Sunday, December 18, 2011

Random Thoughts About Chrome

Picture taken October 2011.

Chrome gets his hooves done tomorrow and it's also the nineteenth so I'll be measuring him and taking pictures. :) As it gets closer and closer to May when he'll turn three I think more and more about riding him. The excitement is starting to edge out the nervousness. I've been thinking about how much I'm going to ride him and what speed we're going to progress with training and I'm leaning toward overly cautious. I want to be riding Chrome when he's twenty five years old, so I don't want to do too much with him too soon and risk injury or early onset of arthritis.

So here are my thoughts. I want to sit on him for the first time on May 19th 2012 the day he turns three years old. I've leaned across his back on my belly, but for actually sitting on him I want to wait. I'm not sure why. I guess so I'll always remember the day I sat on him the first time or something. I can be very sentimental, but you all probably just think I'm being a dork. So the plan is on that day to sit on him and take some pictures. Then I'll spend a week or so just getting on (I'll train him to stand by a mounting block before then), click/treat, get off and repeat a few times until he gets completely comfortable with it and isn't goosey or anything. We might also work on stuff like dropping things, taking off/putting on jackets, etc.

When he's totally comfortable with mounting and dismounting I'll ask him to do lateral flexes to both sides, so I'll have my emergency brake (I know that's controversial to some people, but it has served me well, so I'll teach it to him). I can then work on disengaging the hindquarters. When he's good with that I'll ask him to walk with someone leading him in case he panics. I'll teach him to move off a gentle leg pressure/voice cue with a leader before trying it on my own. When we're walking on our own I'll work on the one rein stop so he knows how to do it out of a walk from both sides. When we have a good walk, whoa and one rein stop I'll work on steering. I'll also work on moving his shoulders around at this point and backing with a relaxed topline.

I'll probably only ride once a week for a while, just working on the basics for ten minutes or however long his attention span holds and just do hand walking/ponying/clicker session for the rest of the week. As his attention span increases I'll ride for up to twenty minutes at the walk. When he's really good at all of that in the pasture I'll take him out on the trail, with a leader or pony horse if I can find one. As his "carrying" muscles get stronger and he feels more balanced and stronger I might introduce trotting a little bit. The only thing with trotting is that I don't have a saddle so this will all be bareback until I can afford one. I may be able to get a bareback pad with stirrups (do those put too much direct pressure on the spine?) though so we will see. I don't want to be bouncing around on his back and teach him to hollow it to protect himself. I'll see if I can find a horse to practice my sitting trot with. I used to be able to do it without bouncing, but that was around five years ago so I'm sure I'm out of practice. So trotting will happen when we are both ready for it.

I'll give him the winter off and when he turns four I'll review the basics and definitely be trotting by then. When his trot is balanced and strong I'm going to start longeing him. I like the idea of teaching new behaviors on the longe so he can learn them without the interference of a rider, but I don't want to longe him too early since circles can be so stressful on his joints and growth plates. I'll only longe for ten minutes and use it to teach voice cues for walk, trot, canter, whoa, back and changing direction. Once he knows the cue for cantering I'll add it under saddle. I don't want him to learn to trot faster and faster into the canter. I want him to have a forward trot, but not a scrambling one. I know the transitions will be sloppy starting out, I just don't want it to become a habit. Trotting fast into the canter is one of the most annoying habits to me (well besides the dangerous ones lol). I know it's all about the strength and balance to do it, which I why I want to introduce it on the longe first (or grounding driving if I get good enough at it to work at the canter lol) so he builds the muscle to make a smooth transition from a nice working trot.

By the time he's late four or early five I'll probably start dressage lessons on him. Before that it will just be trail riding and messing around in the pasture. I don't want to ask him to carry himself in a frame too soon, but I don't want to pay for lessons just to teach the basics if that makes any sense. We will take all of it slow and I'll only progress as he's ready.

