Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Two Years, and Goals

Two years ago I met my horse for the first time. She was obese, with rolls of fat you could grab with your hand. She stood short legged and long backed, with a massive front end, and she sported an impressive underneck, the muscle rigid and very well developed in all the wrong ways. Her feet were awful looking, overgrown and cracked from months of neglect. She was hard to catch in a small square paddock, and pushy on the ground. Her attitude was indifferent and somewhat pissed off. She moved beautifully, and I tried her out in a potato field covered with crusted snow. I loved riding her. We went home and we researched, called farriers, and agonized. There were a lot of questions, a lot of reasons not to get her. I couldn’t not get her. There was something there that made that impossible.

A lot has gone down these two years. There was a lot we had to learn about her. There were her feet, worse than we thought. Her body, her hocks, her hormones. There have been times when I thought she would never be right, and each time we’ve found a way to manage her problems. I am so thankful for that.

I learned how to manage her, and I learned about all the different aspects of owning a horse. I was able to get into a barn that has all the facilities we need, a small herd of mares that Sofie gets along with, and most importantly, it feels more like a second home than a barn. I learned from Sofie’s team of professionals, particularly Annie, our trimmer who has always been there for Sofie when she needed her the most.

I learned how to deal with a horse on the ground, and became more confident handling Sofie. She made me afraid of her at times, but eventually she helped take away my fear. Neither of us are competitive or brilliant at what we do, but we complement each other well. We accept each other and our flaws, and we learn together, a little at a time. I appreciate who she is and I love riding her. I would rather work with Sofie than any other horse I’ve ever ridden. I don’t know how she feels about me, but I hope she enjoys (or at least doesn’t mind) working with me. I think we have a bond, and that feels good.

Two years ago I found a horse who was basically ignorant, and carrying a lot of baggage. Pain had shaped her all wrong, and her mind was all over the place. I was struggling with confidence issues, issues with perfectionism and I was easily reduced to an emotional mess. Two years later, we are both better for our time together. We’ve achieved a lot, considering where we started from. Now I want to continue our improvement. My dressage lessons have shown me what I need to work on with Sofie, and where we need to go. I think we’re both ready to step it up a bit.

I have three goals for this third year together.

1. Install The Basics. I have a better idea of what I’m doing now, and I want to get the basics down. I want a connection, bend in both directions, improved straightness. I want to work toward getting her off her front end and onto her hindquarters, and I want to maintain and improve her responsiveness. Basically, I want to hone all the little aspects of our work and make positive improvements until she looks and moves like I know she can.

2. Ride Off Base. I want to have her trailered to another location and ride her there, because I want to prove to myself that I can do it, and I would like to know I can take advantage of opportunities such as clinics in the future. I don’t yet know when we will be able to pull this off, but I’m really hoping to do it.

3. Be Happy. The most important thing to me is our relationship. Sofie is always there for me, and it’s wonderful to know that. I consider her my friend, and I want to keep our relationship as strong as possible. I need to keep her best interests and limitations in mind during our training, and I need to approach our work with a positive attitude. Dressage is good therapy for her, but I need to praise her often and always try to be fair. I want us both to like what we do, and I think that ideal is definitely possible for us.

Thank you to all the people who have helped with Sofie and gotten us where we are today. And thank you to my readers and followers. I never anticipated anyone who wasn’t directly related to me would be at all interested in my work and progress as a bottom-feeder in dressage, with a talented but challenged horse. I’m looking forward to sharing our journey this next year, and beyond.


  1. Oh, I think it is more interesting to follow the progress of horse with "no" talent than a WB with great lines. There are so many facets to the relationship. The struggles with training and soundness and the developing bond are far more interesting than watching a professional - to me anyway.

  2. I agree with Annette, seeing how far both of you come is so encouraging to me with training Sora. I really like your goals as well. Exactly the type of things I need to work on. I can't wait to see your progress!