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  1. #1
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    Default "Playing the whack a mole game" thoughts

    The first thing I did after reading Kristin Carpenter's brilliant article, "Playing the Whack-A-Mole Game", was take a sigh of relief. Her story of the constant need for patience with her new mare made me realize that maybe I'm not as bad as I thought, maybe it really does just take that much time, and in my case trial and error. Kristin left me with a more relaxed outlook on training.

    However I did start to wonder, how do you know when something just needs more time, or just isn't physically possible for you or your horse? For example, Kristin said it took five moths to get her mare to where she was physically capable of cantering in a circle. It obviously paid off, but I don't know that I would have been able to stick with it that long.

    There is a lot of pressure out there, how do you keep it from interfering with you and each individual horse? I never have intentionally set a timeframe for any horse, or, have I?

    Thoughts?

    I hope this jumbled post makes sense...

    "Pat the horse; kick yourself" - Carl Hester



  2. #2
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    For those who haven't seen it, here's the blog.

    I think a lot of what you ask about comes down to time in the saddle, experience, and good guidance (which I know Kristin has a lot of). And, really, you can never have a time frame for a horse, ESPECIALLY a young horse. They are all very different and need different things. Patience with the horse, with their development, and with yourself as a rider and trainer is HUGE.

    My own thoughts on the whack a mole game" is that it never really stops. I spent all winter improving my jumping and it paid off with huge dividends in both jumping phases a couple of weeks ago...but wheels came off our dressage a little bit because of it got neglected. So, now we're whacking at that mole for awhile.

    If it was easy, it wouldn't be any fun


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  3. #3
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    I know when I was training my Arab (bought as a 3yo), he went through periods of just flailing awkwardness. I spent his 3yo year mostly doing ground work and introducing him to the concept of being ridden (got on him for a few minutes a day and introduced steering at the walk and the idea of some basic leg cues). His 4yo year, he went into actual light work. He learned to trot and canter under saddle. However, in late spring of his 4yo year, he completely lost the ability to canter with any measure of coordination. It was a frightening, flailing mess of legs under saddle and not much better on the longe. I basically just quit asking for it and focused on developing a nice trot that summer. I gave him most of that winter off (got on occasionally and fooled around, but no real work) to grow up some more. When I got back on him in the spring, he had a LOVELY canter. He lost it a couple more times briefly and now is just fine.

    So his canter has been...oh three or so years in the making (he's 8 now). I'm not showing and I don't really care how long things take with him. I plan on keeping him until he dies which will hopefully be 20+ years from now. I'm in no hurry.



  4. #4
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    Mar. 25, 2013
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    I've been eventing my guy for quite some time bought him when he was 4 he is now 10 and we are doing training level. This article is so true to the end. I am waiting for the day my guy takes me out of the start box, will it ever come?

    This past year our relationship became so strong but with numerous eliminations on XC. But I learned a lot about myself. I'm hoping this year will bring a more bold partnership out of us and we can finalyl work together, altough I am super nervous as our first event is this weekend and I do not want to replicate what we had last year.



  5. #5
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    Oct. 25, 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angelico View Post
    The first thing I did after reading Kristin Carpenter's brilliant article, "Playing the Whack-A-Mole Game", was take a sigh of relief. Her story of the constant need for patience with her new mare made me realize that maybe I'm not as bad as I thought, maybe it really does just take that much time, and in my case trial and error. Kristin left me with a more relaxed outlook on training.

    However I did start to wonder, how do you know when something just needs more time, or just isn't physically possible for you or your horse? For example, Kristin said it took five moths to get her mare to where she was physically capable of cantering in a circle. It obviously paid off, but I don't know that I would have been able to stick with it that long.

    There is a lot of pressure out there, how do you keep it from interfering with you and each individual horse? I never have intentionally set a timeframe for any horse, or, have I?

    Thoughts?

