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Young horses - moving up the levels fast

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  • Young horses - moving up the levels fast

    I thought I'd start a new thread on this.

    Having brought along my own horse from a foal I have wondered many times why we are still at Novice when she is 8 years old and the professionals have them at Rolex at this age.

    Since my mare is by the same sire as 2 other horses currently at Advanced (they are both age 9) I know it's not necessarily the horse holding us back, therefore it is probably me.

    Or since I've ridden successfully at Prelim, the combination of me and the horse.

    Anyway, one of the things that separates the pros with lots of horses from the ammies with one or maybe 2 is that when Bruce or Phillip (insert professional of choice) is on a youngster who does something not quite correct, they are able to a) Notice it right away and b) fix it right away.

    Me? I start thinking, gee, she seems to be a bit heavy in the left rein. Is it me? Is she being bratty? Is there a bug? Now, gosh, yes she's heavy in the left rein. What do I do about this? Move the left hind leg? Left shoulder? my right leg? release with left rein? pull on right rein? Sing yankee doodle? I muddle along for a day wondering if there is a problem, then spend 2-3 days figuring out how to fix it during which time I've probably created another problem.

    Phillip etc has noticed and remedied problem in 3 strides. Because he rides lots of different horses every day. He's seen these problems over and over again, and he's fixed them over and over again.

    THAT is, I think, the primary reason the pros can get their young horses to the upper levels so fast. They don't make mistakes bringing them along.

    Also, if they think that Poopsie & Pepsi aren't going beyond novice, they probably stop riding them. They don't spend time with the horses who are not going to rise quickly, which perpetuates the idea that they can bring along any horse in the 4-star in 4-years program.

  • #2
    I remember reading something Phillip said once that if he falls off a horse, he sells it. They can't waste time with things like that I guess.

    Don't be too frustrated, my guy is an 8 year old OTTB who hasn't even been BN yet, but I am taking my time and I hope it will pay off. Riding him has already improved my other guy who was going advanced when he was 8. He has a lot of holes in his training that I am still dealing with today. He was taken to the top very fast, wasn't competitive at advanced, and was sold (to me, a YR at the time). I often wonder if he was taken slowly how he would have turned out.

    So I will continue to build my greenie's confidence. In the last 8 months he has made wonderful progress (it helps that he is very bold once he "gets it") and I think he will be ready for BN this fall. If I took him to a BNT, they would have him going novice this fall. He is the kind who, if scared, would not forgive very easily.

    Yes, if we all rode 10 horses a day, our eye would be pretty good, but we have to deal with what we have.
    Lindsay

    Check out my blog at http://lindsayberreth.com

    Comment


    • #3
      My trainer said the professionals do not make the great horses - they just are able to get the great horses and bring them along. Also, I agree - they do not spend a lot of time on horses that are not going to make it past Novice.

      It is likely a series of things. If Phillip had been riding my mare and she suddenly looked off into the woods by the ring, he would correct. I, on the other hand, look also to see what she is looking at...

      Money is a factor. My mare would be doing training this summer if money were not an object. The professionals did not start with money, but they were in the right place at the right time. Take Buck - about the same age as me. Pretend we have the same talent level. He grew up with a father in the business and was able to ride the great horses. My parents are non-horsey and nonsupportive (financial speaking) of my horse hobby. Right time, right place.

      While they are great - there are other greats out there that were not in the right time at the right place and are still unknown.


      EDIT: To back up PintoPiaffe- my mare is 12 and still doing novice. She has farrier fear issues coupled with bad feet, which have held her back. And I don't always have the money to show - especially not this season with gas prices just skyrocketing. Phillip probably would have sold her and moved on if he had her - she is not really more than a Training level horse.

      Comment


      • #4
        I am sure it has a lot to do with their ability to fix problems before they occur but I also think it is because they have the time and facilities to get out and school the horses enough that they progress quickly. I am 100% sure my cool conn/tb is a solid training level if not prelim horse but we still tool around in novice because I don't have the funds or time to get out and school the questions that can determine whether or not we should attempt that move up. Really it is just that simple. He has a very minor dislike of ditches but how can I expect things to go well if I can't get to a facility to school him?? They can do that because most of the time they have a course at their facility or trailer out a bunch of horse frequently to expose them to the elements that are going to be out on the course.

        One thing I have been made a bit more aware of is the attitude it takes to make that sort of progress. I began riding with a new instructor and although I am young I have brought tons of young horses and am fairly good at what I do. She made me aware that I am not tough enough. Basically something along the lines of you are asking the horse to give you 45 min of their day and you need to make that 45 min count. Don't take no for an answer and make each element of your ride focused on perfection. So many times I get out there and am just enjoying my ride but not making it count. With the pros they make it count because they need the horse to be doing such and such by a certain date.