Anyway, sorry for rambling on. I've just been thinking about it a lot and wanted to write it all down. Suggestions, advice and opinions are always welcome. :D


  1. It' so neat that you will be able to train him to be the horse you want him to be instead of getting him after someone else has put on their own personal "touches" I don't mean that in a bad way, everyone has their own style and this way, he will only know how you do things and there will be so much less confusion. I think that is neat. It sounds like you really have everything pretty well planned out!
    Since reading your blog, I have studied a bit about the Friesian, I really wasn't too familiar with the breed before. It seems from what I read anyway, that the breed is pretty even tempered and very intelligent, basically pretty much perfect....I have a feeling Chrome will continue to pick up your cues and be happy to go to "work" for you whatever you may ask of him.

    I can't tell if you follow "All Horse Stuff" blog

    She has been riding bareback almost exclusively of late due to various on going and frustrating saddle fitting issues. Anyway, you might want to reach out to her about your bareback questions. Just a thought.
    I am really looking forward to that day when you sit on him for the first time. So exciting!

  2. Mary, I'm really glad you're back. I missed getting comments from you. :D

    Friesian are awesome horses, aren't they? That's why I fell in love with the breed. To me, they are perfect. :)

    I really appreciate your comment. It made me feel really good about our progress so far. I actually got Chrome as a weanling specifically for the reason you mentioned. I've never had a horse that I got to train my way before and I always enjoyed training puppies for the same reason, so I'm happy I tried it because Chrome is turning out to be the best horse I've ever worked with. :D

  3. Oh and I will definitely check out that blog! Thanks for telling me about it. :)

  4. That does sound very exciting. You have a nicely laid out plan for his early under saddle work.

    Since you asked about the bareback pad, I do not recommend riding in a bareback pad with stirrups. A soft pad can slip too easily and is more dangerous with stirrups. A treeless saddle or bareback saddle would be a different story and the route that you might want to go, although not cheap. A nice saddle, treed or treeless, will cost some dough. Why not start searching for saddles that would suit your needs and Chrome's body type? Save for a nice used saddle so that you can make the backing process as comfortable as possible for Chrome. You have worked too hard bringing him along to skip the saddle journey. Take it from someone who has had her fair share of saddle woes.

    I would definitely go with rising trot on a young horse, as he will not have the strength or experience to know how to carry the rider correctly in the beginning. Remember, everything is "the basics" in riding!

  5. I will definitely be back to read this post. I love reading about this stuff, but wanted to respond to your comment on my blog.

    I really appreciate your advice about the bareback pad with stirrups. I had heard some people say they didn't like them, but didn't really know why, so it's nice to finally have an explanation.

    I am definitely getting a treeless saddle. I've been wanting one for almost a year now, but I just can't afford it right now because my husband got hurt and lost his job. I am trying to put a little money back each paycheck to save for one, but it will be a little while. I've been doing some research on what kind I want, but I'm afraid to look at available saddles for sale because I'll be sad if I find a good deal and can't afford to get it lol. :)

    I agree with you about the rising trot on a young horse, so I'll wait to trot him until I can get a saddle. I don't want to do anything to discourage him from using his back. It's such a pain teaching them to stop bracing once they learn to do it, so I'm trying to avoid it altogether.

    Thank you so much for you comment. I really appreciate the compliments and advice. I know I'm probably a little OCD about all of this, but I want to do everything the right way with Chrome. :) I know we will both make mistakes, but I hope to avoid the big ones by researching and educating myself on each little thing. :D Chrome has taught me so much already even though I've been around horses my whole life and I look forward to continuing to learn from each other. Thanks again and sorry for rambling!

  6. Sounds like a plan. Patience, patience. But it will be totally worth it. What amazing animals are and to ride one is so thrilling. By the time you get on in May he will be "oh cool, here we go at last."

    Mango Momma

  7. Thanks for your comment! Since we are on the topic of saddles, here is the link for my favorite saddle shop:

    and Kit's awesome blog:

  8. I believe ground driving went a long way in helping Riva accept me as a rider, when she was first backed. She already knew what the cue was to stop, turn, back, go forward. I also had Riva spend time with a saddle on, with the stirrups down and flopping, to get her used to that sensation before I ever got on.

    The first time I got on Riva - it was a non-event, and I am betting it will be with Chrome also. You have already built a bond and he will trust you.

    It is such a great feeling to know you have done all this yourself! I have to remind myself how far we have come, on the bad days, and you will too.


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