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The Great, Ever Changing, Probably Useless Plan

A draft cross gelding caught my eye this weekend. I contacted the seller and asked questions. I received videos. I asked more questions. I scheduled a time to visit over the weekend and ride him. We discussed a trial.

Then I looked into my pasture at my perfectly sound (currently anyway) able bodied new to me horse, bugged the hubby a whole bunch, and canceled the meet and greet.

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My face when I have to deal with him too. Maybe we are on the same page.

I’m not ready to give up on the orange beast just yet. There may be a time when I am, but that time isn’t yet and money spent on a new horse would take all money away from H’Appy.

I formulated a plan which I hope to stick to as long as the orange beast remains injury free long enough for this to work.

Step 1: Get my head out of my own butt, focus on reality and move forward with that. Part of my issue with H’Appy is that he isn’t quite what I thought I was buying. Now I know horses are horses and basically 6 months off didn’t do his training/attitude any favors, but I shelled out quite a bit for him with the idea that I was purchasing some training at the very basics of w/t/c and introduction to jumps around 2′ already installed. No, I didn’t think I was going to hop on him, solve all my riding issues and go tackle a rated BN event, but I did expect to not have to spend 45 minutes arguing that trot meant trot and not canter or walk.

I’ve been through that with Gem and specifically went out with more money in hand to avoid starting over with that.

So when I get on him and have some very Gem-esque rides in the arena arguing that I meant to trot not canter and my half halt means slow and rebalance not use it as an excuse to halt, I get more than a little annoyed. Me getting annoyed isn’t going to change reality though and I need to stop wishfully thinking that he was the perfect gentleman I thought I was buying and instead work with what I do have. I honestly think it is in there, it is just buried under 6 months of vacation and my own riding flaws.

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Step 2: Ride the darn horse. Yes, he has had a lot of time off due to his hoof issue and then his back, but the truth is he has had a lot of time off because I wasn’t that thrilled to get on him again. Go back up and read #1 as to why that is. I need to ride him though to get to know him, get his own head back in the game and get a true read of if this relationship is going to pan out or not.

The goal here is to ride at minimum 3 days a week for the next month, squeezing in more time as able. My arena footing still sucks, but it is usable and I have lights so no excuses. I hopped on him Sunday, had a 50% decent ride and will be riding him tonight and Thursday. Wednesday he gets his feet done and the right shoe tacked back on so I can move forward sans one hoof boot. Friday I booked the saddle fitting plus Trainer will be there giving me a lesson as well, so that will make three rides right there with the weekend still available for another trail ride.

More miles, more consistency and more lessons.

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He is grace. He is majestic. He will get me killed on xc by tripping over his own feet and face planting in the grass.

Step 3: Boot camp. I’m going to talk with Trainer on Friday about either a 2 or 4 week boot camp. This really depends on him a) staying injury free and b) keeping his shoes on. I think a refresher course for him isn’t a bad idea. It will not only get him some additional training, but will give me more lessons and a different perspective on what he needs for a successful ride.  I’m not sure if Trainer offers this or not, but I don’t think she does. If not, I need to find someone close enough that I can do a weekly lesson during this time. It doesn’t help me that a pro can ride him if I still can’t.

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Enjoying a good roll

Step 4: Reevaluate. After all that, if we are still not meshing or if I still don’t get excited to ride him, then it will be time to move on. Moving on may look like keeping him as a pasture buddy and to hop on every once in a while as a back up horse or it may look like finding him a new home where he could thrive with someone who does enjoy riding him. I’m not sure yet. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to this and that with saddle time, a good fitting saddle, lessons and boot camp we get on the same page. I don’t expect angels to sing at the end of this time, but I do expect to have improvement in our relationship as a whole.

We will see. It is winter and a wetter than normal one at that, so my plans may go off track immediately, but I don’t have a specific time line for all of this to get done. If weather pushes boot camp back a couple of months I am fine with that. My longer term goal is to be able to do either the jumper schooling rounds at FENCE in February or the Riverbend schooling jumper show in March followed by an amobea level (intro w/t dressage test, 18″ stadium round, and tiny xc where only 3 fences are mandatory and the rest you can do as you feel comfortable plus even if eliminated you get to continue on in all three phases unless deemed dangerous) HT in late spring/early summer.

It isn’t asking much. I was there with Gem who was a lot harder to ride at her best than H’Appy is at his worst, so it should be possible. If the darn horse can keep his shoes on, hooves attached and be injury free that is.