        I am interested to read what others write. I know my horses are both a bit challenging. I ride other horses for people and they are a ton easier than my own horses so I can actually see myself moving up on them way quicker. Perhaps that is the point where the pros know when to move on huh
        http://www.benchmarksporthorses.com/

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Phillip would have sold my horse LONG ago.

          I, on the other hand, just kept getting back on....
          and getting back on, and getting back on.

          Maybe *I* am the slow learner.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Hilary View Post
            Phillip etc has noticed and remedied problem in 3 strides. Because he rides lots of different horses every day. He's seen these problems over and over again, and he's fixed them over and over again.

            THAT is, I think, the primary reason the pros can get their young horses to the upper levels so fast. They don't make mistakes bringing them along.

            Also, if they think that Poopsie & Pepsi aren't going beyond novice, they probably stop riding them. They don't spend time with the horses who are not going to rise quickly, which perpetuates the idea that they can bring along any horse in the 4-star in 4-years program.

            I think you are thinking too hard.
            taking the rider away, all horses make mistakes.

            Great trainers are able to let the horses make the mistakes in such a way that they think it's their fault and not the riders. The learning curve is then sped up by 10 fold.

            for example. Start horses jumping over natural logs or use gymnastics.
            when putting your horse through a gymnastic you sit still and do nothing. If something goes wrong who corrects the problem? You sit still and do absolutly nothing.
            Horse thinks: well crap. that was stupid of me. I should pay more attention or fix what I did wrong. That is when the learn - when you leave them alone. That is when they progress very quickly.
            The horses don't blame the rider if the rider is not jerking, kicking, pulling, speaking. If you pull and jerk horse thinks. Damn rider always screws me up. And horse learns NOTHING.

            And there is the ability for some people to keep balance for the horse also. Babies tend to feel off balance and then panic or worry. If a rider can correct quickly this feeling of worry never occurs. Again provideing the opportunity to progress very rapidly.
            Last edited by purplnurpl; Jul. 2, 2008, 10:11 AM.
            http://kaboomeventing.com/
            http://kaboomeventing.blogspot.com/
            Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ajierene View Post
              My trainer said the professionals do not make the great horses - they just are able to get the great horses and bring them along.
              I disagree. I don't think it's got as much to do with natural talent - though that certainly is a necessity - but with starting horses properly. We've had the advantage over the past few years to have a number of incredibly nice horses in the barn, and the difference between those that were well started (either by our pro or by someone else competent) and those that never got their basics is startling. Horses in the first category are (for the most part) easy to ride, move up the levels pretty straightforwardly, and have been very consistent as they grow up. Horses in the latter category have taken quite a bit longer to get confirmed at each level, because we were "undoing" the bad stuff and/or fixing it. And that's the key: the horses started right and ridden correctly are able to move along quickly because we're not two steps forward-one step back all the time.

              Thus, a good pro or consistent amateur can absolutely start a nice youngster and move up the ranks fairly quickly, because the basics are being laid down well and they don't develop holes in their training. It's not so much (at least not until you get to Intermediate or so) a matter of absolutely amazing physical gifts, but that the constant building blocks are well placed in the horse's development. Based on that, though it takes more time, we're now almost always looking for youngsters to bring along - ends up being faster in the long run than to "fix" ones that haven't been given a good foundation and cheaper than buying the ones that have!

              Comment


              • #8
                I am by no means an UL rider--but I find that riding more horses, at all levels, is the key for me at least. The more I am riding, the fitter I am, the better my reflexes are, the more willing I am to canter down to a fence on a horse whose eyes are popping out of his head and belt him one, rather than circling... And the smaller the fences look. I know I brought Apollo on more slowly than my last horse, and it's because after three years of riding total babies, 2'11 suddenly looks freaking huge to me! When I started Avra over fences I was going Training on my old mare, plus I'd just spent four years of college riding anything and everything--from green ponies to racehorses to made hunters. It worked wonders for my confidence.

                Now that I've finally made the leap to Novice, those Training fences don't look quite so big. Maybe by October...

                Comment


                • #9
                  GotSpots - I see where you are going with your statements. My trainer and I were talking about Olympic level horses. When I wrote my first reply, I was thinking of length of time to get to 3 and 4 stars.

