Train a Horse for its Job.

At my first job with Chris and George, all of the horses showed at high levels in the jumper divisions. As such, we flatted them at a high level once they were fully legged up and in work. We expected them to go in a very contained frame, and demanded a lot of them (and of ourselves) everyday we were in the saddle. As you can imagine, they were 100% ready for their jobs once we arrived in Florida for the show season.

At my next job with Elizabeth, I remember the first time I came out on Daisy, a very lovely, kind mare who showed with an older, good riding adult. Once Elizabeth explained her system to me, I went to work, but after a while, Elizabeth said, "lengthen your reins, she doesn't need to be in that much of a frame. Just a light one will do."

I was a bit baffled, but complied.

Later on in the session, she looked at me and said almost in horror, "No shoulder in with that one! Just keep her as straight as you can! The only thing I want Daisy to do is bend and counterbend on a circle."

Once the session was over, I felt a little confused. Why wasn't I flatting Daisy to be the high performance machine she was capable of being?

"Because, she shows in the Adult Amateurs. That's her job. If you tune her up to be wired for every command, then she'll be too sensitive for her owner who has trouble keeping her straight. The last thing we want to do is practice the cues for NOT being straight. With Daisy, it's straight straight straight light contact all day long."

Contained within this idea are many shades of grey. It does not mean that you don't want to give a horse the proper education on the flat. It does not mean that you want the horse dull to any aid. It does not mean that you are OK with it moving on the forehand as long as it's "safe."

It does mean that not every horse needs to be ridden like a Grand Prix jumper.

This concept has been incredibly helpful to me as I went on to work and ride at many other places over the years, each with different programs and bosses. When I rode nothing but ponies that showed in the children's divisions one winter, I made sure that they were fit for their jobs, but didn't really care much about my distances because they needed to be seeing eye dogs for their little beginner riders and jump from anywhere (within reason). When I flatted an equitation horse, then it was back to 2nd level dressage. A baby green hunter for a trainer in a very well established developing young horse program? Help install all the right buttons, but leave the finishing touches to him.

Knowing the horse's job lets you do YOUR job better - which is preparing them to do their jobs. Just like with people, not all jobs require the same skill set or education. Even human athletes have different conditioning programs, both mentally and physically, for their unique sports and abilities. Keeping this thought in the back of your head allows you to ride with tact and focus each time you're in the saddle.

The one and only Daisy! The sweetest mare ever!


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