Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Washington State
You and I should get into a 'who can get the weight off the most' and motivate our horses the best contest. I swear I see a lot of you in me which is why I keep posting to this thread. I read some of your back threads and we have very similar backgrounds too.
I had an very 'dull' horse once that I moved on and kicked myself every day for doing so. I moved her on because I didn't have time to put the effort into her (she was a friesian cross) and she wasn't looking like she'd grow big enough to be a great horse for me. At five, a year and a half after I sold her, she suddenly put on a ton of size and at seven is almost 17 hh. She switched on as soon as she figured out what all the riding was about, and suddenly got confidence and is winning everything in her area (Dressage) with her new owner - though not sure what she's doing now this was about five years ago.
I also made the mistake of riding a smaller horse and I really ended up screwing up her back when I was younger and just getting back into horses. My trainer kept saying 'oh you look great... you aren't too small... you'll loose weight'... and I used this lovely horse (a saddlebred named Love btw) to learn how to trot, canter, and do some gaited divisions in saddleseat (which is really hard to ride btw but great training). I started riding her solid for 30 days once I won a few ribbons and trophies in saddleseat and when she came up incredibly sore the guilt almost ate me alive. That's why I suggested you ride willow every day for an hour for thirty days and see how shes' doing after that. I felt I was a bit too big.. not too much too big just a bit too big mind you... But my trainer really pushed me to keep on her and I was too dumb to listen to that inner voice that said 'too big too big'... and she had to rest for almost three months before the soreness disappeared. I ended up giving her to someone who was a lot lighter and just wanted her for pleasure riding. My trainer said it was a fluke. I still don't think so, and I honestly thought she liked my lesson money more than she liked what was best for the horses because she tried to get me turned on to another horse similar to Love's size and I wouldn't do it. I replaced my trainer after that and the new eventing girl got me into drafts and draft crosses and we did fabulous. Part of that training, though, was learning how to compensate for a drafty's and big horses' dull attitude. If you do natural horsemanship you have a desensitization phase with the programs both Parelli and Lyons teach then you have a re-sensitization portion. With most level headed drafties and bigger horses, you skip or breeze right through the desensitization phase and move into making them more sensitive and alert. Its a really winning process and once you teach them - and you can - to be motivated and willing to move that energy forward etc... its rewarding as all hell. We just have to do things a bit different than say arab people do. I think your Ben can learn to be turned on by his rides etc.. he just needs to know what hes doing and gain confidence.
So I don't want you to make the same mistake. Willow might be fine, but these two horses (willow and love) could have been identical and have very similar situations.
I have a feeling though that Ben once he knows what hes doing and gets the 'oh this is what this riding thing is all about' will turn on some effort. A lot of dull in horses can be attributed to them not really understanding the point of whats happening. If you were to say to take a dull one to a really good weekend clinic where the horse succeeded I've often seen the switch turn on and they really start getting it, building confidence, then really loving what they are doing instead of being dull hesitant and uncertain.
I have a warmblood whom I rode in the SCA games. She was terrible her first few times, but when I went to qualify it was like a light blub snapped on and when we went to do the sarisin head test.. its kinda like pole bending but you knock mannequin heads off the poles with a sword as you weave through... my horse suddenly 'got it' and started beheading the poles herself just for the fun of it. The last one, coming around the turn before we raced back to the finish she stomped for a good measure, cow hopped and broke a timer record across the finish. I was laughing so hard I almost fell off and the judges were stumped that my placid warmblood suddenly turned into a killin machine. We were disqualified because they said the only way she could have knocked them off herself is if she held the sword (no kidding - the rules read the heads had to be knocked off with a weapon - isn't a horse a weapon?) in her mouth... but it was so worth it to see the lightblub finally come on. Best memory of Sunny ever, worst scratch score ever. :P
Anyhow, best of luck. I'll bow out of the thread now.