                  If Phillip had started and taken my mare up the levels - she would have been at training at least a few years ago. He may have even gotten her to Prelim. Where I was coming from was that horses with confirmation issues that preclude them to the lower levels are not going to move up and are not going to be ridden by the upper level riders. In reality, if Phillip had started my mare, he would have realized her limits and put her on the sale list likely before she even got past Novice. That was just the point I was making.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    As GotSpots sort-of implied, the difference is that they have a "program." This applies to trainers in any number of horse sports. They have been at it long enough to recognize what works with what horse--added to that, they know inside and out the type of horse that fits their program and reject most horses that won't fit that program. Guesswork and/or experimentation is inefficient--and, ultimately, both expensive and risky. A tried-and-true program is probably like money in the bank, and it includes not only training and conditioning and campaigning techniques, but also stablemanagement and veterinary/farrier care.

                    And it's not exclusive to big name trainer/riders either. However, I'd bet you that BNTs all have such a program, while such programs are not a guarentee with non-BNTs -- especially younger trainers, even if they are competing at the upper levels.

                    It's also not exclusive to trainers who ride. There are a lot of rock-solid ground people who have developed programs that produce consistent results. (But I repeat the caveat: these programs work with a certain type/quality/talent of horse--by no means do they work with all horses. And that, too, is what may distinguish the top pro from the middling one, IMO. Having the experience and eye to recognize the horse that suits and the confidence to reject the one that doesn't, no matter how nice it may appear on the surface--and/or in the eyes of its owner, perhaps!)
                    Sportponies Unlimited
                    Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

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                    • #11
                      I think one of the reasons the pros are THE PROS is that they have the ability to very quickly get a horse going properly and they are such good riders that they let the horse be its absolute best even before the horse really "knows what it's doing". Or, put another way, they just don't interfere with the horse's natural ability. Which let's face it, for N/BN is mostly the ability to canter and make small jumps.

                      I am like Hilary--I feel something, MAYBE I feel something, and if it's not in my "database" of experience with other horses I've ridden or situations I've been in, I ponder, I wonder if it's me or the horse, I try and figure out if it's OK or not, etc. Meanwhile, poor horse is learning bad habits! Then when I come to the revelation it's wrong, I have to go back to the same (small!) database for a tool to fix it.

                      I haven't a pro's talent, nor the time, nor the experience of having brought along dozens of young horses. What might take them an hour takes me a month, if I can even do it at all!

                      My young horse (same age as Hilary's) went around a pretty stiff Novice (relatively speaking) when she wasn't even 5, finished on a dressage score of TWENTY NINE. That was with a pro riding. Four years later, I am JUST NOW able to produce anything near the same results, and the dressage scores are considerably north of 29! There is something to be said for the talent that gets people to the top--maybe it is possible to get there by pure hard work, but I also think there are people that are just born brilliant.
                      Click here before you buy.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Great Thread

                        This thread has really provided me with a lot of food for thought. Especially as I start to think about my next youngster. Thanks all.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think a lot of it is confidence, too. Confidence learned from experience, from many different horses. Confidence that seeps into the young horses; confidence in knowing what boundaries to push, and what to leave alone.

                          A young horse doesn't always know what to be afraid of, or what to enjoy, unless you tell him. If the rider has a relaxed, confident attitude that says "Jumping is fun!", the horse picks up on that. As long as the horse isn't overfaced, new concepts can be introduced fairly quickly. What makes a pro "good" is being able to predict just how much a horse can handle-- they know just how far to push the line, whereas most of us "mortals" back off a lot sooner. The good pros aren't always satisfied with "good enough," if the horse is physically/mentally capable of just a bit more.

                          My philosophy: I think with any young horse, they must develop a good work ethic. Put that "working hat" on, and attempt to get the job done... even when it's raining, even when they're a little muscle sore, even when deer jump through the back field, whatever. I don't expect a green horse to do everything perfectly, or to understand exactly what I want; but I do want him to try. To me, that's the most important thing any horse can do for you-- give an honest effort and try whatever you're asking. Even if he's wrong the first 10 or 100 times, at least he keeps trying to figure it out. (Though if it's been 100 times, maybe you should consider rephrasing the question?!). Of course, it's YOUR responsibility to not ask the impossible, or ask it in a confusing manner. A horse that tries for you, each and every day, is the most pleasant animal to ride, regardless of his talent level, because every ride feels like progress.
                          “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                          ? Albert Einstein

                          ~AJ~

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I agree with Eventer AJ....confidnence is huge.

                            I worked for one of the greats in SJ. Often I was riding the young horse (so it wasn't all about having a great rider on their back)...what amazed me was that he knew how far to push a young horse to challenge them without over facing them. It is such a fine line. I think often, the rest of us don't ask as much or expect as much and therefore it takes us a lot longer.
                            ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by purplnurpl View Post
                              What makes a great trainer is being able to let the horses make the mistakes and doing it is such a way that they thinks it's their fault and not blame it on the rider. The learning curve is then sped up by 10 fold.

