September 6, 2023

Riding and Lunging Encore

When he dropped him off, the owner told me Encore had spent the last 30 days with someone local, and he admitted that it didn't turn out to be a good fit.

"I mean I've walk-trot-cantered him myself, he'd occasionally scoot if he was startled, but never did anything bad with me. But [rider] made it sound like he was bad, like almost afraid to ride him. [Rider] was just too Quarter Horsey for him I think, you can't drill these Cobs, they're too smart for that."


The man has done Lisa's ponies' feet for well over 20 years; he may never have owned one before Encore, but he sure does know Cobs. He's exactly right about them being too smart for drilling.

(Remind me to tell you the one sometime about the Welsh Cob that laid down with a student trainer in college (not me!), because he was being drilled and he was too smart for that. It's a good one.)

It is actually stupid how well my Dressage saddle fits him. I think it fits Encore better than it ever fit Connor even when he was fit, and that it saying something because it was a damn good fit on Connor.

The one video I saw from "the girl" was of Encore being practically chased on the lunge with a bigger man on him, his bad eye on the inside of the circle and giving off strong prey-animal-being-hunted vibes. It gave me a sense of what kind of riding he'd been exposed to at the boarding barn, and especially with the ulcers I'm sure he had, that had to have been just a LOT for him.

I've had him 10 days and been on him twice so far. The first time, we did a pony ride with Leah leading us, and I swear the poor guy was going to jump out of his skin. Every sound I made, every motion I made in the saddle was terrifying to him. You could tell he was waiting on the other shoe to drop, that he had some negative associations with riding, but all that said, he was still a very good boy and I never felt unsafe.

But like OMG doesn't he just want to be a sporthorse!

A couple days later, we did a mounting block lesson. We got all tacked up again, and we went to the mounting block and just...stood there. Click treat for standing still. Click treat for standing still while I rub him all over. Click treat for standing still while I sit on him for a few seconds. Untack him, put him away. See? Not every time you wear a saddle do you get ridden. You could see his brain going, "...huh. Okay. This is different."

Lil fella needs to develop his butt muscles!

The next day, we lunged for the first time. This again he had associations with. I could feel him assuming he would be chased on the lunge, with palpable worry. No, we will walk, I told him over and over, until he understood and started to exhale and relax. I only lunged him on the good eye side. There will be a time to push him and lunge with the bad eye on the inside, sooner rather than later so I don't develop a one-sided horse with no coping mechanisms for his vision loss, but the time for that was not the first night we lunged, when we were trying to break those negative associations.


That's gotta be what, like a foot overtrack? By the way, he was a superstar at lunging. His voice commands are rock solid.

Last night, though? Last night I rode him again, again with a ground person although she was only there as an emergency brake, and it felt like I had a different horse. From the moment I tacked him up you could feel that he was starting to understand that the game is different with me. His eyes were softer than I'd ever seen for any kind of work before, and dare I say curious?

This one doesn't need the hillside to look uphill, lol

Last night was the first time I had a sense for what kind of riding horse I really have because so much of the fear was gone, although he wasn't completely without nerves. I could talk and laugh without him jumping the way he did the first time I rode him. I had rudimentary steering and a very good whoa. I could bump him with my legs, even pony kick him when he was fixated on something outside and wasn't listening, and he jumped, but in place.

There's a lot of power and air time in that trot. I'm excited to ride it when the time comes.


It's been such a hard thing to figure out, how much to push this horse and how much patience he needs. But that he made so much progress from one ride to another was validation that I'm getting it right with him, at least so far. He learns so quickly, far quicker than any horse I've ever had, and he's open to new experiences and changing his expectations. He won't end up being a horse for everyone, but he'll definitely be an incredible horse for someone.


  1. Such a gorgeous and lucky Encore! <3

  2. Sounds like he is lucky to have you! Nicely done.

  3. He's so stinking cute. I love that he's so willing to give you and things a chance even when he has bad memories associated with the things -- nice work so far!

  4. OMG I am drooling over him!! How lucky for him that you entered his life and are showing him how to do things with relaxation and curiosity.

  5. I get the feeling once he trusts you, he's going to be a quick study. He seems very smart, and like he really wants to answer the questions correctly. I'm excited for you, I think he's pretty special.