I had an interesting conversation with my trainer at the show last weekend. It was about Frankie (obviously) and whether or not he counts as “green.” After all, this was his first time in the show ring. And the answer we came up with? Eeehhhhhh kinda-sorta-maybe-in-certain-ways-but-not-really.
On the one hand: my horse is broke. Super duper very broke. Broke on the flat, broke over fences, broke in the ring, broke on the trail, broke broke broke. He ate up the dressage training he got at Phyllis’ barn and whoever taught him to jump did it right- he jumps the jump every single time.
He knows his lateral work, he knows his lead changes (even if he doesn’t offer them up, he will give them when asked), he knows how to move forward on a contact. He doesn’t get anxious about new venues, loud noises, or poor riding.
He knows how to gallop up to a fence without tuning me out, and he knows how to rate his stride and adjust in a line. He does all this in a basic snaffle, and my rolly spurs and crop are more for decoration than anything else at this point.
This is turning into another bragfest about my horse and it’s not meant to be- I just want to clarify that I’m not trying to pretend that my horse is a project. So we have a bunch of big checkmarks in the NOT GREEN section.
But he did have some greenie moments at the show. Not surprising- it was his first show. And it was a different job than he’s been trained to do in a couple ways.
Exhibit A: combos. Again, he will jump the jumps. But how often do you see a one-stride out in a hunt field? He’s used to having a bit of a recovery stride after a fence and definitely needed my support to press through more powerfully. These got better throughout the show as I figured out how to set him up better, and by the end he was starting to carry me through more instead of waiting for me to carry him. Practice will make perfect.
Exhibit B: pace. Big long lopey gallop? He will maintain that all day. In terms of speed, he’s actually right on the mark. But we’re not looking for a big long low canter- we’re looking for something powerful and energetic with fire behind it. He will happily rev up the RPMs into that jumper-y gait, but that is not his default setting. I have to explicitly ask for that. You may have noticed that in my last two rounds I went into the ring and immediately asked him to stretch out and gallop a bit across the ring- this was to get him tuned up to that tempo and get him pumped up for our round. When we did that before asking him to balance into a rate-able canter, he carried a much more lively pace around the course.
Exhibit C: overjumping. This translated to a lot of hang-time in the air, almost stalling out over the jumps. He likes to gallop at the fences and take the gap (like a hunter), but jumps cleaner when I rock back to the base- and rocking back to the base is hard work for him! Once I figured out how to keep my leg on more strongly across the jump this improved, but he’s still learning to embrace the jumper chip.
Exhibit D: llama jumping. I’ve heard people say, “Frankie could be a great hunter!” And I get why they say that- he has a lovely ground-covering canter and a super level head. But have you seen my horse jump?? He looks like an idiot. I love my boy to the moon and back and he is perfect in my eyes, but cute pictures of him jumping are few and far between because he jumps like an idiot. This isn’t actually a green-ness thing, I just wanted to let you know that he does, in fact, have flaws. Pretty sure he’ll start jumping cuter when we jack the jumps up to a height that actually intrigues him. Or, you know, he’ll keep flailing over the jumps. Like a dork.
Back to Exhibits A-C. I wouldn’t label any of these as “problem areas,” just areas for us to build more and better experiences in. Frankie was not offering any bad behavior at all in these areas, he simply wasn’t offering any behavior at all. How could he? These were new concepts to him. He was very much waiting for my input around each course. It’s my job to clearly instruct him on what he needs to be doing and when, where, how he needs to do it. Basically, Potato Brain needs to go away and I need to be very present with my leg around every course.
Need to press through a combo that’s set long? LEG ON
Need to package our stride into something that’s got hella impulsion? LEG ON
Need to get to the base and then power across a big oxer? LEG ON
It’s almost like better riding leads to a better, more educational and supported experience for the horse. I knew I was paying my trainer for something.
Verdict? We already knew that Frankie isn’t a green horse, especially compared to those of you with actual baby greenies. But I’m really excited to have these little things to work on together- I feel like it’s forcing me to step up my game so I can start giving back to him a little.
What do you consider “green?”