    I hope this jumbled post makes sense...
    This is a thought-provoking post. I first must say that, unless you are a pro trainer whose rent is riding on making up young horses for sale in a certain time frame, "the pressure" is all from within you.
    You may choose freely to succumb to this pressure to get competitive quickly, I suppose, if your horse is primarily a means to the end of your own need for external validation . . . in which case, if it isn't working, find one that does. I guess. No need to stay "married" to 'em, the one frustrating you may be somebody else's dreamboat.

    But assuming you're committed to maximizing the potential of the reasonably nice horse you've GOT, be prepared for this journey to take the rest of the horse's working life. I'm serious! Because he or she will constantly be changing over all that time. Some things will come easily, many will not and far more often it is the rider's limitations rather than some inherently limiting feature of the horse that holds back progress.

    I believe that almost any non-lame, reasonably conformed horse who isn't dreadfully clumsy can be taught to competently and safely go Novice. The best 25% of these can do the same a Training. Perhaps 8% of those will ever see a Prelim., and going beyond is not even an aspiration for the vast majority of recreational riders.

    The trouble is usually not jumping--it's the dressage. A huge piece of this picture is that today's dressage instruction is geared to the specialist rider on a purpose-bred Warmblood--not the person on a hot OTTB or sensitive QH or who will not put up with being driven onto a relentless bit contact by a heavily driving seat and leg.

    Because Eventing dressage seldom reaches above 2nd Level for most people, don't sweat perfection. Get the little stuff right, like accuracy and ringcraft. For this, the books of Dr. Max Gahwyler cannot be beat! I found if you can go in there and ride a workmanlike, quiet test you're going to be in the ribbons if the sticks stay up MOST of the time. Does it take time? YES! The point is the making, and not the thing made.

    Does this help?


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  6. #6
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    I haven't read the blog yet, heading over there, but I think "whack a mole" is the PERFECT description. When my older guy hurt himself and his career was over, we had JUST gotten to where I felt like he was finally "trained." It only took 5 years. I have to often remind myself of this when I get frustrated w/ younger guy. Time, time, so much time...

    Heck, I remember when I couldn't canter my older horse for oh, a YEAR, because he didn't have the balance or muscle. I thought I was human failure and I should definitely sell him. He of course has a lovely canter that even now I can ask for with almost a thought, ROFL.


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  7. #7
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    Great blog post. Having worked with several youngsters it is always an up and down game. It has taught me lots of patience! It is so worth the time and wait to develop that partnership, because when it does pay off, it does so in droves!



  8. #8
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    Feb. 13, 2012
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    What a great blog! Having recently purchased a 4 year old that knows nothing Whack-A-Mole is the perfect description.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angelico View Post
    However I did start to wonder, how do you know when something just needs more time, or just isn't physically possible for you or your horse? For example, Kristin said it took five moths to get her mare to where she was physically capable of cantering in a circle. It obviously paid off, but I don't know that I would have been able to stick with it that long.

    There is a lot of pressure out there, how do you keep it from interfering with you and each individual horse? I never have intentionally set a timeframe for any horse, or, have I?

    Thoughts?

    I hope this jumbled post makes sense...
    I'm trying to keep myself slow and steady giving my guy the time he needs by having a trainer or trainers that I trust and respect to help guide me as to what is reasonable to be expecting or asking. I'm using people that favor a correct non-pressurized approach - not someone who is going to try and employ what I would call a "kick and pull" approach. In my last lesson I got told not to do anything more and just to consolidate and solidify the what I'd accomplished so far.

    The second thing I would say is that when you are considering if something just isn't possible yet have a think about what the horse has done so far and what physical (and mental) state he/she is in. Is what you want to ask an incremental change or a complete departure from what you've asked so far. How proficient are they are they at the previous stage? Do they have the muscling to do what you want to ask? Have they just grown?

    Anyway my default position is having someone I trust who I can have lessons with. I try and figure things out for myself and then I get to a point where I'm not sure if I'm doing too much or not enough and that's when the lessons are most useful.


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  9. #9
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    LOVE the blog--and this thread!

    I am sending this to *all* of my students (and a few friends!), with luck they will take it to heart and find it encouraging, reassuring, and inspirational...

