Sacrificial Lambs

There is a new training horse at the Pennsylvania Riding Academy and while his owner was spending time grooming we chatted about their journey so far. She mentioned that she thinks dressage will be good for her gelding. She hopes that dressage will be good for her gelding because she’s exhausted all other options; all that’s left is western pleasure and her OTTB doesn’t seem like he would enjoy going around a ring at a funeral march lope. She then disclosed she hopes she is doing right by him, or at least not screwing him up.

I quickly looked up from my work and I said “Oh, they are all sacrificial lambs in their own way. Which is a tough pill to swallow but we screw them up no matter how hard we try to be perfect. I don’t even want to think of all the things I have ruined for Kelso in the 8 years I have had him.”

Kelso has been subject to me learning everything on him, and this is why he has been dubbed the Wonder Pony. For every thing I have ruined and then had to fix again, it’s amazing he doesn’t need medication. He seems to look at me sometimes and say “Even though we have been doing it the exact opposite way for the last 389 days, I am game to do it this way today if you ask, mom.” There are things I have broken that I don’t even know need fixing, and there are other things that I know I let slide. Like him being a treat fiend.

I have created a treat monster but this seems to be my penance. “Kelso, remember that one time I wanted your flying changes at Liberty so badly that I broke them and they moved across the pond for a bit? *cringes* Here’s a cookie.” [Rose once commented on how she has never seen a horse who transforms into a look-alike plush toy immediately upon hearing the crinkle of a treat bag. It’s one of his many talents.]

If I start thinking too much of all the things my partner in crime has had to endure on our journey, it’s easy to work myself into a guilt ridden inner monologue. As hard as it is to stop myself, I have to gently remind myself that nobody is perfect + we are trying our best. We sure are lucky they are so forgiving. I do try to comfort myself with the knowledge that Kelso will still trot up to me in the pasture or spend hours by my side grazing. Sans cookies. Okay…maybe a few cookies.

To add to the list of things Kelso has had to figure out while I also learn them myself are flying changes. We have officially begun to try to get flying changes in our lessons with Paul, instead of just “seeing what will happen.”

Kelso and I have had quite the journey with F.Cs. While on our Parelli journey, we worked with no fewer than 4 different instructors to get the elusive flying change of leg. We were able to get them running around bareback and hopping over a pole, but as soon as I would put a bridle on him, we would freeze. We had every prerequisite and tried every exercise. He would get so worked up and I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t “get it” that I finally laid them to rest. I am happy to report they have rose from the dead.

I added a video of most of our trot work during our lesson this week, and the preview to the lesson is our first ever documented flying lead change! At first, which you will see in the video, we tried getting flying changes by really collecting his canter on the long side, so he would get so boxed up that he would be uncomfortable enough to change. We then graduated from this exercise when he would tease me with just switching his hind end {You can hear Paul tell me “Yes! Just Kidding!” multiple times in the video.} We then started to counter canter on the long side, then come across the ring in a Figure-8-like pattern; I would again box him up to encourage him to switch to his true lead and continue so that lead remained on the inside. So, if I started on the right counter canter lead, I would come across the middle and switch to the left and continue going to the left.

I would not explicitly give him any aids to switch leads because in the beginning when they don’t understand lead changes this can just cause them to become anxious. Instead, I lightly switch my hips and follow his movement over, and focus on keeping his shoulders and neck straight so he doesn’t switch only in front.

This was the first day of doing this exercise, and the next day we got four more clean flying changes. It seems that left to right is easier right now, but the jury is still out on that since they are so new that it could easily be the other way around in the next couple of days.

I have to keep pinching myself when I think of how far Kelso has brought me. While he might be my sacrificial lamb, he is also my best friend. For this, and everything else he has given and taught me, I will be forever be in his debt. Which I plan to pay off in cookies.

Off to go buy more treats and practice flying…..changes,

Erin and The Wonder Pony

Week Seven Trivia Answer: The first competition to have Arena Markers were the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Their root is not known, but my favorite story that I have heard is that in ancient Greece, the dressage letters were instead different animal heads where you would have to perform certain movements. B for Boar’s Head, A for Ape, etc….

Week Eight Trivia: In Gueriniere’s Book, School of Horsemanship, he talks a lot about different ailments of the horse and his remedies; can you guess what any of his treatments involved? Let’s just say, I am happy we have modern science.




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