The Intelligently Fearless Rider

“Intelligently fearless” is not an oxymoron. It is possible to be fearless in an intelligent way and this combination is essential when working with young horses.  Over the past couple of years, I have watched Lynsey Rowan, work with two young horses. Lynsey is the assistant rider and trainer for my coach Canadian Olympian Belinda Trussell.  I spoke with her about the two young horses she is training.

Beaujolais.

Beau arrived at Oakcrest Farm as a six-year-old. His owner felt that he had excellent gaits and was showing great potential, and needed to be in a good program to allow him to develop these talents.  Lynsey told me what Beau is like.

When he first came he was worried about things. He was a horse that needed more time, in his body, to mature.  Some young horses do need more time to mature and they will tell you they need this. Now that he is seven he is more confident and knows what to do with his body. You can’t push too soon. “

Lynsey then said something that, to me, indicated her intelligent approach to riding young horses.

Riders need a half halt! Or try to address the issue in another way. If you do not do this you can set the horse back a year or more or…. forever! And why would I overstep with the horse?  What is an extra three months.”

 

WPC Unusual (4 of 20)
Lynsey Rowan and Beaujolais-Training level test

 

There is a plethora of opinions out there in the dressage world about what the horse should be doing at each age. At five they should be able to do this. At six they must be able to do that.  This is the cookie cutter approach to bringing a young horse along and is not likely to lead to success. Lynsey has certainly done a wonderful job with Beau who is now a much more confident horse. At the recent Cornerstone Dressage Summer Festival Lynsey showed Beau in Training Level tests and achieved a spectacular score of 80%.

 

WPC Unusual (6 of 20)
Lynsey Rowan and Beaujolais-Training level test

 

 

Feng de Lys

Feng came to Oakcrest as a three-year-old stallion. He had only been backed ten times. When Lynsey got on him for the first time Belinda held a lead rope as you never know how a youngster will react when they are this young and green.  Feng seemed to be fine with a rider on his back but did not  understand  the aids when asked  to go forward.  He did get the idea but as Lynsey told me it was not simple for him.

“He was very confident in himself but didn’t know what he was doing. He was very wiggly and not interested in working or going forward. He wanted to just stand and hang out.”

So how did it progress?

“For the first year I would ride him three times a week, just sitting lightly on him, or taking him for a hack for 20 minutes to give him a basic understanding, not doing any real ‘work’. I realized quite early that he was very smart and could easily get bored. When I took him outside he was a different horse than he was in the indoor arena.  I always kept the rides short and kept him interested. If he decided it was not interesting he would use his smarts to say “No! I don’t want to do this!”

 

WPC Unusual (1 of 1)
Feng de Lys at four years old.

 

After his first year in training it was decided that since his owner wanted him to be a competition horse he would be gelded. Some stallions can go to shows and still maintain focus others cannot. It had become clear that Feng was a stallion who would not be able to keep his mind on the competition.  It would make showing him very difficult so the decision was made to geld him.  He had sperm collected before he was gelded so there could still be some Feng offspring in the future.

WPC Unusual (4 of 24)
Lynsey Rowan and Feng de Lys-First Level test

 

Now at five Lynsey has started to compete with him and he also went to the Cornerstone Dressage show. Lynsey showed him First Level and he scored a 75%. Clearly First Level was not difficult for him. And what are the plans for the future?

 

WPC Unusual (6 of 24)
Lynsey Rowan and Feng de Lys-First Level test

 

“Maybe he will do the FEI six-year-old test next year. We’ll see where he’s at. The six-year-old test has to be crisper and has a flying change.” 

Lynsey stressed the importance of evaluating each step of the training as she goes along.

“The young horse can be confident when you are careful as to what is introduced and when. They don’t want too many surprises. You have to take as long as they take.”

But that does not mean they just get to do whatever they want!

It has to be black and white. When I say ‘go forward! Now!’ there must be a response. I cannot back off for a second until it is clear to them what I am asking for. Sometimes it can take ten minutes sometimes much longer until I get the point across.”

“The most important thing is consistency. This is how you describe the job to them. If I am not consistent it can only take one day to go right off the rails.

When something goes wrong or something happens it is how it is addressed that matters. If it is not nipped in the bud it can become a bigger problem.”

And finally, what is the most important thing about training a young horse?

“The horse must come first. Always the horse first and not the expectations of the rider.”

20 Comments Add yours

  1. hmmm, cool! Thanks anne for the great source of information!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      My pleasure. You are on an exponential curve of learning on your trip so I’m glad I could add in a little something about horses.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh I love this, so much to ponder and think about!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. starboundeq says:

    Nice to see more trainers with this type of perception to the horses feelings and needs. 👍

    Liked by 2 people

  4. thinkinkadia says:

    Greatly informative and so well written! To me, its sounds just like what we’d do with kids. “Follow the child,” said Maria Montessori.
    Such beautiful horses!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Avery says:

    ❤ yes. So many important facts. How nice to be surrounded by so many great horsemen. Both lovely horses and she has clearly done a lovely job with them. Gave them their time and allowed them to blossom. That Feng though, there is something about him! Love his expression and he has a lovely hind leg engagement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes they are both nice horses and it is great to have riders like her and Belinda around to inspire! Feng is a beautiful mover. Over last winter Lynsey made a huge improvement in him especially the trot. It was nice before but now it is WOW!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Just like humans athletes being outstanding in one sport verses another, are some horses better for dressage versus rodeo, or are they bred a certain way?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Nowadays horses are bred specifically for certain disciplines. Horses have different conformation that makes them better suited to dressage or to jumping and the bloodlines are tailored to that. I don’t know much about rodeo but the horses used for barrel racing and team penning and cattle cutting are usually Quarter horses with powerful hindquarters and shorter legs than the Warmblood horses used for jumping or dressage. So in answer to your question ( and it is a very good one!) Yes different breeds specialize in different disciplines of horse sports.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. I appreciate your answer! Again, just like human athletes, I was tall and slender so I became a swimmer. I started taking dance lessons but soon found that I would not be the typical dancer.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. anne leueen says:

        My daughter was the same tall and slim and finished at 6ft so it was best that she gave up ballet at age 9 and went to horses.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s about when I did too!!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. sandyjwhite says:

    Just like people, each horse has its own personality, skill set
    and readiness level. A cookie-cutter approach won’t bring out
    the best in either one. Lynsey has a keen ability to individualize.
    Wonderful post, Anne!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thanks! Glad you found it interesting. Lynsey is a skilled rider and also a very good horseperson!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderfully educational post for us. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are most welcome!

      Liked by 1 person

I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s