Well after having such a rocky start to horses, I really wanted to find a horse that would be around for a long time, so I could really get going on this journey.
My brother in-law Anthony said he knew of a horse down the road that he thought might be good for me. Anthony was good friends with Adam Sutton (some you may know Adam 😊) and along with Danny they went and had a look at this gelding called ‘Laddie’. I didn’t get to go, apparently, I would not make a rational decision and best the boys decide what they think would be suitable for me. Next thing I knew they arrived home with this gorgeous gelding with them all agreeing he would be perfect for me. They all got on and rode him and showed me how he could stop and backup and he had a lovely canter. So, I was like, oh great I will just go and get my stick/string and go through the 7 games first…then maybe in a weeks’ time I will ride him, but I best make sure he knows all this stuff first. I could see Anthony & Adam just shaking their heads, but they didn’t want to say to me, Lee just get on the horse is fine.
Now there is nothing wrong with doing groundwork…not at all, but it can also be used to torment the shit out of a horse and it can also be used as a way too avoid actually getting on and riding. I am only talking from my own experiences here, please remember that before you all jump on me for this. I remember a clinician once saying to me, if your horse can back up 10 feet on the ground, then that is all you need, why the hell do you need to torment the shit out of him till he will go back 45ft. Why not think about how much is actually needed and reward while he is soft and responsive rather than do 10ft of something nice, but then you want that extra 35ft which has you wriggling rope, slapping the ground with the stick, the horse with his head high and dragging his feet. You only ever need 10ft..you could get 10ft nice, stop let him think about it…then go another 10ft, then another 10ft…get the picture, then you might have 50ft of really nice backup…but all you really needed was 10ft. Well you know I heard it and I thought I understood it, but poor Laddie darn well knows I didn’t understand it at all.
So you know I did that much groundwork with Laddie, and bless him he put up with a lot. I was out there for an hour every day 7 days a week if I could; imagine if I had put that much effort into my riding! I wouldn’t mix it up, it would be exactly to the letter that was in the Level 1 (Partnership) pack. That poor horse stood there while I rubbed him with my hands, then threw the rope all over him, then rubbed him with the stick. Friendly game right done...okay now we need to use our fingers and move him backwards, front end, hind end, can he drop his head to the ground…Porcupine game done. It went on and on...no mixing it up...because you know what comes after 1? 2 of course. Did I ride, no it took my months before I rode that horse...cause in my head I had to get these 7 games 100% so I could be safe on this horse. Now not to say some horses don’t need groundwork…but trust me on this Laddie was a horse you could do 5 minutes of moving around make sure the girth isn’t going to pinch him and get on up there and ride. The problem was that I was reading a book and watching videos and really not seeing my horse at all. I couldn’t have told you if he was ears back or ears forward or tail swishing etc... I was just expecting him to be a robot and to move his feet where I wanted them and then somehow that would make him safe to ride.
Of course, it all falls apart on you when you go to a clinic and you are doing okay at the groundwork. But guess what after lunch you are riding. I would nearly make myself ill at lunch and I would always be the last one to be saddled, cause of course I would have to have done all those 7 games before I could even put the saddle on…why did I not realise your horse is more than capable to carry a saddle and do the games, in fact that is a great way to check out they are okay with the saddle...but you know that saddle step in the book comes after the 7 games. Truly thinking outside the square or book isn’t one of my strong points!
So of course, the riding would be a disaster for me, my horse would be fine...but do you think I had any balance or co-ordination and of course we had to ride in a halter with one rein and I spent more time trying to get the rope off my horses ears then I did anything else. Would I go home and ride more...no of course not...because I would think I have 1 hour and it takes me 1 hour to do all the 7 games and maybe on the weekend I could spare 2 hours and we could ride that second hour...but no not me…it would be 1 hour ground work, brush the horse, put the saddle on, mmm best do more groundwork to make sure he is okay with the saddle...oh darn 2 hours is up!
Mmm and I wondered why my riding wasn’t getting any better…
Till next time 😊