33 thoughts on “The Great, Ever Changing, Probably Useless Plan”

  1. This is a good plan! And boot camp will help. I sent Remus (older horse who does have some training) for 2-3 weeks to Emily each year and it really did help A) He got ridden more B) I got to go take lessons there and ride more and C) it makes a difference with a pro ride. I mean they aren’t going to fix everything but you will be amazed how much difference it will help! 🙂 And just cause the pro is not riding doesn’t mean it all goes to hell in a basket either 🙂

    Worth trying it for sure. I think if your trainer won’t do it see if she knows of someone she trusts who will do it. Esp with it being winter that is when I would do it. I couldn’t ride so I sent him somewhere where he could be ridden and I could ride too!

    Also yes just ride the beast. I think the horse you bought is under all that orange coat. I think he may have not been as trained as we thought but he still has the basics. He also has an appy attitude and a lazy bone (I have a QH with a QH attitude and a lazy bone so I know this type).

    Making plans for showing also helps! Write down your wants, needs, and goals and mark them off with a sharpie every time you meet one. Even if it is just RIDE DOOFUS TODAY. 🙂

    Rome was not built in a day 🙂 this can happen! You can do this. (And if not if he truly is not what you want, if you rode him all winter and improved him you can either keep him as a pasture pet or move him on :))

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    1. trainer has a lady she adores that she highly recommends but she is 2 hours away in GA and the only way I;m doing boot camp is if it is close enough for me to take a weekly lesson during that time. We will see what comes of it on Friday. As long as the rain stays away and it doesn’t get canceled.

      Dusty told me the same thing regarding getting on and riding the damn horse, so that is what I am doing. Even if it means squeezing in 20 minutes after Wyatt goes go bed.

      Hopefully it all works out and we can hit some shows next season. I’d love to actually have a show season even if it is wimpy level schooling stuff.

      Also, when are you coming to hang out with me????

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a really good and solid plan. If at that point it still seems like he isn’t working, well at least you know that you really did give it a real shot. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out, but most times, it just takes a lot of time and effort for things to come together.

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  3. I really really like this plan! I was thinking, as I read your post, sending him to a trainer for a week prior to boot camp could be a great idea too. So your trainer really knows what the horse is like and what is coming from you… but then I continued reading and kind of like your plan just as much!

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    1. I’m open to changing the plan up as needed and am toying with the idea of paying for a pro trainer ride a couple times a month if need be for a while to keep him tuned up. Lots of options to make this work and he is only 7 so hopefully if I can get a good base on him now it will pay off later

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  4. It is a good plan. Y’all have not had enough time riding and working to really build the bond and work through the issues because of all the time off. You can not have all the conditions perfect. You just need to put your big girl panties on and ride him. Ride him. Ride him. You both need the work to get there. Ride him the same in the arena, in the pasture, on the trails. He is testing you because he can. Put the work in and you will see the difference! You know what kind of horse you have in there and time is what you need to get back there. Go back and remember what it felt like when you tried him and why you bought him.

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    1. Why is it so hard for me to go out and do the thing I live? It was much easier when I boarded and scheduled the time to drive over to the barn and ride. Plus I was paying monthly for board so I needed to ride to make it worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I totally get it. I have times like that often because there is so much other work involved with the property as a whole…and I am single with no kids. I do not even have the added things you do with your family. You just have to schedule the ride time first. All the other stuff will wait. It will be there after you ride. Otherwise it is easy to fall back and not ride. It can be really hard sometimes because it does not feel like fun. Feels daunting and hard. Like it won’t go back to the way it was. However, once you’re up and in the groove, that goes away. It just takes time and you have to take the pressure off. Any pressure you put on yourself is pressure he feels. Any ride is better than no ride and each time it will get better. Go out with the mindset to have quality time, relax, breathe, have FUN. Communicate. It will come. Also, if I were you, on your no ride days, do some longing and ground work. Even just grooming time. It will build the bond that much faster, give him a bigger job, and a bigger context to your ridden work. You can do it! You are committed and driven. It really just takes time. Do not give up!

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      2. It feels terrible when it feels like you do not want to ride. I know. It is just because of all the other stuff. Just like everything in life, the path is not straight and all the times will not be easy. You just have to keep at it. It won’t be hard for long ❤

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  5. This sounds like a good plan! Boot camp in particular. If your trainer doesn’t offer this, she has has to know some close by. If you can swing 4 weeks, do that. Think about how much further ahead he will be. If it doesn’t go well for you, it will set him up for the future, if it goes well, he’s that much further towards your goals.

