I’ve mused on the topic of young horses before on this blog. In my horse shopping adventures, I often focused on younger horses because in my price range anything older tended to come with physical caveats that I didn’t want to invest in.
There’s also something kind of special about bringing along your own horse. I like to joke that it’s nice training your own horse because you get to install all your own flaws in it. But joking aside, with a young horse you have an opportunity to set your own standards about how you want things done, for good or for bad. It’s more responsibility, perhaps, but it can also be rewarding to see your own handiwork produce results in the future.
Even though my results won’t be anything like hers, Charlotte Dujardin also believes in the young horse process.
“For me, [working with young horses is] my real passion, to start from the bottom and get to the top.” -Charlotte, as quoted by psdressage.com
I came across this article on Charlotte’s tips with young horses quite some time ago, and bookmarked it for future reading. Going back now, I’m pleased to see that much of the gold medalist’s advice concurs with my current aspirations for Smitty- that is, understanding the half halt, but most importantly, learning to get in front of the leg. She also mentions that the young horses don’t tend to understand how to stretch over their backs yet, so you shouldn’t expect it until nearer the end of your ride.
I don’t know that Smitty and I will ever reach 4th level, much less Grand Prix or the Olympics, but it’s inspiring to hear the world’s leading dressage rider put so much emphasis on the process and the bond between horse and rider. It gives me great hope for the future with Smitty, and excited about where things will do. As Charlotte says,
“I think with the relationship you get with your horse and the partnership, you become true friends. You are really united. That really, really shows when you get to the top.”
I sure hope so.