After a year of Ange
Trotting to the Beat of a Different Drummer
By Carol Lippa
The thrill of having a horse who is athletic enough to win championships, jump the moon, and do a piaffe in hand, has been downsized by our seemingly endless inability to succeed at Training 1. Having a “project horse” can be humbling.
Riding involves a dynamic partnership with the horse-rider-trainer team, always keeping an eye toward how to perform better next time. Most serious riders and many horses thrive on this. Lovable and expressive in other ways, Merrick trots to the sound of a different drummer, often painfully lacking motivation when asked to expend energy at the riders command.
An Angeism: “to do dressage, you need to admit you _ _ _ _, then figure out what to do to fix it.” Complicating our efforts to “fix it”, Merrick’s training slows due to illnesses and interventions. Immunizations give him the flu, injections lead to muscle atrophy, medications worsen his ulcers, and sedation causes him to fall over. Don’t even think about riding after he’s been shod – his angles might have changed a degree. Wouldn’t it be nice to own a normal horse?
Over time, Ange suggests changes in training strategies to suit Merrick’s learning style at the moment, hoping that layering the approaches over time will have an onion skin effect. Maybe this will work; Merrick will happily trot over a jump now, and is starting to get a topline. My heart soars because I love to jump and so does he.
Merrick finally won his first multicolored ribbons. They hang proudly by his stall, and he has a vague sense of what the fuss is about. He seems to enjoy hearing people tell him that he must have been a “very good boy” to have earned them. But grazing remains more important to Merrick. Credit earned is credit due, and he deserves a good long graze for putting up with 20-meter circles, transitions and those annoying half halts.