Finn at his first show. BC Dressage Champs in Sept 2012. Major Milestone – complete!

Today I was thinking about milestones and those moments in life. People have them, but today struck me that we have them in training horses too.

Finn was being especially good and was showing how smart he is when he did a little shoulder in today.  Baby shoulder in, but there it was.  And I thought horses have milestones too, doing shoulder in made me think of horse training milestones and how far Finn has come already in 1 yr.

Horse’s milestones…. we can go pretty far back, as far as being weaned, but I will start with the riding stuff – maybe with being backed, Milestone #1.  Some of these milestones maybe not be in the same order for everyone, but hopefully they are still milestones and maybe there are some you notice too.

Milestone #2.  Go, Stop, Turn.  So simple, yet so difficult for the gumby, frisky young’uns who don’t know how far in advance they need to think about turning before they get to the wall.  Once you have steering, a gas pedal and breaks.  You almost feel like your work is complete – ALMOST because now you can start on some fun stuff.

Milestone #3.  Getting the first show under your belt. The first one is always the hardest because you have absolutely NO idea how the horse will be. There are so many variables, and hopefully you know them well enough to limit the expectations to a few options.

Other Milestones:

Clipping – ears, muzzle, legs or full body

Getting on (and off) the trailer

Getting the Counter Canter, Simple Changes

Walk Canter and Canter Walk transitions

Flying Changes  (one of my personal favourites!)

Shoulder in (only the basis of all dressage work, for-like-ever)

Working in the double bridle

Getting the half passes and then zig zags

The beginning of half steps and in hand work

Getting more than one flying change on the diagonal and the getting to be able to count the strides in between to 4 tempis, 3 tempis, 2 tempis and 1 tempis.  Each a milestone unto themselves

 And before you know it, or even as you didn’t even notice it happening, your horse is just doing all, or some, of these things like they were just normal.  The young ones come along so quickly once you look back on things.  Finn has gone from a baby that doesn’t really turn, or canter in balance to being pretty steady.   Romeo (not really a “baby”) has gone from being a steady lower level horse to blossoming into a solid Third Level horse, who took a long time to figure out where all the legs go in the flying changes to 4 tempis and 3 tempis in just a few months.  When you hit a milestone, you notice how far up the mountain you have come and you didn’t even notice you were walking uphill.

So thank you Heather and Marianne who let me ride Finn and Romeo so I can share their Milestone Moments!

Alison