What Is “Fresh” For Your Horse?

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I had a great week at home and now am travelling once again, this time headed to Tallahassee FL for a Horse Master shoot. Getting home on Sunday last week mean I actually was home for one of Rich’s days off and we had a great time riding our horses—for the first time in a LONG time. By waiting until afternoon to ride, the snow had melted from our outdoor arena and we took full advantage of the elbow room. Sadly, the next day it snowed again  but we enjoyed one day of riding in the sun.

It’s rather odd, but my horse, Dually, is always mellow when he hasn’t been ridden in a while. When ridden regularly he’s a little hot, likes to anticipate and loves to go fast. If he’s been in mothballs for a while he’s mister mellow—pony-loping around like a kid’s horse. When I go back to regular riding, he’ll start thinking too much and trying too hard. Rich’s horse Diggs (the polar opposite in temperament) was very good too. He’s never fresh—it’s not in his DNA—but after a long lay-off he seems a little more interested in being ridden and happy to have some attention (or at least less disdainful of it). What’s your horse like if he hasn’t been ridden in a while? Do you have to “work him down” or work up to your normal riding routine or can you just step on and go, as if you had been riding every day?

I am not a big believer in having to longe a horse before he is ridden in order to get the heebie-jeebies out of him. I realize that a lot of people feel the need to do this and in some cases I think it is okay, unless you get into a pattern of behavior in which you have to longe him and he holds you hostage to that. If your horse is too fresh to ride and you feel you are required to longe him so that he can explode in exuberance for a few minutes in order for you to have control once you mount, you may be a hostage to bad behavior. Think about it—if your horse is trained and obedient, he should act that way all the time; having a little extra energy is no excuse for disobedience (exuberance, yes, but disobedience, no). Often in this instance, the horse develops a pattern of behavior that involves him bucking like a maniac on the longe line until he feels spent, then you sheepishly crawl on his back, hoping that is the end of it. You end up in a which came first—the chicken or the egg situation. Are you longeing him to get the bucks out or is he bucking because you are longeing him?

The moral of the story is that you should always insist on your horse’s obedience, whether he is fresh or not. I might long-trot a fresh horse right away to get his energy level down or I might do 5-10 minutes of ground work with a young green horse that hasn’t been ridden in a while, to get his attention. But if you feel that longeing is necessary to get the bucks out, your horse may be controlling you and you may be unwittingly condoning disobedience (if you think he would otherwise buck and go wild while you were on him).

There may be other good reasons to longe a horse before you ride him, but if you are doing it because you feel like otherwise you might have a control issue, then you may want to rethink it. That’s my two cents worth. Do you always longe your horse before riding? Do you think it is a beneficial pattern?

Enjoy the ride,

Julie

For training tips from Julie, visit the Training Library at http://juliegoodnight.com/q&a.php and check out her online store–full of training tools and DVDs– at http://juliegoodnight.com/products.html

 

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