No Less Than 100 Percent

One of my favorite topics of discussion with my trainer is around finding the right match of horse and rider- I consider myself so ridiculously blindingly amazingly lucky in that I have a horse that could not be more perfectly matched to me, so I’m fascinated by all the factors that go into making that match.

Seriously, he could not be more perfect for me in any way. I adore him so much.

I do think that a lot of it is impossible to know before the horse and rider get to know each other (we certainly didn’t think Francis would be this incredible), but some pieces can be fairly apparent off the bat.

Maybe we don’t stick the 5’6″-and-growing 12yo girl on a medium pony.
The kid with aspirations in the hunter ring will probably be happiest on a mount with good movement and a nice jump.
A timid rider will likely become more nervous on a horse with quirks like head shaking or kicking out.

That’s not to say that none of this is insurmountable (except for the pony thing, for the love of god stop handicapping your kids into the pony divisions. But that’s a rant for another day). The hunter kid might be able to work with a horse to develop better movement, and the timid rider might be able to learn some guts to ride the quirky horses. It happens every day. But for a horse that someone wants to be able to ride comfortably immediately, there are plenty of things that make that partnership much easier to build quickly.

For example, if you have a rider who can’t see a distance to save her life, you should probably find a remarkably tolerant animal to cart her around while she learns.

One way my trainer likes to put it is that in a good partnership, there needs to be at least 100% confidence in/desire to do their job. The horse and the rider together make up this percentage. For purposes of discussion, I’m going to talk about jumping because that’s the world I know, but I think this can apply to any discipline.

If the rider is really really timid and isn’t sure if they want to make it over the jump, then the horse needs to be so well-schooled that it is definitely going. In these cases, the horse makes up for the inexperience/uneasiness of the rider.

If the horse is green or nervous and doesn’t want to jump (or if the the horse is tired, as sometimes happens with Frankie), the rider needs to have 100% conviction that they are getting to the other side. In these cases, the rider makes up for the inexperience/uneasiness of the horse.

Anything less than a sum of 100% can lead to a runout- either because the rider pulls out of the track, or because the horse stops.

Or it leads to your saint of a horse overjumping by 2′ because he doesn’t realize that a runout is an option

The best partnerships are where you’re above 100%- where both the horse and rider are eager to go do their job together. The top showjumpers are operating at 200%, with mounts that are incredibly well trained and confident, and with riders who know how to encourage the best work from their horses.

I’d say that Frankie regularly operates at around 60-70%. I am confident that he is going to jump the jump in front of him- he has never given me a dirty stop. He locks on more often than he used to, but he’ll never be the drag-you-to-the-fence type. I don’t think he’s at 100%, because if I pull or don’t steer he won’t jump the jump- because he assumes I don’t want him to. When he gets tired- at the end of a long course, or in the second trip of the day, or later in the week- this percentage goes down a bit. Not because he’s unwilling, but because he needs more support from me.

Mahm. Tired. Pls help. (still best pony tho)

I think I’m operating probably around 60-70% as well. It may be ugly, it may be messy, but I will jump the damn jump. I don’t have any baggage of riding a stopper and I ride a horse that will always give me what I ask, so in general I don’t pull out of a line/off a track unless I think I will legitimately hurt myself or Frankie by asking him to go for it. In the past my percentage has gone down as well as I get tired, so I’m working hard to make sure I can actually raise my percentage- to make up for any drops in Frankie’s. I’ll also be able to raise my percentage by improving my skills on course.

I will help you navigate the massive chip I rode you to, darling boy

That makes for a combined percentage of at least 100%, which is part of why I love this horse so dang much. We both have such a fun time going out there and doing our thing.

The face of a horse that knows he’s gone and done a great job. Happy Francis.

Of course, our goal is to constantly increase that percentage as a team. For Frankie that means building the “fire” in his step and building his fitness so that he doesn’t flag at the end of a long day. For me it also means building fitness, and it also means improving my cues to the point of being able to encourage the best possible jump out of my horse. That way if I’m ever on a horse that’s less perfect than Frankie (so literally any other horse), I can lend them some confidence that we’ll make it over together.

What do you think about this way of looking at a partnership? What do you think your and your horse’s percentages are?

PS- By the time this posts, I should be several hours into my journey west. Talk to y’all from WEC!!!!

