September 28, 2012

Ready for Green

One of the hardest decisions I had to make when Connor’s breeder made me an offer I couldn’t refuse was whether or not I was ready for a green horse.  Especially because I didn’t think there was any way I could afford to continue taking lessons with my trainer AND pay for board at my barn, I was stressed for several weeks about it.  If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I continue to question it every once in a while even now.

Now that I’ve had him for nearly a year, I’ve realized that there’s a big difference between being an intermediate rider with a green horse with a trainer (giving you lessons, not riding the horse, that is something different entirely), and being an intermediate rider with a green horse without a trainer.  If I’d taken him, but stopped taking lessons and boarded him elsewhere like I thought I’d have to, I would certainly still be riding him ineffectively, with hands pushed forward and allowing him to lean on me, because I didn’t know any better back then:
Octoberfest 2011
(And we probably wouldn’t be able to make left turns.)

Instead, we are more regularly starting to look like this: 

April 2012, most recent under-saddle photos I have of him!
Even with a trainer, as a rider you still need a particular skill set and to be very self-motivated to get the maximum education possible out of bringing up a green horse.  There’s a level of body awareness, finesse and coordination necessary to be able to affect change, and you’ve also got to be able to take instruction well.  By that, I don’t just mean accepting criticism gracefully, I mean that you’ve got to be able to understand what your trainer is saying and put it into practice quickly, which is sometimes (often?) harder than it should be.  This is one of the hardest parts for me.

While I could say that the last six weeks wouldn’t have happened to Connor under a more advanced rider, I could also say that I would never have learned those things about myself and my riding if it weren’t for Connor.  And that’s my thesis on whether or not you’re ready for a green horse: if the horse is improving (even if that improvement isn’t quite linear!), and you are learning and your riding is improving by working with the horse, then you’re ready.  I wouldn’t be the rider I am today without Connor.  I’ve learned more and developed more as a rider in the past eleven months than I had in the previous 5 years combined.  He’s required me to develop a level of finesse and awareness I never thought possible, because I have to be really effective with my aids in order to teach him.  He’s hot, yet I feel safe on him; he’s green, yet he teaches me; he’s not ‘finished’, yet he’s taught me so much about feel.  Part of that is good instruction, part of that is me learning to pay attention to the little things, and part of it is just a good working relationship between horse and human.

When did you realize you were ready for a green horse?


  1. Well put Jen!
    I had the same kind of moment when we bought Rosemary as a 3yr old with only 3 rides under her belt and pregnant. I did not even test ride her before we loaded her. Luckily she has been great, but we are in "no trainer" category so her progress is much slower.
    After working with her and Comrade, I have decided I can handle a green Cob, but I won't rush out and handle other breeds. Cobs are in a class to themselves.

  2. If it wasn't for my trainer Shy and I would not be nearly as far as we are. . .and we really aren't that far. It didn't help that I was told she rode (as a trail horse) and drove, but she doesn't. As a beginner rider, it is still hard transitioning from the 18 year old Haflinger I leased to a green, scared horse. It has been a journey, Shy has made me have more patience than I ever thought possible, and it is all worth it.

  3. I've never been fortunate enough to have anything but the green horse no one else wanted. So, when I had the opportunity to buy whatever I wanted for the first time, and swore up and down I was getting something I could learn on - a horse to help improve my riding and confidence. Of course I ended up with an unhanded welsh cob ;) Like you and Connor though,I think we are a good match and we have good help- I've learned more with Ginger in a few months than with other horses I've had for years.

  4. When did I realize? When I realized I couldn't afford a made horse :D But he is a good egg at heart and has taught me a ton.

  5. Interesting post. I don't know if I ever had an 'aha, now I'm ready for greenies' moment. I guess the decision has always been made by other people as to whether I was capable of riding their greenies. Next is to see how it goes with a greenie of my own!

  6. When I fell for a cute black and white yearling! If I knew then, what I know now...would I do it again? Yes, because I would not trade Riva for a finished horse.

    You and Conner are doing amazing together - and I enjoy reading about your journey.

  7. Interesting perspective. My mare was green (not even backed) when I got her. Unlike Connor, she was not a "teacher", although I learned quite a lot from her. My next horse will be quite green (most likely off the track), and I think after a couple of years with my awesome old dude I'll be ready to give it another go.

    I think things could have gone better with the mare if I had more consistent access to a trainer, but ultimately, she and I weren't going to make it. So... it can work, with the right horse. It doesn't mean it will. Glad it's working out for you!