SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

January 31, 2012

An Event Horse Isn't A One Trick Pony

It's no secret I'm a firm believer that an event horse MUST NOT be an arena baby.  They need to learn balance on uneven terrain, surefootedness, confidence in new situations, problem solving, and endurance.  They must be able to deal with mud, rocks, sticks, water, brush, dogs, crazed animals running around, golf carts, ATVs, weird buildings, rustling leaves, holes, and any kind of footing you can imagine.  I don't believe in manicured footing everywhere and I don't believe in protecting your horse from distractions; I think this makes a weaker athlete with a weaker mind and I believe it does a disservice to our partners.

It is well established in the world of physiological science that in order to strengthen a system, you must challenge it.  This goes for bone, tissue, respiration and brain.  So I take my horses everywhere and I welcome umbrellas and terriers and strollers and bicycles and rocky mazes and steep, muddy hills because all of these things are tools to to shape the animal that an event horse should be.  And I shouldn't have to make this disclaimer, but I will:  always handle yourself and your horse with SAFETY in mind.  Just...don't be a dumbass.

So I present to you, the "wild, hot, crazed" OTTB who at 6 years old goes on his first "off-road" experience (our trails at home are, shall we say, a bit tamer) and I actually remembered to turn on the helmet cam.  With us are Louie, a big chestnut Irish TB who is an ex-steeplechaser turned Training Level eventer; a gorgeous mover who has just come back from a suspensory injury at 22 (or somewhere around there).  We also have Buck, a 15-ish-year-old bay OTTB who also competes a Training Level (although I heard a rumour he may give Prelim a shot) who can rack like a Saddlebred -- who says TB's aren't versatile?

PS I am not responsible for the helmet habits of my friends.  The rider's names shall not be mentioned for the sake of privacy and avoidance of public shaming.  That includes you, commenters.  

PPS The videos are in HD but I can't get YouTube to default to that.  So after you push play, click the little button on the bottom video bar that looks like a gear and you can increase the resolution/video quality to it's HD awesomeness.  And if you want to hear the inane commentary, you have to turn your volume all the way up.  I'm still messing with mic levels on the helmet cam.

Encore goes all-terrain and Louie reluctantly follows.  Encore actually loves water but he does NOT like super soft squishy mud, which is why he has so much hesitation on the bank.  He is not a fan of his hoofies sinking!

Our canine companions.  Oh yes, the terriers really are named Jack, Russell, and Pumpkin.  I kid you  not.


Louie and Encore jump a massive log.  Louie does a very amusing dance when he gets excited, like when horses pass him.  Or trot in front of him.  Or when it's Wednesday.  But I never did really capture it, dangit.

Just a nice canter in a beautiful field.


  1. I thought I was the ONLY one who had this mentality. A ton of eventers I know feel the y have to coddle their horses to no end. UM, cross country is on natural terrain dumb dumbs.

  2. That's how I feel about ALL horses. AND I firmly believe that endurance horses should have dressage training and learn to jump cross rails at the very least. Hooray for well rounded horses! And Ozzy hates that squishy mud feeling too. Then again, I sank him in a bog so...

  3. If some people did to their kids what they do to their horses, they would be accused of smothering and being overprotective. And lord knows my football friends have to cross-train (even a few ballet lessons to keep them light on their feet... seriously) and the same is expected of most human athletes. What about our horses?

    Don't get me started on arena-bound dressage horses. My dressage pony loves her cross-training.

  4. Oh yes, having all-around mad skillz is a must for eventers... and pretty much any horse that I'd care to ride, thanks very much.

    It looks like everyone had a great time!

  5. I'm so jealous of the super lovely riding fields you seem to have!

  6. Jenny, that turf was heavenly.

    And Dom, I'm teaching lifeshighway's endurance horse dressage this winter while she is laid up after surgery. And he's damn cute at it!

    Dressager, my mother made me take ballet when I was a kid. It is a cruel thing to do to a non-stretchy, uncoordinated 5 year old. Just cruel, I tell you.

  7. Ack! Can't even begin to tell you how green with envy I am! Even if I never get to event again I HAVE to get out on the trails and trot and canter with friends. Those are my favorite memories! Most of my early riding education took place on the trails but I totally agree with everyone else that all horses should be well rounded.

  8. I want to go to there.

    People look at me funny when I tell them we dabble in dressage, baby jumps, stock horse style western pleasure (eeew), obstacles for Cowboy Challenges, trails, and western halter showmanship and we plan to go play with cows as soon as we're able. He's too smart and thinks to much to do just one thing.

    I want my horse to be a renaissance man. :)

  9. SP, I am a huge believer in renaissance horse. I want to try cow sorting with Solo, I think he would like it. Encore would climb the pen walls in terror of the Fanged Cow Devils, so I won't take him.

  10. Looks like a glorious ride. I don't think I could ever be accussed of coddling my Encore looked like a he was an angel. And that dance that you speak of Louie doing. I know that dance oh so well. I know of another certain OTTB that does a similar dance for very similar reasons but I don't ever remember it being amusing ;) Maybe amusing to watch!

  11. Hahahha, Amy, Louie's rider has had him a long time, so she is pretty good at just laughing it off now. So I don't feel so bad for giggling. I also am secretly grateful inside that Encore is not a dancer, I prefer the more angelic types under my butt!