Learning to be a riding horse

I’m happy to report that Madigan’s mystery lameness cleared up just as mysteriously as it appeared. He returned to Baby School this month as bright and happy as ever.

Well, he’s surpassed Gina in height for sure.

It’s very exciting to see him begin training under saddle in earnest. He’s ridden in a lightweight western saddle, a rope halter with reins clipped to the sides, and a bridle with a D-ring snaffle and without a noseband over the halter. Currently, his under saddle work is exclusively focused on learning how to stop, go, and steer. He’s a quick learner and has a reasonably good work ethic. It’s obvious when he’s mentally or physically tired, as he becomes unbalanced and a little fussy. He doesn’t have much stamina at this point, so rides are short to keep him engaged and happy.

Last week, the assistant trainer (who’s been riding him for the last few weeks) began asking him for big circles and changes of direction at the trot. Madigan’s steering is pretty reliable at the walk and his trot is looking more balanced every day, so this was a fair ask. He understood the question, but struggled to maintain a rhythmic trot through the circle. He got better as he went and by the end of his ride I could see a glimpse of the nice trot that’s in there somewhere.

This week, he seemed to remember how to trot and turn and keep all legs moving together. Assistant trainer felt he was ready to attempt cantering under saddle. His canter is much more coordinated than it was even six months ago. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen him canter around the pasture, turn, and nearly fall over throughout the last two years. He’s done some canter work on the longe line, but never with a person on his back.


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It took a few tries, but he eventually stepped into a reasonably balanced canter on the correct lead. He couldn’t maintain it for long- maybe half a 20 meter circle- but he was calm and unhurried. When asked to canter in the opposite direction, he did so promptly. After that short stint of hard work, assistant trainer jumped off and he was fussed over for being such a good boy.

My favorite thing about this horse is his demeanor. He’s incredibly laid-back- there’s never been any drama, any fuss, any worry about anything he’s been asked to do. There are lots of reasons he’s like this: genetics, kind and consistent handling throughout his life, patient and methodical training. I’m more excited to ride him than I have been for any horse in a long time. Candy was challenging, but not always in a good or fun way. Moe and Gina are utterly reliable and as comforting to sit astride as a cozy sweater is to put on. But Madigan is full of potential! While he certainly won’t achieve the full measure of it with me, I don’t care (and suspect he doesn’t either). I’m excited about the potential of partner, a horse I can have fun with, a worthy successor to Moe.

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

5 thoughts on “Learning to be a riding horse”

  1. I’m really excited for you to get to ride him! I love his attitude about life. He just seems like a very solid citizen and I think you’ll have a ton of fun together.

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