Ride in a circle to teach your greenie to round, hold outside rein, add inside leg, squeeze the inside rein like a sponge. Repeat for months, and months, and months. Have a break though. Start over like you have never done it the next day.
Set up a baby cross rail. Start at a trot. Feel like you are going to collapse from the butterflies in your stomach, this is your horse’s first jump. No big deal, right? Ok that wasn’t so bad, other than jumping it like a three-foot oxer. Repeat five times. Try it at a canter. Almost die, BUT you stayed on. Feel accomplished. Show up the next day on cloud nine. Ride goes horribly.
Teach greenie that you can actually control you speed. Teach greenie that yes, it is possible to engage that hind end and ride on the bit. No, you can’t slow down while doing this. Teach greenie that you have to keep a consistent speed while jumping. Teach greenie to listen to your seat. Teach greenie flying changes, still haven’t mastered those.
Atlas is my young OTTB that I have had for a little over a year. He is my first horse, and was green when I first acquired him. With that being said he has been a joy to retrain. Atlas had gained a bad rap of being a “crazy” OTTB. He was deemed as a difficult ride unless an experienced rider was willing to deal with his antics. Not dangerous, just had many quirks. In all he was failing miserably at fulfilling his job originally intended as a lesson horse. I had recently broken my knee by a blue-eyed Gypsy Vanner, a story for a later date. Atlas was my first ride back after being cooped up in a hideous black cast that prevented me from having a life for nine weeks. I was chomping at the bit to ride again, no pun intended. I was nervous to say the least. My kick had made me realize “oh yeah! Huge animal can cause serious damage when they want to hurt you.” After five minutes into our ride, my nerves began to settle, as Atlas was SO LAZY. My god I probably popped him with the crop six times and was continuously squeezing with each sit. He was safe though, had a loving personality, and a big heart. He was perfect. Asking price for Atlas was $2500, and a month later he was mine.
Green horses/ ponies I have learned can bring you the greatest joy. A loved horse will only want to please you, especially if you can find one with a big heart, and who loves their job. Many of us buy green horse’s because of the low asking prices. It seems now-a-days to find a well-trained horse the beginning asking price begins around $10,000. Who has that kind of money to fork out at a young age? Even as an older well-established adult, this is an expensive sport! If you do, let me know. I make a great friend.
So now you own your green horse you got at a fair price. This begins the fun part. If you’re like me this is the first horse you have trained completely on your own. At first, I doubted myself all the time. I was nervous and worried, and constantly thought to myself “Oh my god! What if I am teaching him wrong? He has so much potential and I could be destroying him!!” These doubts have only recently gone away. Don’t worry if you have these same doubts, you’re not ruining your horse. I have found that when training greenie the method of “faking it till you make it” really makes all the difference. Pretend like you really know what you’re doing, but in reality, it’s just a trial run to see what happens. Atlas is the kind of horse who needs the fake confidence. If I wasn’t confident the baby cross rail was going to be refused, over jumped, or Atlas’s favorite, chipped. With each ride though I learned to master the skill of pretending like I knew what I was doing. I wasn’t a bad rider. I had trained growing up with a multitude of trainers, showed, rode almost every day for years. Atlas was a new experience though, and a very slow ride compared to the speedy jumpers I grew up with. So, the art of pretending is something I have grown very good at.
I have found that having such a green horse we have more bad days than good. We have mediocre rides, many where I have to remind myself to not become frustrated. I often have to walk him around the arena few times to collect myself. Rethink about how to ask him something. Sometimes collecting myself helps, many days it is a lost cause. I never get upset with Atlas though. I remind myself that this is all verily new to him. In a year he has come so far, if he tries even for three trot steps I am proud. I know he loves his job, and that is what matters.
The good comes with the mediocre. The feeling of breakthrough is one of the best feelings I have ever had. I just taught this horse how to jump a two-foot jump, hold a frame, leg yield to the left and right, to listen to my seat, turn on the haunches, ride a whole course, the list continues. The best is trying a new jump height a nailing it. Such a rush. I always get so excited and express it by practically yelling “good boy” after landing. With these accomplishments comes more trust between you and your horse, and a very strong bond.
Some of the best advice I was ever given was by my trainer Miriam, who I religiously still train with each time I visit Atlanta. I was in a lesson with her asking a million questions about the best way to train Atlas. Her response was simple, and made me walk away more confused. “Ride for your horse.” What?? It wasn’t until I got on Atlas a few days later that it clicked. What I had taken away from her guidance was don’t worry about what you look like. If your horse is performing correctly, holding himself properly, and achieving the goal you have set for them, your body position will fall into place. We sit like such for a reason, as our position holds value to their performance. This advice was passed to her by her trainer in Germany who she spent two years with. No worries it’s not a crock of crap. Since receiving this advice my training for Atlas has only flourished. I no longer worry about me, but worry about him and how he is presented. Ok, so maybe I still worry about my heels.
Atlas and I have begun really training for our first show. We will be showing in cross rails hopefully come March. Please hold the applause and amazement. Each day, ride and moment I spend with him I am proud. I feel overwhelmed with success in our small and large feats. I am proud to call this greenie mine.