If there’s one thing I’m evangelical about with training, it’s getting babies out of the arena as soon as possible and into the open so that they can organically experience the joy and confidence of going forward.
And if there’s one thing that scares the crap outta me, it’s getting babies out of the arena as soon as possible so that they can organically experience the joy and confidence of going forward!
When people ask me, scarcely attempting to hide the astonishment in their voices, ‘Are you still backing babies?’ I have to laugh as I nod my reply, yet I also add, ‘I do try to select the make and model, first.’ Which means, while there are certainly no guarantees in horses being particularly safe, I try not to select maniacs.
And how I’m enjoying bringing this young ‘un along! Lyric, the uphill Humvee I’m producing as a sales prospect for her Ohio owner, Laurey, boasts both Contango and Ulft in her Dutch half and Percheron in her other. She’s 3 years old, 17 hands (so far), and I’m grateful that Laurey readily agreed that at this age and size, she would not be worked more than three times a week for 25 minutes.
It’s pretty cool how easily the advice of the masters—about riding your horse calm, forward and straight—can develop a baby with little stress on the joints. Indeed with Lyric, I ride twice weekly. Mondays are brief longe sessions with correctly adjusted side reins and me ‘walking’ the circle with her to give her sizable body all the room she needs. Wednesday, I climb on and we do under-saddle work at walk and trot only, focusing completely on rhythm, contact and straightness. I don’t care where she puts her head, I simply maintain a steady contact and the moment she is straight, evenly pushing off each hind leg, she immediately reaches into an honest ‘diagonal aid’ connection, which allows me to give the inside rein as an immediate reward.
As she is just learning lateral balance, I’ve chosen not to canter her in the arena at this point in our 20 rides. I don’t want her to have to deal with turning every 5 strides in my dressage arena, so instead, we canter along the fence line in long, straight lines so that she can easily find her balance and rhythm. There’s just enough incline going both up and down to help with a bit of strengthening as well!
She is such a lovely filly to bring along, and what a treat it is for me to ride out in the open during these golden, autumnal afternoons. It takes me back to being a kid, jumping off the school bus, throwing my books on the kitchen table and tacking up my pony in our little back yard stable to ride while there was still daylight. These rides on Lyric, especially, remind me why I fell in love with riding in the first place. Good girl!