Candy goes to a hunter pace

The Harvard Fox Hounds hunter pace is something I look forward to all year long. Last year, I was stuck working the mobile unit at a hunter/jumper show, but two years ago, Moe and I led our team to victory. I’ve taken Gina to several and always had a good time. I was excited to take Candy this year, especially since a big group of my riding friends had also decided to go. I knew my group wouldn’t be gunning for a win, so I thought this would be a great time to school Candy over some tiny cross-country jumps and have an otherwise leisurely ride. I lent Gina to a friend for the ride, so I was confident Gina could help Candy through any troublesome spots.

Candy and I were not on the same page.

The weather was sub-optimal for riding; it was gray, cold, and misting rain. Candy was quiet enough in the trailer and while being tacked up, but as soon as I got on, she was off to the races. I mean that literally- she jigged and pranced like a three year old on Derby day. I tried my best to stay loose and relaxed in the saddle and spoke to her quietly and patted her neck reassuringly, but Candy was not having it. She spent the next two hours cantering sideways, passaging, and trying to fling herself off the trail. She totally ignored Gina (who was a complete champ with my friend), save for kicking at her once.

The only photo I managed!

My group ended up only doing half the ride for a number of reasons. None of us were dressed appropriately for the weather (because the forecast had been for 55 and sunny), Candy was being a banana, and another friend’s saddle had slipped enough that she’d had to dismount, fix it, and get back on. We were all tired and cold, so cutting the hunter pace short wasn’t a hard decision.

I was so disappointed in my ride on Candy. I’ve never had a horse who was so worried and anxious so often. I don’t really enjoy taking Moe to events like this because, like Candy, he spends a lot of time jigging; however, Moe always seems excited and eager to be out and about, while Candy just seems nervous. I’ve been trying to be patient with her nervousness, because she’s green and doesn’t have a lot of life experience beyond the track and having babies. However, I’m at a little bit of a loss on what to do. I’ve logged 20+ hours of trail riding with her this year (I’ve been tracking it for the Thoroughbred Incentive Program), I’ve had her checked out by my vet for physical problems, my saddles fit her well, she has plenty of turnout, she lives with other horses, and I ride her regularly. I imagine the answer is “suck it up and put more miles on the horse”- it’s just not very fun sometimes!


Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

15 thoughts on “Candy goes to a hunter pace”

  1. Yeah that is tough, it just sounds like maybe she has more growing up to do mentally before she’ll relax into it. Carlos took a long time to relax too, each pony is different.

    1. I keep thinking she’ll relax with more positive experiences, but I’m afraid she’s just winding herself up more and more because very few of her out of the arena experiences have been super positive and confidence-building!

  2. ugh what a bummer 🙁 sometimes i wish we could just grab them by their fuzzy ears and shout “THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN OMG”. c’mon candy!

    1. Right?! I’m pretty sure my comments to her ran the gamut from soothing to extremely threatening, so maybe it’s for the best that her English isn’t very good haha

  3. Ugh that doesn’t sound fun at all. I think you’re right and you just need more miles. But some horses are just a little that way. Jampy certainly is. Is she nervous for all things, or mostly out on the trails in groups? Maybe she’d prefer a different job? Or maybe you should just blame the weather and see how next time goes?

    1. She’s nervous for almost everything: riding in the outdoor arena, riding in an arena with jumps/poles/other objects, walking around the hay meadow, trail rides, etc. She’s a little better on trail rides with just one or two other horses on large, open trails (versus several horses on narrow trails). I’m not opposed to helping her find a different job, but I don’t know what she’d like to do! I’ve thought about drilling her in some polo basics, but I’m not confident she’d ever get used to the mallet.

  4. Ughh, sorry it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. Ginger used to be nervous about everything too, and sorry to say, the answer for her was about a billion boring, non exciting miles under saddle.

    1. Wanted to add: I’m not sure if this helps, but I had a similar conversation with my coach about an issue once…I was like “I’ve ridden 6 days a week for a month now fusing on x issue and x is still happening! I feel like giving up” She put it into perspective as, “so, that works out to about 25 hours of work, or a little over 3 full days. At your job, how much do you *really* think you get done or learn in 3 days?”
      I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, that just because it felt like a month of working to me, didn’t mean it was a month worth’s of education from my horse’s perspective. That helped to get me motivated to keep working at it.

  5. The endurance world is full of horses like Candy. They all end up okay eventually due to time and miles…and admittedly crazy riders who are completely unbothered by their antics as they figure out life. Q’s a very nervous mare, too, but with more time and miles…especially consistent time and miles…she settles. I bet Candy will, too! Patience/time is a bitch, but I know you two will get there =)

  6. I know the feeling. Give it a go with the miles. Especially long, slow, relaxed miles with nothing important to do, just walk somewhere. For as long as you can schedule. Make big loops where you do not see the same thing more than once. It might take a while, but taking the pressure off might be helpful.

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