Plans for Candy

I mentioned yesterday that I don’t have big, concrete plans or goals for Candy other than getting her out on the hunt field at some point. I realize that undefined piddling isn’t the best way to produce a hunting or eventing horse (structured and planned piddling, however, has a place in every program).

Candy is not a totally green, fresh-off-the-track mare; she was in a consistent program in Florida and has a good foundation. But she’s much greener than Moe or Gina, which means I have to adjust my riding to account for the variety of #greenhorseproblems that sometimes emerge. Currently, this means being very patient, super extravagant in my praise, and knowing when to push for more and when to leave off.

"I am definitely a dressage horse now! I am wearing the saddle and the bridle!"
“I am definitely a dressage horse now! I am wearing the saddle and the bridle!”

Here’s a perfect example: I rode Candy in the outdoor arena for the second time this morning. We’ve been staying in the indoor for the last few weeks because it’s smaller and the footing is better. Candy was tense and looky in the outdoor- what’s that baby horse doing? Do I hear breakfast? Why are these poles piled up in the corner? She’s not spooky, per se, but she likes to take a good look at things. After she’d settled a bit and realized all was well, she felt ready to work. I kept her on a 20 meter circle and asked for a trot. I got a little sewing machine-like trot that quickly escalated into a canter. My instinct was to give a very firm half-halt to get back to the trot right away, but I wanted Candy to know that forward was okay. So I sat her weird, unbalanced canter for a few strides before I asked for the trot with gentle half-halts and verbal cues.  The whole morning went that way.

“Trot, Candy”
“I’m trotting! Faster? I’m cantering! Is this right?”
“Sort of…”
“I CAN CANTER!”
“Can you trot, please?”
“MAYBE?”

She wasn’t being disobedient; she tried very hard to do the right thing. I’m working on communicating what the right thing is, and she’s working on understanding. Instead of pushing for a great 20 meter trot circle, I switched to asking for a couple of calm walk-trot-walk transitions and ending the ride when they were achieved.

"How can you expect me to stay for pictures when I hear BREAKFAST being served?!"
“How can you expect me to stay for pictures when I hear BREAKFAST being served?!”

So, what does the rest of the year hold for her? More trail rides and hacking in the hay meadow, certainly. If she’s going to be a hunting and eventing horse, she needs to get used to handling varied terrain, natural obstacles, and water. She also needs to get used to hacking out alone and in a group, and learn to travel at various rates of speed in those situations. Candy and I also need to continue dressage work (don’t we all?); for this, I will probably get help in the form of lessons. If she’s ready, I will show her in an Intro or Training level test at a schooling show in December.  I’d also like to get her comfortable with ground pole work and little crossrails. She’s still a little squirrelly about ground poles, and god knows I don’t need another horse with show jumping hangups.

What do you like to do with your green horses? Any particular exercises you find helpful?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

12 thoughts on “Plans for Candy”

  1. Maybe some in-hand work? That really helps focus mine before I get on, although at 12 and 14 they are not particularly green lol.

    1. I am VERY interested in doing some in-hand work! I need to read up on it, because it’s something I am largely unfamiliar with. Lots of people at my barn are into natural horsemanship sort of stuff, but I am not interested in playing the ice cream cone game or whatever.

  2. She is so cute!!!
    I always strove for positivity in my spins when the girls were younger building on things they knew how to do by doing a bit more each time

  3. Aw she is so sweet! Sounds like a great plan for her too! I like to have a lot of variety with green horses too, but in s way and structure such that the horse can pretty quickly learn what they can expect from me and that even with variety, we are very consistent.

    1. We are definitely in the “learning what to expect” phase; I haven’t had a ton of time to ride her, between moving, work, and keeping Moe legged up for the jumper show the other weekend. Moe is basically done for the year (with me- he still has his children), so I’m hoping I can put more time on Candy while getting Gina ready for hunt season.

  4. Thank you for talking about your ride outside! I keep thinking it would be a lot easier with Romey if I had an indoor. There are so many distractions outside I have a tough time keeping his attention. He is similar in that if he does actually give me a forward trot, it always goes too far. In his case though, it results in a scoot and spin instead of just a canter. I wish I could have the canter! Spinning is my Achilles heel. But at least he takes me around with him unlike Ducky used to do! My point was your method seems right on in letting her keep the forward and then requesting she settle back down. I think I get a little too grabby which angers the beast.
    Sounds like you have great intentions for Candy, I’m excited to read along!

    1. I am VERY glad to have the indoor; I think it definitely makes things easier when you’re riding a new/green horse. I know I need to get her in the big ring so we’ll both be comfortable there (not to mention do stuff like canter on purpose), but the small indoor is very useful.

      My instinct is to get grabby, too. I have to mentally tell myself “don’t grab don’t grab don’t grab”…and I sometimes grab anyway. (Hey, none of us are perfect!) I’m also very grateful Candy does not buck or spin- that’s much tougher to deal with than plain old going too fast!

  5. I like to set up half cross rails so set them like 1 and 2 strides apart and then right side is in a cup and for the next “jump” left side is in the cup. Might be best to do poles flat before but that’s one of my favorite exercises.

  6. I think in-hand stuff is great too. For instance, practicing showmanship patterns. She obviously doesn’t have to show in it, but it helps with obedience and direction on the ground. I also like doing it, because it teaches them to watch me, follow my lead, and move immediately off my body language.

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