Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I'm behind on my blog reading so I was doing some catching up. I read the heart horse post over at Stories from the Saddle and this post over at No Longer Fiction and it got me thinking. Jenn at SFTS said that she'd change her riding discipline if her horse didn't like doing the jumpers, which has forever been her goal. I know Allison from Pony'tude in real life, so I know she went from H/J land to eventing because Dino likes it way more. Andrea over at The Uncatchable Number 257 used to event primarily but has done everything from driving to endurance and everything in between with her mare, O. There are plenty more bloggers, and people in real life, who have done similar things. They buy a horse, the horse prefers one discipline over the other, they make changes. On the opposite side, there are people who buy a horse, the horse prefers another discipline, they find the horse a (hopefully!) good home in new discipline and purchase another horse who fits their goals.

I think this was our first show? In 2010. Obviously, we wanted a good experience over mini fences.
The No Longer Fiction post really hit home for me. I've been in that situation. Digby is darn athletic. He's 15hh and has schooled 4'3". It's easy for him, even if he is pint sized. I was so upset when I couldn't keep him sound enough to jump. I thought about selling him. I've always enjoyed flat work but did I really want to just do dressage for the rest of my life? I always thought he loved to jump. He didn't stop at fences. He seemed to get more peppy (occasionally even running away with me...) when we jumped. Flatting Digby is a whole different beast than Jumping Digby. I was so bummed that he wouldn't be able to enjoy jumping anymore and felt like we weren't living up to our potential.

Digby jumping 3'6" with a barn girl (aka not me). Also 2010.
Here's the golden question, did we love it? I thought we both did but now that we no longer jump, it's become so clear to me how much more relaxed we are. He's such a steady eddy most days that I don't worry nearly as much about non-horsey people being around him. He's pretty darn easy to handle both on the ground and in the saddle. When I ride other horses, I realize just HOW easy my horse is. You can get on any day of the week, even if he hasn't been ridden in a few days, and walk, trot, canter basically on the buckle. He does gets more challenging when you actually ask him to work or when we go on trail rides.

Dino when I thew him on the lunge line to see "what I had" after I realized he was my project. Yeah, he's kicking at me.
I'm going to call out Alli and Dino for a second here because I know them both in real life. I knew Dino (and Alli!) from college. He was actually my special training project, a year (or two?) after she had him. We did not get along. That was a very frustrating time for me. Dino was miserable, I was miserable. There was much crying and frustration. See above photo for more proof. We were trying to do things that Dino hated because that was my assigned "goal" for the project. I believe I was supposed to get from around a 2'6" course and do a Training Level dressage test. I assumed there was something going on that needed a lot of testing because ponies are not THAT bad just "because." We didn't ever get anything checked out, although I did plead and try my best. I went to her first BN event to provide support (I'm not sure I succeeded, haha!) and to see "XC Beast Dino."

Tolerating each other. Why my shirt is not tucked in, I have no idea.
Needless to say, I was floored. The pony I knew had me spending day after day in the middle of the ring with him bucking. Seriously. The first week or two I was riding him, he just bucked. I couldn't get him to do anything. He'd sit in the middle of the ring and kick out and buck. Awesome. Even by the end of the semester, it was hit or miss. We had good(ish) days and bad days. He never really used himself well. We were frenemies who begrudgingly tolerated each other because we had to. This "new" Dino was EATING UP the jumps! He was happy, ears forward, no remote sign of any badness that I was so familiar with. I've read her blog for years but it was so impressive and different to see in person. It was awesome and I definitely felt all the feels, even if she was worried and didn't think it was their best showing. I think compared to how the pony used to be, she should of gotten a 20 in that dressage test and gotten a blue ribbon for more improved for the SJ and XC. The pony was happy, confident and clearly loves his job. Ok, I'm done flattering/embarrassing Alli now.

Do I think dressage is Digby's favorite thing in the world? I'm not sure. He certainly doesn't have as strong a reaction to jumping versus dressage as Dino does to playing in the sandbox versus cross country. He seems to be happier in his skin though. He is generally calmer and seems more "ok" with his easy life. I can only hope one day I figure out what Digby TRULY loves to do so I can impress people with how far he's come.

How do you figure out what job your horse wants? Is it an extreme reaction, like Dino, or more subtle, like Digby?


  1. Well that was my warm fuzzy for the day!! Thank you so much for all the kind words. :) I think Digby's current state of relaxation speaks volumes about how jumping stressed him out, even if he is a very talented jumper. Who knows, maybe he was feeling pain on landing from that navicular bone all along? What's exciting about your situation though, is that you get to start trying ALL THE THINGS to see what lights him up! Dressage, trails, western, mounted shooting, trick riding, sidesaddle... the sky's the limit!

    1. Yeah I suspect he may of been in pain from jumping all along. Who really knows though. We're working on getting back into shape and then we will definitely start playing around and "trying all the things!"

      ... Although, for me, trick riding and mounted shooting are out because 1) that's crazy and 2) should I reaaally try to ride and shoot a gun?! I can't see myself doing that safely haha!

  2. Apollo recently told me that he wants to exclusively be a trail horse. I'm listening! Luckily for me I have a few spares that can hopefully do some eventing/show jumping with me :)

    1. Aww yay! I wish I was in a situation to have some spares I could pop on. :)

  3. aw what a nice little walk down memory lane for Dino! it really is so impressive with where Alli has been able to go with him, like the really 'get' each other. can't wait to meet that famous little pony!

    re: the jobs for our ponies, well... i switched disciplines for my lease mare, but it was from one form of jumping to another. she's an arab and i just didn't think she'd thrive in the hunter ring, whereas she's a beast on xc. and of course my mediocre piloting skills don't come under fire in the stadium ring unless we knock stuff down - score!

    but regardless, i think it's worth it to take the time to figure out where the horse is happiest

    1. Emma, let me tell you, they have made HUGE leaps and bounds. That pony was so, so naughty. He was almost as naughty as Digby, who I feel legitimately used to try to kill people. You'll love him when you met him! He's such a cool dude.

      I think hunters is definitely one of those disciplines where you need the right type of horse. I think you can muddle anything through an SJ course but hunters? Pssh. You just aren't going to succeed beyond the local levels unless that horse wants to lope around the ring, not change rhythm at all, never spook or get fresh and snaps their knees up. Horses really want to WANT to do their jobs. I feel like it's even more so for hunters and cross country than some other disciplines. I agree though. I think, as a rider, we owe it to the horses to figure out what they like the best.