I bet you’ve heard a thousand different stories of horses saved from the knackery and transformed within weeks into the perfect family pony, or the horses retired from the racetrack and suddenly become show ring champions. This is not one of those stories. I tend to think that only a certain kind of person can work with a green horse. And I’m not saying I’m that person, but I hope I at least exhibit some of the qualities!
Green horse lesson number 1. It’s not easy. Ever. Ok maybe one day it will be easy, but for now it’s hard work. And you have to have PATIENCE. Nothing is more important than keeping your cool, so if you find yourself starting to get frustrated and taking it out on your greenie, it’s time for a break. If I have a bad day at work, I make sure that on the drive over to see my OTTB Nigel, I re-focus and let the day go. I don’t want to put my bad day on Nigel.
Green horse lesson number 2. They don’t know what they don’t know. And sometimes you don’t know either, so always have professional help like a riding instructor or trainer. There have been countless times I look up thinking “what the bloody hell am I doing” and like a fairy god mother, my instructor appears and says something magical like “give him his head” or “right rein contact, RIGHT REIN!”. And safe to say I haven’t turned into a useless pumpkin yet.
Green horse lesson number 3. Go slow. Go turtle slow if you have to. There’s no point trying to teach your horse the leg aid for canter, if he doesn’t understand when you ask him to trot. I’ve been working with Nigel for 3 months now on his canter transitions. It started as an unbalanced running trot with a pig root into canter, and now we can strike off canter first go with the leg aid and no funny business! I always like to remind myself, Nigel has had over 3 years as a racehorse and only 3 months as a riding horse. It takes TIME.
Green horse lesson number 4. Have realistic expectations. There are always going to be bad days. I just recently had a lesson where Nigel spent at least half of it head tossing and trying to crow hop into canter (I wasn’t even asking for canter). When you combine an ex-racehorse with a green horse, you also get the nervous energy to work with. And just like us humans, horses have bad days too. It’s going to take time to work out the best way to work your green horse. Don’t expect you’re going to get it right straight away!
Green horse lesson number 5. Always end the day with a positive thought. There’s no point obsessing over a training session gone wrong, or loathing the challenging ride you just had, otherwise you’ll end up being the Grinch of the Equestrian world. A positive attitude will lead to positive outcomes!
Good attitude is most important. Good talent is second – George Morris
So there you have it! I’m sure in another 3 months I’ll have 5 more lessons I’ve learned about owning a green horse, but that’s the amazing thing about horses, sometimes it’s the most difficult horse that has the most to teach you!
Cover photo credit; Christine Johnson
This blog is the personal opinion and experience of the author. You should always seek the advice of a professional horse riding instructor or trainer for your own specific situation or circumstance.