February 20, 2013

Philosophy Change

Whether you closely followed the story or not, it was hard to miss the buzz surrounding the on-course death of Andrea Leatherman's 7 year old Thorougbred mare, Neveah.  The pair had a rotational fall on a tabled oxer after Neveah hung her front legs while going Intermediate in Florida earlier this month.  While the necropsy eventually found that the mare died of a heart attack and not the fall, there was plenty of time for armchair enthusiasts to speculate in the meantime, and one of the thoughts discussed on the CoTH forums, that of a pro vs. ammie rider for bringing up a young horse, caught my eye on a personal level.

Essentially, the poster said that sometimes young horses that are brought up by professionals are not given a bad ride to a fence often enough to figure out what to do when things go wrong, and never have a chance to develop that "5th leg" it's said horses possess when they figure out how to save themselves at an XC fence.  If a horse always gets a good ride to a fence at home, and then something happens at the show and the rider gets distracted or gets a bad spot, they won't have a frame of reference for that.

You guys know that I am barely qualified to be bringing up a green horse, and there but for the grace of a really good and patient trainer go Connor and I.  Even to those ground poles last week I was getting some bad distances - jumping is not something I have done a lot of - and I felt bad.  But reading that put it in a different perspective for me: I'm still aiming for a perfect ride to every fence, but if I don't get it, I'm not going to get down on myself for being a bad green horse rider.  I'm not a pro, I need to train him to save my ass when I mess up just as much as I need to train him to be a rock star over fences.  He has to be able to assess the situation and do what he needs to do to keep us safe, first, and hopefully make it to the other side of the fence, second.  It's so important when riding fixed obstacles at speed on cross-country that he possesses that confidence and independence.  I make sure to keep jumping safe, fun and never over-face him, and if I occasionally get the bad spot, that's a learning moment too.

So many times since owning Connor I've had this complete rewiring of things I held to be true before I owned a green bean, like when Solo & Encore's mom posted about green horse contact last year and blew my mind.  I love having what I currently hold to be true challenged and changed, it makes me a better person and a better horseperson.  What training philosophies have you changed your mind on through the years?


  1. Good point Jen. I know with Barry my instructor told me to let him figure out what to do. It made him able to adapt to situations better. A big philosophy that changed for me is the amount of time I need to work a horse. I used to think my horse had to work for 30-60min for it to count. Now I go for quality not quantity. If my horse understands a concept in 15min I end the ride. Short sessions can be so effective. It is nice not to worry about watching the clock when I ride.

  2. I've heard that point made before Jen, and I think it's really important for an eventer to "have a brain" I'd say you're halfway there with a good sensible Welsh cob! For showjumpers at the higher levels, say 1M20 upwards, it is a little different. They need to be obedient, well-schooled & ridden in a professional way - this is why we see so many amateurs who can jump clear after clear at 1M & 1M10 but start to struggle thereafter, even with a talented or "made" horse.
    My own training revelation has been "ENJOY IT!" That's my mantra now! The thought of galloping XC doesn't do it for me any more, so I'm sticking to the things that make me happy :)

  3. Lucinda Green talks a lot about this. If you watch some of her clinics she sets weird, awkward distances on purpose so the horse has to think.

  4. I think that this is a great post, I'd never heard this point before and I think that it truly is right, you're so sensible and such a good rider :)

  5. Since Riva and I are green on green, I guess I did not have any preconceived training philosphies - I know people can be very opinionated in the horse world, in every aspect. So I try and find what works for us and keep an open mind.

    I went back and read that link to Solo and Encore's mom's post about contact and could not agree more with her!