Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Whoops, Missed a Day

Horses I Have Known: Part 14

This darn cold wore me out yesterday. I am feeling a bit better today, but still not quite 100%. Typical of what happens when I start teaching again and am exposed to all the kids.

Rain continued yesterday anyhow, so no riding.

Toby's story continues.

Toby's tendancy to explode still existed after he worked with Kenny. He was and is, as I've said before, the kind of horse that protests vigorously when pushed past his limit.

During one clinic with Lockie, Toby reared up in protest. Lockie told me to give him a rap on the head with the dressage whip. Like the colt in the stall with my vet, all that did way make Toby more rebellious, so we quickly ditched that idea. Lockie was so funny after that. He walked over to Toby, took his head in his hands, and soothed him, telling him what a fine horse he was, and reassuring him that he actually could handle the exercises we were attempting. Then, when Toby made an effort to cooperate, Lockie praised him mightily.

"He needs to be told how wonderful he is," Lockie said. "Otherwise, he gets insulted." From then on our lessons included lots of praise, whether Toby had really earned it or not.

Somewhere along the way, although the time frame is a bit fuzzy here, I finally surrendered to my lack of skill at dealing with Toby's tantrums and trailered him up to Massachusetts for a few weeks training with Chris Warner, my dressage instructor at the time. He'd never seen Toby really misbehave, but he figured I had some kind of reason for wanting him to do some of the work for me.

The first two days, as I recall, Chris called with glowing praise for my chestnut wonder. "He's working beautifully," he told me. "Everyone in the barn is talking about what a nice horse he is." I could tell Chris was a bit skeptical about my riding skills at that point.

Day three was another story. Apparently, Toby threw such a tantrum, the same people at the barn simply could not believe it was the same horse. Chris has a seat like glue, and determination of steel, so Toby was well matched. From that point on, he and Chris somehow managed to find some common ground, with Chris's will winning over in the end. By the time I went to pick Toby up to bring him home again, he was a lovely, forward, round dressage horse, ready to progress with his training, accepting a lot more pressure from his rider than he'd been able to tolerate before.

Not perfect, certainly, but he was willing to let me train him, and advance beyond the basics.

We competed at second level, then, in a fit of "just let's do it," we moved up to fourth level, so we could use the double bridle. But that meant having to learn the flying change.

Back to Lockie on a sunny afternoon.

Toby with me riding at Second Level. I looked as if I was having fun!


  1. What a great picture, you both look like you're having fun!

    Toby sounds like a real handful. It takes a very tactful rider to deal with a horse like that. I love the advice Lockie had. Spider tends to get insulted if he isn't told he's wonderful regularly enough. Must be a TB thing. *G*

  2. You and Toby look like you're both having a great time. He does seem like quite an opinionated horse but with constant praise I'm sure he's proud of his accomplishments. By the way I love it when trainers don't believe you about a horse until they get on and experience it first hand.

    They're never perfect but I'm sure you and he learned a lot from each other.

  3. Hind sight is always twenty twenty but I really love it when it finally dawns on the trainer that you knew all along about your horse.

  4. Anonymous6:46 PM

    Could have been sensory/nervous system - the pressure just was too much to tolerate until he gradually learned to deal with it - you were very fortunate to have good people to work with.