January 6, 2016

How to Challenge a Cob

As we were cooling out from our lesson on Saturday, my trainer continued to complement how hard Connor was thinking about the half pass exercise, and how good he did in that lesson.

I said, "Yeah, he always focuses like that when we introduce a new lateral exercise.  I kind of think that's why things get lackluster with him, if he does the same exercise multiple days in a row, he sort of checks out and goes "Well, I already know that one," and goes on blah autopilot."

She agreed with me, thoughtfully, and said "Yeah, yeah, I agree with you.  You really can't do the same thing two days in a row with him, he likes being challenged."

Lisa has always told me that's true for Welsh Cobs more than a lot of other horses because they are so inquisitive and engaged with humans. Initially when I thought about challenging a horse and keeping them mentally engaged, I thought I needed to be mixing it up in a big way: trail ride, Dressage school, jump school, repeat.
Quarter sheet weather has firmly arrived...

But I'm learning that it's less complex than that, at least with Connor.  Every time I ask him to use his body in a new way, even if it's just half pass on a circle rather than a straight line, that's a challenge for him, and that's fun for him.  That's something he can focus on and puzzle out.  He's also a chicken, and I think he thrives on predictable routine (regularly being asked to do Dressage), but varied exercises within that routine.

(I'm also willing to bet that I'm a lot more aware of/careful with my aids when I'm doing something I don't yet understand fully.)

Not really sure where I was going with this, except that "creating new puzzles" seems to be even more important to Connor's happiness and training advancement than dramatically changing what we're doing each day.

Someone thought it would be funny to do pony yoga (rubbing one muddy hoof over and around the opposite foreleg) in his white Majyk Equipe Dressage boots!  I work so hard to keep them white, and all he does is sabotage me.


  1. Connor sounds a lot like Ginger - she enjoys having a predictable routine, but is also very easily bored! Bridget enjoys a change in the routine, but is a typical cob in that she is very easily bored without a challenge.

  2. i think my mare would agree with Connor too. if we keep just trotting around i end up getting nitpicky and we bicker about where her nose is or some other pointless nonsense. but if we're actually *doing* things? she really gets in the zone

  3. Gavin's a bit like this too. I can't say that I've ever felt him thinking something over while working on it, but I do know that he turns his wow factor on when I push him just a hair out of our comfort zone. :)

  4. So interesting and helpful to read this. I feel this way with Katai, that she likes routine but different work within that routine.

  5. Connor just wants to make sure you have something to do when you aren't riding!

  6. I think this is a really cool insight! I hadn't really thought about varying the routine in this way either - I mean, it's kind of occurred to me before, but only really on the "we did lateral work yesterday, so we better focus on something else today". Other than I've more though about variation being jumping vs dressage vs trail riding like you mentioned