Monday, July 4, 2022

Over Threshold but Not Over Skill Set

Sunday I took Cruise to out third lesson with SW.  I was hoping to work on steering a bit, what to do when he reaches too much into the contact, and using the full indoor ring.  Well, we pulled up to a lesson with two horses going on, horses being moved around, and some general chaos.  Nothing really out the ordinary for a small facility but miles more busy than my quiet little farm.

Cruise was good to tack up in the wash stall, ok lunging for the first time in the outdoor round pen with some head downs and clicks, and a bit “up” but not out of control.  A little over threshold but going right back under with head down click treat.  We went into the indoor, did a circuit each way with some groundwork interspersed and he was 80+% focused on me.

I got on and he was being pretty reasonable.  We worked on walk rhythm and what to do when he reaches too much into the contact which is more bear down and add a little leg.  The other option at the trot is to trot, almost walk, trot again to get his hind end underneath himself.  All good.  Add in face of belt buckle pointing up to get me sitting more vertical, loosening my legs and sort of slapping him with them when he gets low energy, and as far as I was concerned, $50 well spent.

Then as we were working on shallow serpentines horses started getting moved around, visible through the open doors and Cruise lost his s#$@ a bit.  He was about as rank under saddle as he has ever been.  Head flinging, pent up angst, and that not good feeling for the rider.  He was understandably at the end of his tether but SW talked me through it.  She kept saying his eye is soft and it feels worse than it looks.  She had me go on a small circle on a longer rein in a “Cowboy” position with a ton of bend.  When he came under himself and behaved he was allowed to go larger.  He settled a bit and the we went to trot and the s#$& storm started again.  SW had me go back to the “Cowboy” walk circle and then when he was behaving pick up a sitting trot on the same circle sitting way back, feet in front, weight to the inside.  When he behaved and came under with his hind end I was allowed to post and enlarge the circle.

This all was pretty out of my comfort zone.  If I had been on my own I would have gotten off, done appropriate groundwork, and gotten back on again.  By staying on him though and using some pretty simple techniques from SW, we were through to the other side in maybe 5-10 minutes.  We let him halt for a couple and then did a posting trot circle each way and he was fabulous.  My husband said he was cursing himself because he didn’t get his phone out quick enough to record the best trot he’s ever seen Cruise do.

Another interesting thing is how my instinct is to fix things when Cruise gets fussy and SW just wants me to stay solid in my biomechanics.  Whether we were going large and he was eyeing the door openings or he was head swinging and threatening to blow, the answer was always don’t change, let him realize you’ve set a boundary, and it’s easier if he just gives.  Everything was with light hands and basically no correction other than it’s much easier for him if he just settles into the movement.

Anyway, lots of stuff to work on before our lesson in two weeks and definitely some more tools in the toolbox.  Hopefully the next lesson will be a bit less dramatic, but I will say I’m learning a ton, pushing my boundaries, and Cruise is doing the same.


  1. This is fascinating to me - partly because I now have a baby and also because Carmen is really good at the being over threshold. Having someone to talk you through is very helpful. And , I think, helps the horse learn that it will be all okay.

    1. I agree. I prefer to get close to but not over threshold BUT it's really nice to have tools to deal with over threshold when it happens. I was definitely challenged but rode through it with help, and that will give me confidence for next time and will give Cruise the idea that he can be okay if things get a bit hard. Not necessarily fun but really useful!

  2. Baby horses/ponies can be fun and rattle us to our core at the same time.

    Like your trainer said- more often than not, it Feels far worse than it Looks. Instead of setting a boundary, we open the door and give them permission-> I feel you getting tense and expect you to lose it! and Boy do they deliver. They are looking to us for confidence and reassurance that it will be ok.

    Sounds like SW had a solid plan for helping you both work thru it and not just today. It's not only baby horse thresholds, but ours too. I'm sure hubby will get another chance to see & video that trot. It's in there waiting to come out and show off! 😊