                              Can you see a retarded spot coming to you and do nothing? NOTHING. Don't even breath differently. That is what makes a great baby teacher. Just sit there and don't worry about anything. ?

                              for example. Start horses jumping over natural logs or use gymnastics.
                              when putting your horse through a gymnastic you sit still and do nothing. If something goes wrong who corrects the problem? You sit still and do absolutly nothing.
                              Horse thinks: well crap. that was stupid of me. I should pay more attention or fix what I did wrong. That is when the learn - when you leave them alone. That is when they progress very quickly.
                              The horses don't blame the rider if the rider is not jerking, kicking, pulling, speaking. If you pull and jerk horse thinks. Damn rider always screws me up. And horse learns NOTHING.

                              And there is the inate ability for some people to keep balance for the horse also. Babies tend to feel off balance and then panic or worry. If a rider can correct quickly this feeling of worry never occurs. Again provideing the opportunity to progress very rapidly.

                              And then there is the ability to know what to fuss over and what to let slide.

                              Good points!
                              http://www.MyVirtualEventingCoach.com

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I watched a video of Andrew Nicholson (sp?) ages ago where he took a pack of green horses out for their first XC schooling--these horses hadn't done very much at all, and he just quietly and calmly cantered them around, loose rein, letting them figure out ditches, banks, water, etc. all in one go. Didn't stop in between and "regroup", didn't make a big "good boy!" fuss, just kept on quietly cantering, around and around. I was so impressed! Sure, the babies made mistakes, but he's such a good rider that he never interfered, never rattled them, and kept them all balanced and quiet.
                                Click here before you buy.

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                                • #17
                                  Interesting, Deltawave. Did any of them stop? If so, what'd he do then--just re-establish the canter, approach and continue on? Did any need stronger riding or did they all just "get it" once asked often enough? (I'd love to get that video.)
                                  Sportponies Unlimited
                                  Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

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                                  • #18
                                    Pynn- that is what I was interested in also. It is great to watch the masters.
                                    http://www.benchmarksporthorses.com/

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      If my job was to be an ULR and I was groomed to be doing it for 20 plus years, day in and day out I'd be doing my job seamlessly and with confidence. The vast experience of riding day in and day out multiple horses of varying breeds, ages, athleticism, and personalities and riding CORRECTLY from a young age with experts mentoring me is what makes the finished product you see in the ULRs.

                                      Can they do my job as well as me if we were to switch places? No - because they don't have the 16 years of experience I have and I don' t have the 16+ years of experience they have. They have a lot more confidence because they have a lot more experience. I have had to fit my horsey "job" in between my real "job" (as we all do). I have had the good fortune of having excellent coaches and instructors in dressage, jumping and eventing. I have had a grand prix dressage instructor stop our first lesson and ask me "have you ridden dressage before because you are good!" I'm sure she was expecting something different (same instructor has taken a woman who was riding Intermediate level and put her on the longe line to learn a seat and some basics). I have ridden with a great jumper instructor who has brought my confidence up to new levels - who has said "I want 10 horses like yours - he's vicious - no amateur should be riding him so well!".

                                      My point is everyone on this board can do really well with your horse(s) - just give your riding the same level of commitment that you give your "real" job if possible. Don't second guess yourself and keep educating yourself from all angles. I pick up some good tips from the jockeys who say "sit chilly" when the horse is going good or bad - they "sit chilly". I watch good riders and jockeys like a hawk. Their faces never say "oh shit!" no matter what. They press forward because that is all that matters is pressing forward and they "sit chilly". Your brain needs to act not react. I believe that's the mentality of what the ULRs and great trainers have that most don't have developed yet. Riding the young horses is easier than riding something that has been spoiled by an inexperienced rider who let's them get away with everything or by a horse who has had bad training (goes behind the bit or has a set frame and doesn't use his body correctly). I tell those people "no I cannot make your horse look like mine in one or two rides!"

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        If I had to make a living with horses, I'd start by doing one thing very differently -- I'd select a very different type of horse. You have to start with what you can most easily succeed with.

                                        I like hot, sensitive horses. If I happen to get a packer, I'm bored in 6 months and pass the horse along to someone else. But if training were my business, I'd be looking for the packer types. I'm not going to make money selling what I really like to ride: intelligent, quirky, small mares.

                                        I also don't subscribe to the standard age theories for horses. I saw an interview with John Whitaker once where he said that a 12 year-old was a young horse for him. I'd concur with that -- almost all of my horses have been very useful well into their 20s.

                                        Now for some photos of my homebred youngsters and what they're doing:

                                        6 years old, looking like a real horse, going Novice in August

                                        3 years old, w/t/c in Western gear, working cattle and trail riding

                                        2 years old, wearing a Western saddle for a few minutes a day and watching the big horses work

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