8 thoughts on “No Less Than 100 Percent

  1. roamingridersite 02/14/2018 / 9:50 am

    This is amazing. I really love this way of thinking about it. Gem is like…maybe 50% about jumping these days. A big improvement from her 25% a year ago. Me? Ugh. I’m a wimp. I’m like 50% myself. We aren’t really that great of a pair for this but we are working at it and getting better.


  2. Allison @ Pony Reboot 02/14/2018 / 10:03 am

    I agree with a lot of this! My first horse was a welsh pony who was coming four when I was nine.. for some that’s a terrible idea, and it did get really frustrating some days. But my parents and trainer knew we were a match and that he’d take care of me. And I was fearless and didn’t let him get away with shit, so it worked, and we had a great time until I outgrew him.

    I learned a tough lesson about everything adding up to 100% last summer when I did rated jumpers for the first time in years. We had stops in our warmups (and nearly in our real rounds) when that is typically Not A Thing. Looking back now I realize neither of us were going for it 100% for a million little reasons. But when we were, we did great. I just have to figure out how to support my horse better, and that means working harder from the get go! I know I can do that if I put my mind to it, so we’re good 🙂


  3. Tracy - The Printable Pony 02/14/2018 / 10:23 am

    I’ve learned A LOT about partnerships between horse and rider in the last year. For me, while there’s a lot you can determine on paper (so to speak), I also believe that there is an important element that you can’t define or pin down… just a connection, so to speak.

    When looking at me as a rider, and Moiya (for example) as a horse, we should not work. But for some reason, she chose me and we get along really well and have since the beginning of our time together. Miles and I were an excellent match on paper, and were happy together for a while, but then it fell apart.

    While I can certainly point to specific things that made those situations turn out they way they did, I also think that there was just… something connecting me to those horses that either still connects us, or broke apart.


  4. the_everything_pony 02/14/2018 / 10:31 am

    Oh wow this is such a cool way of thinking about this. It absolutely can pertain to all disciplines. I don’t have any baggage from a stopper either because all the horses I rode were so well-schooled (as you said) that they’d just jump. Amber has “stopped” maybe twice? I know once it was because she just didn’t see it and it startled her, and I think the other was confusion. We haven’t done much jumping, but what we have done she’s never seemed to think running out was an option. Perhaps because I was always determined to get to the other side? I don’t know! So cool to think about! Liam can have a random stop in him and pulled it on me my other lesson, but I am absolutely taking this thought with me as I start jumping more. Thanks!!


  5. Centered in the Saddle 02/14/2018 / 10:56 am

    Ugh, the mental baggage from riding a stopper. I have this. I’m getting better, thank goodness, and both Strdyer and Duke have helped immensely because they’re both pretty well-schooled and just try their little hearts out. I’m thinking through what percentage Duke would be; he does take me to the fence but in such a way that requires a lot of support and good riding from me, otherwise he’s taking the long spot every. single. time. He loves a flier. So in that way, he makes me raise my percentage as a rider, not because he’s not going to go over, but because I need to help him do it in a better (ahem, safer) way.


  6. npech001 02/14/2018 / 11:00 am

    Can’t wait to see all the ribbons you bring home. Crush it home girl….buddy fianci out.


  7. Stacie Seidman 02/14/2018 / 3:37 pm

    I really like looking at it this way! I’d say Rio and I were somewhere around 198% together, you know… before the EPM. Jampy and I are probably working around 50% 50%. We’re still at a 100% so we’ll survive and jump around, but it might not be pretty. And well… Badger is learning to be as close to 100% as possible with trainer before I mess that up with my maybe 25% on him.
    Looking at it this way, I think I feel this need to be at 100% every time myself, so I don’t let the horse take some of the responsibility. And then I mess us both up. Now I want to go jump Badger and see if I can make this work better with a new mental breakdown of things. (I love math. Thanks for the math!)


  8. Rachel - For Want of a Horse 02/15/2018 / 12:06 pm

    Great post and I am not sure if you planned your partnership post on Valentine’s Day but it is perfect timing. Lol. The right partnership is SOOOO important. I like to use a rider in our barn as an example on this. She is such a good rider and her sister’s horse wins everything unless the first girl I mentioned rides him. They just do not match even though both are great.

    I do think that like you mentioned a little off can help both the horse and rider in different situations. I would not call myself overly timid but prior to Winifred I was on all hunters that were much more comfortable doing the adds than the steps down the line. Now I have PsychoPants who wants to drop strides and spokes at EVERYTHING!!!!!! It has made me a better rider and more confident in my abilities but I am still scared as shit for our first show this weekend. LOL


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