September 25, 2009

Aaaaall By Myseeeeeeeelf.....

Sing it with me!

I'm sure you've figured it out on your own, but there are several layers to this blog title. One is blatantly obvious, being that Solo loves to fly! The other is that Solo and I, up until very recently, are on this journey by ourselves. We are, in essence, thanks to my awesomely miniscule excuse for a salary, flying solo. No trainers, no lessons, just the 20-odd years of my own experience and whoever I can annoy enough to answer questions, along with any books, websites, or articles I can get my hands on.

I took dressage lessons for about 7 or 8 years growing up, then three years of hunter lessons in college. I still read everything that stops moving long enough for me to absorb it and actively seek out as much information about horse training and care as I can possibly find. And then of course, there is practical knowledge I've accumulated from just schooling other people's horses and finding what works and what doesn't.

This odd mish-mash of skills and lack thereof were all I had to bring to the table for Solo and as a result, our progress (yes, let's call it that, it sounds so much better than what ACTUALLY occurred) was halting at best. I was in the process of learning that there is a HUGE difference between schooling a horse and training a horse. The former is pretty easy and simply requires a solid base of riding skills. The latter is akin to a hybrid between art and science and requires the patience of a saint, the ingenuity of an inventor, and the discipline of...something really disciplined.

What I was doing at that time and leading up to it, was mostly schooling. I'd get on, Solo and I would ride some trails, we'd work in the ring. We'd school maybe 10-20 jumps, do some walk/trot/canter. I'd do a few circles, serpentines, change direction. I did pick up the book 101 Arena Exercises and it gave some some great ideas for exercises, but...there was no real direction to what we did.

I knew I wanted to event. I knew what our weak points were, at least generally (bending, roundness, pretty much anything dressage). I knew what our strong points were (jumping and speed). But I didn't have a clear idea or plan of how to get there.

I kept practicing things, schooling over and over, but it never really resulted in things getting all that much better. We were floating adrift in a sea of mediocrity. Everything was ok, but nothing was great. 2008 was supposed to be our big year to break out onto the eventing scene, but given the disastrous turn of spring and early summer, things weren't looking promising. Don't get me wrong, I was having a blast riding my horse -- but looking back now, I can see that we were doing a whole lot of moving without really going anywhere.


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with this one... how easy it is to ride someone else's horse and pinpoint a problem. It's such a shock realizing what an ongoing process a horse's training is and that *gasp* you're responsible for it.

  2. I didn't really start to understand ride plans until almost three years ago. I still wish I'd fully understood them earlier, but the journey's made me the rider and horsewoman I am today, and it turned out pretty well overall. It looks like you guys are doing wonderfully now...after scrolling through your previous posts!

  3. Ride plans...and sticking to them! It's hard and it takes more focus than I think I have ever used before! I can't wait till I get to that part of the story, I have to get caught up, but I'm almost there!!

  4. Off topic, but what has been your experience with Crosby saddles? I've owned a couple, but only for the amount of time it took me to sell them (acquired them randomly & they were not suited to my horses at the time). I'm currently looking at a Crosby Corinthian that has the cutback for high withered horses.

  5. Jen, I LOVED my Crosby. The spring tree and cutback design meant it fit a lot of different horses. It was so comfy to ride in, I did trails, dressage, jumps, you name it. I don't know anything about the new Crosbys, mine was at least 10 years old, it was the old Lexington event line.