    I did all of these things with my mare that Kristin wrote about in her blog; she could have been dictating the exact thoughts in my head , and I now have a "water averse" filly (), who--like her mom--will need time, patience, and confidence-building methodical habituation. The trust thing is huge too--especially with mares!

    It takes as long as it takes (listen up, teenagers )
    "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

    "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")


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  10. #10
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    That was a really nice article, and I love the video (complete w. videographer's sotto voce encouragement).
    Honestly, unless you are really experienced at bringing young horses along, I think it is invaluable to have people you trust guiding the process. After several tough flat lessons with my new young (but not neon green) guy, this week I felt forward progress, just a little, in every ride. I felt him begin to be heavy in my hand in the canter, and occasionally break to the trot. I knew my coach would be thrilled, as she had told me he would go through a heavy phase (first month was careening around behind the bit at the canter). Sure enough, she was very pleased, and now we can begin to ride him in a whole different way.
    One mole down.
    Next mole, probably the part about how cross country schooling was so exciting that rather than jump even one fence (!), we leapt around like a porpoise in a corner of the field. Coach said "he'll be a different horse in 6 months."
    I am sure I'd be a wreck about all these ups and downs without a wiser head or three to guide the process. But what fun when something goes right!
    The big man -- no longer an only child

    His new little brother



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by asterix View Post
    That was a really nice article, and I love the video (complete w. videographer's sotto voce encouragement).
    Honestly, unless you are really experienced at bringing young horses along, I think it is invaluable to have people you trust guiding the process. After several tough flat lessons with my new young (but not neon green) guy, this week I felt forward progress, just a little, in every ride. I felt him begin to be heavy in my hand in the canter, and occasionally break to the trot. I knew my coach would be thrilled, as she had told me he would go through a heavy phase (first month was careening around behind the bit at the canter). Sure enough, she was very pleased, and now we can begin to ride him in a whole different way.
    One mole down.
    Next mole, probably the part about how cross country schooling was so exciting that rather than jump even one fence (!), we leapt around like a porpoise in a corner of the field. Coach said "he'll be a different horse in 6 months."
    I am sure I'd be a wreck about all these ups and downs without a wiser head or three to guide the process. But what fun when something goes right!
    Every little bit of success is so gratifying!

    Horses will force you to "take the long view" (well, not everyone is willing to, unfortunately ), but as a result, those small "lightbulb moments" and hard-won breakthroughs become that much more thrilling...
    "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

    "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")



  12. #12
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    Patience, tenacity, faith, and more patience-- this blog sure nails it. And it is also applicable to horses who are more made, because creating the partnership is so important. I think it's that building process that makes horses so addictive.

    As far as knowing when it's a time/training issue or a never-gonna-happen issue, I do think that good help is a must. Having a trusted trainer or two who knows you-- and in the best case can work with you regularly-- will help you decide whether any issues are things that you and the horse can work through.

    The other part of the equation is you-- are you willing to do what it takes to work through issues? Do you love the horse enough to handle it, or would both of you be happiest in a different partnership? Nobody but you can answer those questions. But there is support out there for working through your own thoughts and feelings about it all.

    Finally, a bit of trivia-- it's COTHer mcorbett who has Hillside Haven Farm. She's the one who made the videos.



  13. #13
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    I am sure I'd be a wreck about all these ups and downs without a wiser head or three to guide the process. But what fun when something goes right!
    I am forever grateful for all the guidance and help I've gotten over the years with all the young horses I've brought along. It makes a huge difference to hear "this is NORMAL" when you're once stellar baby horse suddenly becomes a lunatic. Or the seemingly athletic youngster suddenly forgets how to canter. Or whatever.

    I learned an interesting phrase the other night in a sports psychology seminar- saw tooth progression. It was in reference how we has humans progress, but the same holds true with horses. We have ups and downs...that whole "one step forward, two steps back" kinda thing. It's NORMAL. But it's nice to have someone talk you off the ledge occasionally and remind you/teach you that it's normal.



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