    In the interim, ride your horse! You’ve even said he’s better each time you get on! The horse you bought is under all that rust, but you’re rusty too. Just like you can’t expect him to be the same after so much time off, can you except to be the same rider without riding? You’ve had months to dwell on all that had not gone well and how things haven’t been perfect.

    From here on out, give yourself a fresh start. Set a goal for the ride. Don’t base it on the past or the future. Just now. See where you are in 6 weeks and then maybe in 3 months and then evaluate. But try and drop the baggage as it’s not helping either of you.

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    1. Holding onto baggage is my specialty though! What would my life be without it 😉 I know I need to do that and I was very very good at dropping Gem baggage when I first got him. Until he threw me over his head and then all that came crashing down. Sigh. Horses teach us all sots of lessons we didn’t even know we needed to learn.

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  6. yasssssss ride that stinkin horse!!!! you totally got this. the plan is good. obvi everything is always flexible with horses, but we’re likeliest to get the results we want when we keep pushing forward for them. fall is the best season for riding anyway, hope you have fun with it!

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    1. I hope I have fun with it too, but I know some rides are going to be plain old hard work and I’m starting to come to terms with that and accept it. Hoping Friday a) happens and b) gives me some insight. Trainer only saw us go on the flat in the arena 1 time the week I got him in a down pour and then one time with a group on xc. She hasn’t seen him go enough to give me any real feedback so hoping this Friday sets us on a good path.

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  7. I totally get how hard it can be to force yourself to put in the mileage on a horse that is constantly broken, or not always fun to ride, but it’s SO worth it when you come out the other side. You’ve got this!

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  8. I personally love having plans even if they go sideways so I’m glad you’ve planned some stuff out. If it makes you feel any better – one of the Trainers (I don’t ride with but I know) at the new barn has a client who won a winning Children’s Hunter, very very reliable horse. The kid couldn’t get it to canter in the span of her hour lesson. The trainer had to get on and ride the horse a bit, then she could give clearer instructions and force the kid to get tough. Sometimes wires just get crossed which is why eyes on the ground are great (which is why you doing a boot camp sounds like a fantastic idea, kind of like going to a couples therapy if you will.)

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  9. Sounds like a good plan. And definitely try to get more lessons. It was very very humbling when I got on what my previous trainer used as a school master and everything I tried to do made him buck, he was SO sensitive and trained versus how rough I’d had to adapt with Gwyn and the previous horse I rode all the time. I was not a finessed rider to be on a finessed horse. I’m still not, but I always try to keep that lesson in the back of my head. I hated riding that horse. Hated it.

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  10. Thank you for chronicling your journey. 6 months from now you will be able to reread this and remember how you felt. I like your plan and think you both will benefit from some stucture and social community to build your connection.

    You seem to have fallen out of habit. I think you should work with him every day for an hour. Or make it 30 minutes. But every day. Rebuild your habit. 3-4 rides per week, plus 3-4 ground sessions. Every day. Go walk up the road with him. You can actually make this fun. And he will start bonding with you.

    This is a two-way street. Try and see things from his point of view. He has bonded with his herd and spends hours every day with them. They protect him. They play with him. And then you come along with an agenda. You take him away from his safety.

    He resists. He evades. Partly because he can (and has been at times successful). Partly because he does not see you as his protector.

    Bottom line, you need to spend lots more time together … just the two of you.

    Ground work can include obstacles, lunging, long reining, etc, but my personal favorite is just to go for a long walk together on a busy enough street, go talk to the neigbours, practice “heeling”. I bring my mother and sister along and we make it a family time.

    If you dont trust him for this, then you can work on the ground skills necessary to be able to trust him. Rope halter, yielding hindquarters/shoulders, sidepassing, and then practice all the moves in patterns eventually without a halter. He should be reading every move and breath.

    Build that partnership. It will translate to the saddle. But it takes time. Hours every day, every week. Through lameness, saddle issues, lost shoes, and back wounds.

    The trainer and boot camp will put in the time. (Some trainers have a whole routine where the horse is engaging in some activity for 2-3 hours every day: grooming, lunging, riding, washing, patience wall; and turnout, if any, is often in solitary. This means that when the human comes around, the horse wants company. They are such social creatures).

    Be your happys best friend. He is waiting for you.

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    1. Habits are hard to form and easy to lose. I spend a lot of time with him out of the saddle. More than in it. I groom him almost daily, take him for walks down the drive. I agree those things are just as important as the mounted time to build a relationship

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