Working With Intelligent Horses
 By HITW   •   22nd Jun 2012   •   2,638 views   •   10 comments
A Horse With A Sense of Humor
In all the years I've been riding, I've known more horses than I can count. Yet there are those with a certain spark or flair that always stand out, the ones that you have trouble forgetting as the memories blur together year after year. A pop, a spark, a hidden intelligence, a sense of humor always helps a horse along in this world. I like to think I've known more horses with a personality than most, horses that are Houdinis, jokers, and those lovely ones that simply think they know more about what you're doing than you do.

Yet one sticks out, one precious individual, who I've gotten to know better than most. I bought my horse almost four years ago now, a girl walking down the path to her teenage years, and a horse who managed to manifest himself as a equine version of her. Now I know that that sounds a little dreamy, but from the first moment, I knew we were similar. For starters we're both pigeon-toed, have occasional balance issues, and parts of our hair is the same color. It goes beyond that though, into the realm of personality. We like to explore, and we like to adventure. He likes to chew on things, and he's smart enough to have thought of creative ways to get out of work. Yet, we mesh. We are a team, and I'd like to explain how it came to be that way.

Working With Intelligent Horses

Learning to Cope
There is no question that a child struggles with a horse that preforms at a higher level than they ride. I took a solid year and a half of lessons with the trainer we bought him from before I was comfortable on him. Yet the journey was far from complete. We struggled, we fought over who was boss, and we came to have an understanding. He would win on some fronts, and I on others. But coming off of layoff this winter, it wasn't going to be good enough. I'd learned more over the winter, ridden often, and had decided on a very equestrian future. I wanted to show him this summer, and like any teenager will admit, I wanted to win. I didn't want to win at all costs, but I did want to develop the riding ability and horsewomanship it was going to take to go into that show ring shining.

It was a long road, starting with lounging in late January, to start to bring a horse who'd gotten to live the couch potato life of a child's horse for several years back to the kind of athletic physique he'd had when we purchased him. Then came light riding, and conditioning. Arena miles and collection were some of the biggest fights. For a horse who hadn't been told what to do for years, it was hard to come to grips with the fact that I was the boss now. Yet, in the end, his personality shined through. I read in his stall after I got done riding, we'd listen to my iPod blasting the Beatles while I got him tacked up, and if there ever reached a point in the ride where I was losing confidence, he didn't take advantage of it. See that's the hidden beauty of smart, even though it has it's moments where it can be hard to cope with. We'd go out on a quick trail ride to cool off, and instead of pushing to get to eat the grass, he'd nose at birdhouses, fences, mailboxes, and people that we passed.

We started showing in May, with plenty of success. We didn't come home in the blues, or even with anything over a fourth. We still weren't collected. Two weeks after, I attended a clinic given by a top dressage judge, learned some things, tried them, and came home with an improved seat and legs. Our last show we took second against youth and third against adults in English Pleasure. I'm incredibly proud. Even just riding every day now, it's like a changed horse. He always had it in him, I had it in me, we just weren't clicking in all the right places. So I'll tell you the secret, how I got my intelligent, curious, personality-full horse to start to listen. And you're just going to tell me it's downright silly.

Working With Intelligent HorsesPlaytime! Sounds silly right, just spending time doing fun things with your horse. Playtime though, comes with work hidden within. My biggest goal is always to make him think, because if he's distracted, he isn't getting himself into trouble. Trail rides, at a walk and a trot, so that he has to think about where his feet are. He's outside of an arena, and it's just as easy to practice outside as it is in. For a horse that's frustrated by the repetition of circles, it's a relaxer. It is playtime. Every single halter and showmanship pattern I plan to do I practice in a full size arena, haltered but trying to teach him to respond with as little pressure as possible. Even turnouts, and games with a beat up old soccer ball fall into this category. I started trimming down the schooling sessions- find one important thing and work on it for twenty minutes, then give him an equal amount of time to play.

I guess truly, the buried message is ride and enjoy yourself certainly, but also make sure your horse enjoys his or herself. Celebrate your bond with one another, and find something that works for you both. There is no bond like the one that can be shared with a horse, so enjoy it!

Working With Intelligent Horses
Horse News More In This Category:  General      Horse News More From This Author:  HITW
  Jun 23, 2012  •  2,236 views
Summer Rain  
Great article!
  Jun 23, 2012  •  2,008 views
Deleted Accounts  
wow sounds good, great articale
  Jun 23, 2012  •  2,030 views
Awesome article!
  Jun 23, 2012  •  2,050 views
Awesome article! I have one of those crazy smart horses. He unlocks stall doors and escapes fences. The stable owners put up new fencing that the neighbors now call "The Fortress". He never threw me until he knew I was ready, and that I would get back on. He was shown by his previous two owners and I think he knows a ton more than he is letting on. Once I get the cues and stuff right he does it. I love him and he is the best horse I've ever had, we get each other and we are so alike its insane.
  Jun 23, 2012  •  2,047 views
Double Spur Ranch  
good article!!!
  Jun 24, 2012  •  2,005 views
Unbridled Sakia  
I have a filly that is smart like that!
  Jun 29, 2012  •  2,045 views
Let It Ride  
Love this article
  Jul 2, 2012  •  2,010 views
Fantastic article! It just goes to show that we all have an equine soul mate out there in the world, and each horse has a human soul mate. All it takes is the luck of finding each other and the time and patience to bond.
  Jul 11, 2012  •  2,017 views
Foxchase Farm  
Awesome article!
  Jul 31, 2012  •  2,038 views
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