A friend of mine sent me her horse to ride for a few months when the weather prevented her from riding much at all. She has a limited area in which to ride and rain had made it unusable. This visit had been designed as a fitness play-cation for this lovely horse and it was hard to say which of us (horse, owner, or me) enjoyed it the most. Ok, pretty sure it was the horse, but we all had fun.
The very busy farm gave him a lot to look at and learn from, compared to his much quieter home life, but he adapted quickly. After a couple of weeks of very basic work I decided to ask him to gallop – a little. His reaction was so comical and so cute that I found myself laughing out loud – cementing my reputation as the resident eccentric, oddball trainer – a title I welcome.
The non-verbal communication went something like this:
[Him] “I hear what you are saying, but that CAN’T be right! I’m a dressage horse and we don’t DO stuff like that!”
[Me] “Try it – you’ll like it!” (I felt like a drug dealer pushing that first hit.)
[Him] “No, no, I really shouldn’t – are you SURE?”
[Me] “C’mon – it will be fun – I promise!”
Reluctantly he stretched out a bit and I could feel him enjoying himself.
[Me] “Forward is fun, really!”
[Him] “Ok, I’ll try it…” And he went faster the second and third times we stretched out.
[Me] “You had fun – you know you had fun!”
[Him] “Oh, yeah!”
For all the world he reminded me of a little boy all dressed up in his Sunday best being told, “Go ahead, jump in that big puddle of mud – really – it’s Ok.”
Although he was very happy to slow down, the fun of “Just plain go!” quickly became apparent. More importantly, it enhanced everything about his life as a dressage horse. Lengthenings and Mediums are a piece of cake now – forward really is fun and the resulting engagement is really cool!
Anyone who thinks racehorses don’t show an uphill engagement at full gallop should look at the famous picture of Secretariat crossing the finish line in the 1973 Preakness Stakes.
So – c’mon – gallop your dressage horse – it will be fun!