On a rare Tueday morning not spent in the office, I hooked up my trailer and loaded Java for her first field trip. We were heading just a few miles down the road to a local equestrian park to ride around and see how Java handled herself in a new environment. During the short drive I found myself wondering why, after 5 months, was I just now asking Java to venture off the property? I pondered for a moment and shrugged it off, because, honestly… I didn’t care.
After 5 months of ownership, I can confidently say that I know my pony inside and out. And even with the deadline of RRP looming, I have never felt like field trips, cross country schooling, and show experience was a task we needed to tackle – at least not yet. My focus with Java has always been in the details, the small things on our to-do list that need to be checked off before getting to the fun stuff. Galloping big fences and winning pretty ribbons, those things will fall into place after all the details are tended to. And if they aren’t, well, those little guys will come back to bite ya.
Thoroughbreds are incredible athletes, they are as versatile as any breed I’ve ever encountered. With their can-do attitude and willingness to please, when you asked Thoroughbred to jump they don’t even ask how high, they pull a Nike pony on you and just do it. But just because your Thoroughbred will jump on his third ride off the track, doesn’t mean he should.
When you skip the details and head right to the fun stuff, when you push too hard too soon, breakdowns happen, overwhelmed, under educated horses happen. When you take a horse that’s known one thing it’s whole life and turn it’s world upside down, you have to be willing to take some serious time to turn it back right side up.
In order to develop a well-rounded partner, who is healthy both physically and mentally, we owe it to them to pay attention to those pesky little rascals that seem inconsequential until they come out and rear their ugly heads. A good trainer will seek out the devil in these situations and to look him in the eye and say “I’m not afraid of you”.
Those trainers willing and able to produce solid mounts embrace the small details. They take the time to let their horse’s rest and recuperate, they give time for their bodies and minds to heal before introducing the stresses of a different career. They listen to their horse and tailor a training program to suit their needs, not their show schedule. Those truly successful trainers understand the importance of walk hacks, of ground manners, of confidence building, of stimulating the horse’s mind without wearing down their body.
It’s tough, it’s tedious and it’s just plain boring. But it’s facing the devil that hides in the details that weeds out the bad from the good and the good from the truly great. Those truly great trainers can put their lofty goals on a brief hold in order to sort out details like the in’s and out’s of daily life – from standing tied to loading on a trailer, to introducing rhythm and relaxation before impulsion and straightness.
When the order of operations starts small, those successful trainers know they are creating the building blocks that will eventually establish the solid foundation on which a horse can grow. When you don’t take the time to work on those small things, when you over-face your partner or ask for too much too soon, the devil hiding in those details is slowly chipping away at any semblance of a foundation and will be waiting in the wings to watch it come crashing down.