Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Difference of a Well-Trained Horse

Yesterday I was being extra-ambitious and rode Casey and then followed it up with a ride on Mac. Mac is my favorite horse at my barn (after Casey of course), because he is the biggest sweetheart. He's the kind of horse that is essentially just a gigantic dog. He will sit there and lick at my hand for ages if I will let him. I used to lesson almost exclusively on Mac and so we have a really good bond. He always comes up to say hi to me and I always bring him treats. The perfect kind of relationship :)
I have no recent pictures of Mac, so enjoy some from last year!
Cuddles with Mac-Attack
In addition to being cuddly, he is also incredibly fun to ride. At one point Mac was a million dollar horse who was in training for the big stakes jumpers. He wasn't successful at it due to the fact that his body just couldn't take it, but he still has all of that training. He is strong and powerful, yet super responsive and knowledgeable. He's the kind of horse that demands respect from his riders. If you let him get away with crap he will act worse and worse as your ride continues, but once you have his respect he will do anything you ask.
Ignore my terrible eq, this photo is almost 2 years old!
In our ride yesterday I wasn't trying to focus on anything too hard or intense, but I did ask him to do the "simple" things that Casey and I have been working on. I would ask for a leg yield and he would move sideways instantly. I tried asking for shouders-in and haunches-in and got them, no problem! I then tried asking for these things at a trot and, while it wasn't as clean, I got them right away. We were able to do trot extension and collection, and even canter extension and collection. We could bend, we could stop on a dime, and we could do transitions flawlessly. He gave me a to-die-for walk-to-canter transition and we also played around with flying lead changes. Even though I didn't want it to be a tricky ride, we were working on things that are near-impossible for Casey to do, but he was able to do like it was no biggie.
Old photo of me riding Mac
My ride with Mac gave me several things to reflect on. The first is the difference in riding a semi-green horse (Casey) and a very well-trained horse (Mac). Everything is easier on a well-trained horse. Since everything is easier, it really forced me to focus on making sure I was doing what I needed to do. In some ways Casey allows me to get away with bad habits. She isn't responsive enough to show me when I screw up, but when I made a tiny mistake with Mac it would instantly show. He knew what I should be doing better than I did. Casey doesn't know any better.
Mac in winter
The second insight was that training Casey on the basics, really reinforcing what aids mean, etc, will result in having a horse that is more enjoyable to ride. Sometimes working on basics can get boring (especially since we are in rehab and that is ALL we can do), but it will be worth it in the long run. Mac isn't some magical unicorn (even though in my head he might be). He is just a horse. The difference between him and Casey is that people put a lot of time, effort, and energy into training him to be the best he could be. I don't know if Casey can even be as well-trained as Mac, simply because I'm not as knowledgeable as Mac's fancy trainers were, but she might be able to get close. And that is worth the effort.
Mac in magical winter light
I'm super appreciative of my gigantic lovable horse friend. Mac rocks and he teaches me so much. I'm sore today from the double rides yesterday, but hope as the summer continues I will get to ride him more!
The best lesson horse at the barn

1 comment:

  1. It's always great to be able to ride a well schooled horse!