer K could easily hop aboard and walk/trot/canter without any issues and when I'd get on a day later, all Hell would break loose and the canter would yet again be discombobulated. So, there is history between Annie and I.

And when things get tough? Things revert back to old habits.

That being said, I do have some things I'd like to get ticked away before firmly entrenching my opinion, so for now we'll keep moving along as we have been and get the little laundry list I have assembled cleaned off.

She's certainly a lot more relaxed in the Dressage ring. Still not where I'd
like her to be, but the change is there!
That being said though, this blog IS my sounding board. This blog is where I come to share and document things. Feeling tired from trying to develop a young horse is OK and while I wasn't expecting anyone to validate my feelings or ass-pat me, I am firmly OK being the person who wants to step back because constantly having to "ride" the horse is sometimes just hard. Annie and I have done a lot this year and we've worked very hard, especially the last few months in particular.

I was going to wait until January 2019 to do this post, but I think it's important for me to take this little trip down memory lane and I think it's imperative I do it sooner rather than later. I'm not going to do a giant post, but just a little "before" and "now" comparison to get the wheels churning a bit in my own head. A post full of media will come out sometime in January, during our Annie-versary (see what I did there?).

 As a reminder, I purchased Annie with "30 days" as a late four year old in January 2017. She had primarily been ridden in an arena and had never been exposed to trails, and had only been trailered twice in her life. Trainer K is quite certain she was never taught to canter under-saddle before I got her, and it seems kinda in line with her ad which stated "confirmed walk/trot". So... good on me for reading the whole ad? LOL

My first ride on her - January 2017!

^ Our first ride at Barn C. She was super, but clearly did not steer
very well! Bonus points for going around the arena like a
big girl with three other horses in there tho!
^ Forever working on our canter button in April 2017.
Mare was willing, but was very weak and struggled to
really grasp the concept.

^One of the most recent videos I have of Annie, doing
Training Level 3 for an online horse show earlier in August.

And a recent-ish (July) trotting photo from the Sven clinic we did.

I spent a lot of time over the last two days reflecting and kind of considering where we came from and where we are headed. And the significance of the journey is not lost on me - this is the first horse I've developed on my own (mostly) and although not all moments of the journey are fun, I have to appreciate them just the same.

Annie is a horse that was started late - her age is not lost on me, but there is something she doesn't have that a lot of horses her age DO have.


The first shows she attended were shows I took her to. The first indoor arena she rode in was the one I rode her in. The first jump course we did was the one I rode her over. The first clinic she attended was the one I took her to. The first bath... the first set of hot shoes... the first time in a straight haul... the first Winter being blanketed... 

One of the "first" conformation shots I got of her.
She used to just follow me around, haha.
While she is not a naturally spooky horse, all these new questions are confusing and she's just figuring out how to do the thing. There are also the moments of Mare Angst that sporadically pops up because, "Hey, this being a riding horse thing is hard work" and we have to go back to Square 1 and reaffirm that canter means canter (or trot means trot, haha).

The last year and a half has been full of adventure and learning lessons for me. As with anything, mistakes have been made, but Annie just keeps rolling along with the punches like a good horse does. 

We may be closing the chapter on the first half of her 6 year old year, but we are mentally coasting along in 4 year old land. Annie is also learning to use her body in new and difficult ways - something she has struggled with since Day 1 by not being a particularly supple and loose horse to begin with. I continue to plug away tho, in an effort to making her a more honest and well-working horse - which is what anyone who rides really wants. 

Physically, she's changed A LOT.
She has certainly come in leaps and bounds, and that is not just in regards to being a riding horse. She is learning, accepting, and starting to mature into a horse I can be proud of. As always, the blips in progress and the laundry list of things to work on will never end, and it's important I don't dwell on them, but that I also learn from them and move on. 

Looking back on her first rides and even reading back on old blogs (remember how she didn't tie reliably? or how she didn't even know how to lunge?) makes me feel more humbled and appreciative for the progress we've made. It's all relative tho, because one person's list of things to be proud of will be vastly different from another's and as the horse matures and ages, the list will again change and mold.

We are all looking to turn out nice, rideable horses, and the thing with the journey is that no horse is the same. I know of several bloggers who have struggled with bolting, spooking, and even bucking as evasive techniques from their horses. And as we all try to figure out what makes our horses tick and how we can eradicate the unwanted behaviors, we all are kinda in the same boat just flying different flags. 

She finally learned how to stretch both undersaddle
and on the lunge line this year!
This is Year 2 both together and undersaddle, and although we've hit a bit of a wall yet again, I feel like the horse that is beneath me is a lot more in tune with what I'm asking and has a better understanding of those asks compared to the horse I was riding a year ago.

And that is something to be proud of.


  1. Perfect idea for a blog hop. It's a TON of hard work getting a young horse to the reliable stage. I'm not sure I commented on your last post, but yeah, been there with the wondering if I really can do it. If it helps, everyone at my barn seemed to have youngsters a couple of years ago and we all went through periods where we second guessed it all - even the professionals I chatted to admitted to feeling that way now and then. I do think you're doing a fantastic job, and you certainly should celebrate all the accomplishments and breakthroughs!

    1. Oh, and I posted a Sophie update celebrating the little things just prior to reading this - great minds think alike! I'm going to post a Bridget celebration/struggle bus post for your blog hop :)

  2. Great post! I think it's great to occasionally go back and remind ourselves that we HAVE made some progress, even if it feels like we're wallowing in the same old place. And hot damn does her body condition look fantastic!

    1. It's important for sure, esp because those baby's like to make liars out of us haha. And thank you!!

  3. She has certainly come a long way since you bought her. I should probably remind myself about that with Levi sometimes.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Olivia.

      HOrses, esp the greenies are tough.

  4. You guys have come a long way and that's why blogging is so cool, being able to actively go back and read about the past when our brains can only think about the present. Great Hop idea! I will definitely participate.

  5. This is so great and it's important to reflect back on 'where you came from', especially when you feel like you're standing at the base of Mount Everest, questioning the universe.

    Regarding reverting back, I recently audited a clinic and one of the [many] things that stuck with me was this quote..
    "Every horse has a tendency and they will always revert back to it when things get tough; determine what your horse's tendency (or tendencies) are.".. I know in my own riding, I am the same - I am very quick to go back to old habits and end up in a vicious circle of tension, with no end in sight.

    You've come so far, even if you feel like you still have mountains to climb!