These days, Stu and I have an understanding. We are a serious partnership, building our skills. When I come to his field, he leaves his grass and comes to me. We head into the barn, barn up, and get ready for some work.
Okay, so… I’m 90% sure that this understanding came about because of his food obsession, but I’m going to pretend it’s because he actually wants to bond and have a partnership with me. But deep down, it’s the food. I’ve never seen any horse so food obsessed. His treats are limited to when I catch him and when I turn him out because he loses his mind. He reminds me of a dog obsessing over treats… whining, staring at you, nosing your pockets, following you so close you trip over them. That’s him, except as a horse. I don’t want to test it, but I’m pretty sure he’d follow me straight off a cliff if it meant he’d get to munch on a treat on the way down.
I finally have some pictures of me with Stu, thanks to my new new Insta360 Flow. It’s been fun playing with it although I did learn that my phone camera lens is very dirty, but that’s hardly the Insta360’s fault. It has a ton of features so I’m working on learning them all so I can write a guide on how equestrians can use it to record their rides, or create content. It’s a work in progress, so stay tuned!
But back to my delightful Stubert….
Learning about working equitation really inspired me. I originally got Stu thinking I would do hunters, and specifically hunter derbies because then I could wear a really cool tail coat, but I feel drawn to working equitation. It looks elegant, the horses look so well trained, and it looks straight up fun. I ride to have fun, so, duh, I should do what’s fun, right? Even if I have a big honking warmblood who was definitely not intended for that sport.
Since WE is full of tight turns, I decided to start with getting Stu’s turns better. Like I said before, I started with lots of circles. Stu’s turns were absolutely terrible, trying to steer him was like trying to steer a train. I have no idea why he was so bad at it, but I noticed it immediately while he was at his trainer’s, so he’s been like this for quite a while. His lack of steering was one of the reasons I dreaded riding him. He felt out of control, and that’s a scary feeling on any horse.
So we did circles. Tons and tons of circles. Little circles, big circles, spiraling circles. Then we did circles attached to other circles. We wove around objects, and even threw in some straight lines. (Absolutely wild, I know). We stuck to the walk and the trot for now, I didn’t need to add speed to my train.
From all these circles, a crazy thing started to happen. Stu… got really good at them. He understood what I wanted. He started going exactly where I pointed him. Considering I was told a few months ago that he was a jerk of a horse, I was expecting more of a fight. But no, turns out that he’s just a horse, no jerk there, he’s just young, and he learns.
I pushed him further. We started doing turn on the haunches. That was a confusing concept, but once he clicked, he begin saying, “ah yes, let’s turn.” I could literally do it on a loose rein.
I started trying turn on the forehand. That took a few tries, but then he got the general concept. It’s still a work in progress for both, I’m not saying he’s expert level yet, but the gears are turning in his little head.
On our most recent ride, I asked for a turn on the forehand, and boom, perfectly done. We did a full half turn. I was so thrilled with him, he got lots of pets and love for that (he doesn’t just feed on treats, he also loves some pet, another dog-like quality of his.)
At the very end of our ride, I had a crazy idea. I really had no practical reason for him to do this, it’s totally out of my discipline and I don’t think I’d ever use it, but I wanted to see if he’d do a full reining spin. Just to see if he would.
I asked him for the turn on the forehand and haunches at the same time, and he paused for just a second, and then he started spinning. It wasn’t at any crazy speed like those reiners, but it was still at a quick walk. We did two full spins, I let off my aids, and he stopped. He got lots of pet and love for that one.
Is there any reason for him to spin? No, not really. But it was pretty fun, and he was such a good boy. I think I have a certified Good Boy (in training) on my hands.
Moments like that really inspire me to keep going. Obviously I love Stu and horses in general, but sometimes it is really hard to fit in a trip to the barn. But the fun moments and the signs of progress encourage me to just keep going.
If you feel like you’re lacking motivation, a resource I’ve been utilizing recently is the Equestrian Masterclasses. I have mixed feelings about some of the classes, but I love getting ideas for more things to try on my rides. Doing lots of turns on the forehand was actually an idea I got from the Laura Graves masterclass.
Perhaps you too will be inspired to try out some spin moves.
Disclaimer: At no point did Laura Graves recommend doing spins moves on your horse, just so we’re clear.