In 2007, I left the country for half a year, forcing me to find a barn for my four-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Volly. As I’d owned this horse since he was a fetus, I was outstandingly picky: he needed tons of turnout; he needed a place where he would be cared for properly, and he needed correct, classical riding that would keep him progressing towards being a respectable dressage horse without pushing him too hard. Also, I needed to be able to afford board.
I had no idea where I would find such a place, until I had the idea of tracking down Kirsten. She had taught me from when I was eight until I was eighteen, from when I couldn’t canter until I could comfortably perform in eventing, dressage, and showjumping. I had always respected and enjoyed her methods of teaching both horses and riders, and I knew she was someone I could trust to provide superb care for my horse and to train him excellently.
I managed to find Kirsten, and I shipped Volly from Connecticut to West Virginia so that he could stay there for the half-year I was away. (In the end, he stayed closer to a year). The first time I visited him, I was thrilled: he was soft, responsive, and full of impulsion; he was receiving correct, balanced training; he wasn’t being asked to do more than a four-year-old should. Most importantly to me, Volly was obviously incredibly happy: he was calm, composed, and confident.
I’ve recently had to move Volly so that I can ride him more than occasionally. Because of his time with Kirsten, he is now a pleasure to ride: light, responsive, impulsive, correct, and, most importantly, happy to do his job every day.
It’s been a while since Ive taken the opportunity to post here. Silly, really, since I’m the guy who keeps the virtual places virtually intact :=) I had some really nice observations the other day as Dolly and I were working in the round pen… and later in the arena… with Kirsten. I’m not so certain I can give voice to everything I observed, nor communicate it clearly enough to create an accurate, concise picture. But hey, for all you beginners out there… hopefully strike a chord.
Dolly and I have been working on our teamwork for about a year now, off and on. Obviously, I don’t have as much time at the end of the day as I would like to groom, prep, and ride. So we generally go once a week, better some weeks, worse others. Last week was the tail end of several missed opportunities to ride, and Kirsten and I, perhaps a month ago, had decided that we needed some time doing a more formal lesson in the round pen and the arena rather than my typical clean, tack, check brakes, and try stuff. Boy, did my eyes get opened to the bad positioning and misunderstanding of the basic forms of cues I had accrued through early lessons dimly past. Its not that I was way off. I could move the horse off all points succesfully, get on, and in a general way, communicate my intentions, and barring any major desire for grain, barn, or grass, she was generally cooperative. Sometimes, she was less so. It’s not that she didn’t like me, it was an issue of respect.
After correcting my little mistakes… body angle here, clearer cues there… on the ground… I was back to having a full, crisp response. Almost soldierly. Which is amazing with an 1800 pound draft horse. After a trip around the round pen bareback and getting a new feel for her motion and biomechanics with a little bit more exposure under my belt, we put the saddle on and worked in the arena. What a remarkable difference 20 minutes can make when used wisely, and with a competent teacher! To anyone who wishes to really learn horsemanship and thinks they might not be able to afford a trainer… the rapid results, the clear and effective lessons, and the return on your investment is well worth the reasonable price of admission.
It’s not that I didn’t mark the 365th, it’s that I haven’t had time to post. It was funny… I spent all day joking with Kirsten about making Grace a carrot cake for her “Bower Birthday” which also happens to be the anniversary of our engagement… we ended up going out to dinner to celebrate the event and the waitress brought us… you guessed it. Carrot Cake. Yummy. Too bad though, I didn’t really think the cake was all that healthy for growing ponies 🙂
On the plus side, she gets two birthdays every year 🙂 Mar 30th and Nov 13th!
SO now a few more days have passed, and a year more.. and boy, has Grace just grown into an amazing, amazing horse. She’s somewhere in that awkward stage between adolescence and adulthood, but every inch of her carriage and poise is that of the most regal and high duchess of horsedom.Â it’s amazing just how social she is, and how… it’s hard to describe… -present-. She expects to be part of things. Her curiousity and intelligence are written all over her face and her expressions. What a welcome addition she’s been to the family 🙂 Matter of fact, she’s rather central to it 🙂
Thank you, Tonia!Â Thank you thank you 🙂 We couldn’t be happier 🙂
The key to natural horsemanship and balanced seat riding is to be able to freely balance and control your various body parts. A saddle can make that easy… or downright impossible.
A saddler once measured my femurs and discovered they were 2 inches longer than they should be for a person of my height. That explains a lot of my personal riding challenges. It also makes it tough to find a saddle that actually fits me!
I’ve decided to clean out the tackroom and sell saddles I’ve accumulated trying to find ones that fit me or a particular horse. Each one is good for balanced seat riding in English disciplines. I know that they will be a a vital part of someone else’s harmony and success with their horses!
Are you looking for a new used saddle to take you and your horse to the next level? Read the following posts. I may have a saddle for sale that will fit your needs and your horse! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section. As always, I’m committed to win-win-win situations where you, me and the horse all come away happy!
“Horse Training Success” is running a training tips contest. We just submitted this entry:
I love all the posts that include training with treats! Do you know they actually funded a study in France which “scientifically proved” that horses learn faster when they receive food rewards? Hahaha, horsemen since the dawn of time could have told them that!
My tip brings even more impact to the power of treats. When a new horse first comes to the farm, we teach them a “bridge signal.” They learn to associate a clicking sound with a treat. More importantly they learn that whatever they are doing at the exact moment of the click is what they are getting rewarded for. This way, we can reward them “in the moment” no matter how far out of carrot range they are (great for liberty training or speed work.)
This has infinite applications! We have taught a horse who hated having his feet handled to stand in a bucket of warm water and epsom salts to soak out an abcess. We have taught rowdy youngster to quietly hold their hooves on a hoof stand so one person can trim their feet without needing a second handler. We made horses who refused to be dewormed look forward to the dewormer. We have taught flying lead changes to an off the track TB who would only take one lead, and curiosity and courage to a “chicken-heart” who spooked at anything and everything. The list is endless!
The photo shows a recent– and FUN–success. The mare in the photo is an off the track TB. We brought her to a medieval equestrian reenactment. In no time she accepted the flowing, jingling costumes, the swords and lances swinging around her head, the loud cracks of impact and flying targets–all through the power of associating the click for the right behavior with the treat that says “well done!”
Check out the contest and vote for our tip!
Not to be outdone, Gracie says, “look, Dad!Â I can do it too!”