Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Horse I Lead: Starting Horses Under Saddle

I don't recall which trainer said or wrote it, but the line stuck with me: The horse you ride is the horse you lead.

I mentioned to Travis the other day that, according to my Training Tracker, I'm supposed to be riding Consolation by the end of this month.

"Is she ready for that?" he asked.

I assume his raised eyebrow had something to do with one of Consolation's recent handwalks, during which she and I struggled for control.

"Sure," I said. "In the round corral."

In the round corral, Consolation is respectful and quiet, attentive and practical. The basics of handling are ingrained to the point of being automatic. We've done many confidence building exercises (commonly referred to as de-spooking or sacking out). Even under stress, she obeys, and mounting up will be just another confidence-bulider because, in the round corral, Consolation leads like a horse I'd choose to ride.

Outside the round corral, I have a different horse on my hands. Consolation's emotions go up and her attentiveness goes down. She occasionally sways close to the brink of trying to take over control. This is natural for a horse that's only been on a few handwalks, but it doesn't make for a horse I'd want to ride.

The horse you lead is the horse you ride.

So, over the next few weeks, I'll start Consolation under saddle in the round corral, get her bending and stopping, backing and trotting. Meanwhile, we'll continue taking long handwalks across the countryside. Eventually, the horse I lead out there will be the same horse I'm willing to ride in here.

And ride I will.


ell said...

Very wise! It is so good to be reminded of that truth. I spent too many years thinking "I'm staying up on top where it's safe--this horse may kill me if I try to lead him!" I introduced Lucy to the wooded trails with hand walking and that is the way we still go out often if she tells me, "It doesn't feel safe today for some reason."

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

I hear you! I firmly believe there is no shame in dismounting to lead a horse through trouble spots. Some people say a good rider will ride through anything...I say a good rider is one who preserves life and limb to ride another day.