I've been mulling this over for a long time. Is my habit of having different expectations of my horse in different situations detrimental to my long term goal of turning him into a successful show horse?
I use my current show horse for a lot of things – PC, Trail Riding, Stock work, ASH shows, Campdrafting, as well as numerous small PC shows in many different disciplines. I am a big believer in versatility in horses.
However, I’ve noticed that I expect different levels or response from him to certain cue’s depending on what I happen to be doing. The biggest discrepancies are in Trail Riding Vs. Showing/Campdrafting.
Out on the trail I ride him on a loose rein, and generally let him pick the speed as long as he isn’t being rude or lazy. If he is being lazy I’ll whop him with the end of a rein and he picks himself up again. If I ask for a stop, it is generally more rein that seat/legs as his attention is usually elsewhere – In the bushes or on the horse in front. It is still quite a gentle cue, but it is still more reins than seat. I am also happy with a gradual stop – A sudden stop is not so relaxing out on the trail! I only ask him to move off my legs when doing a gate or avoiding an obstacle – otherwise as long as he is following his nose I’m happy. Generally, as long as he is moving forward and straight I leave him alone. He is naturally very low-headed and calm.
However, when showing – I expect him to respond to just seat cues, just my spur, without much rein aid. I ride him on quite a short rein with a lot of leg to get him to show some energy, impulsion and to pick his head up and shorten himself. The thing is, it takes a good warm-up and often a few reminders to listen to my seat for stops and rate, and to lighten up his front end and not lean on the bit, and to give me good lateral flexion. I also ask for a lot of bend through his body – Especially when campdrafting, he needs to have a bend in his body toward the cow at all times.
In other words, I can’t just hop on and have him light to my seat and leg cues straight away – It’s like I have to remind him of what he has to do.
So what do you guys think? Is allowing him to be pretty lax on the trail detrimental to his lightness and responsiveness in the show ring/Campdraft arena? Is there a way to remedy this without compromising his mental wellbeing? (I.e. Not constant schooling?) Do any of you have the same issues/conflicts in your horses/training?