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5 Lessons from a Not-So-Green Horse

I’ve had my horse Sasha since she was a green six-year-old that was just beginning to learn the ropes of being a show horse, and those first couple of years together were a challenge. (You can read about our adventures during that stage of our journey here and here.) Now that she’s officially in the double digits (her tenth birthday was just a couple weeks ago!) and competing in the adult hunters for the second year in a row, I think it’s pretty safe to say that she’s not a green baby anymore.

At this point, she’s in that intermediary stage where you can’t really call her green anymore, but she’s not exactly a seasoned pro, either. I’m hoping to be able to call her a seasoned pro eventually, but in the meantime, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned as we’ve transitioned from the “green” stage to the “not-so-green” stage:

1. Bringing your horse from green to not-so-green and (eventually) to a seasoned pro takes patience and time.
Last summer, Sasha and I showed in one of our local derbies. After I finished, the first thing my barn friends asked me was “Did you hear the song that was playing during your trip!?” When they replayed it for me, I realized how fitting it was for someone who was in the middle of bringing a horse along from green to not-so-green.

The lyrics went like this: “I’ve got my mind set on you…but it’s gonna take money, a whole lotta spending money…it’s gonna take plenty of money to do it right, child. It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time…it’s gonna take patience and time…”

If there’s one thing that Sasha has taught me over the past three and a half years, it’s patience. Bringing along a horse right takes a lot of patience and a lot of time, but it’s more than worth it for the lessons they teach you and the feeling you get when you know you’ve done it right.

2. Ride the horse that’s underneath you now, not the one that was underneath you last year.
As the journey that Sasha and I are taking together continues to lengthen, “ride the horse that’s underneath you” is a lesson that I repeat to myself over and over. While I rode Sasha one way when we first started our partnership together, as she’s learned more and more over the past few years, my riding style has had to change to meet the needs of her more-educated brain and her ability to work at a more advanced level. Adjusting my riding to her changing needs, which (like any horse) can change dramatically from day to day can be challenging, but, as one of my trainers likes to say, “If you want to ride the same thing every day, get a bicycle.”

3. Focus on yourself and your horse, and not what the other riders and horses you know are doing.
It’s easy to compare yourself, your horse, and your progress to other riders and horses around you. But every horse, rider, and situation is unique, and it’s not fair to your horse (or yourself!) to constantly compare yourself to others. Rather than comparing yourself against others and their situations, set realistic goals for yourself and your horse and track your progress against those goals rather than against the ribbons that other riders and horses you know are winning.

4. When you have a bad ride, cheer yourself up with a “remember when…”.
No horse is going to be perfect all the time, and there are going to be days when you take a few steps back and wonder what happened to a skill you’ve already accomplished that’s suddenly gone by the wayside. Luckily, one of the bonuses of bringing along a horse is that no matter what point you’re at in your journey, there are always times where things were a whole lot worse than they are now.

Whenever I get frustrated during a rough lesson or horse show, I remind myself of how things were back when I first got her: “Remember when I used to cry every time we cantered?” “Remember when every time we jumped a line, we either left out a stride or trotted the second jump?” “Remember when she used to have a meltdown every time a horse entered or left the ring?” When you compare crying every time you cantered to one bad lesson where you couldn’t get that exercise 100% perfect, getting that exercise 75% perfect doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

5. When everything starts to click and your hard work pays off, it’s (still) awesome.
This was one of my lessons from Sasha the Green Horse, but it’s just as applicable with Sasha the Not-So-Green Horse.

Sasha and I have been competing in local derbies for a couple of years now, and we made it into the handy round for the first time in our last horse show. Making it into the handy round has been a goal of mine for a while now, and it was so exciting to accomplish that on our first time out on the field this year. We may have finished last out of everyone who made it to the handy round due to a couple of pilot errors (sorry, Sasha!), but I’ll treasure that 12th place ribbon forever because of the hard work it took to get it.

Whether it’s when you meet a show ring goal like mine or your horse finally gets that exercise or skill you’ve been working at for months, there’s nothing more rewarding than the feeling you get when you make it happen for the first time.

Posted in Stories & Adventures

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One comment on “5 Lessons from a Not-So-Green Horse
  1. A Meg says:

    Lexi you are an amazing writer& accomplished equestrian!

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