How do you find balance between preparation and relaxation in your training program? Eli willingly works almost every ride. I can easily fall into a trap of drilling an exercise because he’ll probably just keep doing it. But then I jeopardize his positive attitude toward work–I don’t want him bored, and I don’t want him sore or tired or weak. This means in the summer, I ride 4 to 5 days a week, and 1 or 2 of those days, we will jump. But last week was a little different, because I jumped Eli 3 days in a row.


For a showing horse, this is actually not uncommon. At a rated show, the horse might jump 1 or 2 courses a day for 3 or 4 days in a row, possibly more (although I probably would not do more than that myself or with one of my horses). However, Eli is an ex-racehorse and 13. Still in his prime, yes, but I am sensitive to his maintenance needs. Coupled with his skill level at this point, jumping more than once or twice a week isn’t necessary. But last week I wanted to work on an exercise that looks deceptively simple, but for a horse like Eli, with an easy long stride it would be asking a tough question for him in a small amount of space. Instead of trying to build Rome in a day, I wanted to work on the exercise piecemeal and get to a point for our lesson on Saturday that we could do the exercise with my trainer’s guidance and really get something out of it. Also, I think I’d like to have one more date with this exercise this week, to see what Eli has retained.

The exercise is a line, vertical to oxer, set at 3 strides (approximately 48′), but trot the first fence and canter out in 4 collected strides. In lines of 5 or 6 strides, trotting in and cantering out and adding a stride is pretty easy. In a smaller amount of space, there is less room to adjust. Eli would have to stay collected, but still coming from behind with enough power to get across an oxer.

On Thursday, I went over about 6-8 trot jumps, and took the exercise twice. Friday, I did the same thing. So, 20-24 jumping efforts across 2 days I really don’t think is asking too much before a more intensive lesson through the exercise. If we had difficulty with it prior to our lesson, I would have reconsidered what we were to work on for the lesson. We might have done poles instead of jumps, or something like that. Fortunately, Eli handled the exercise well, although not without some mistakes on my part and some minor resistance from Eli about wanting to canter a little bigger–I think he knew trotting in that the line was a 3 and that he could probably move up big and get out in 3 even trotting in. But that would defeat the purpose of the exercise.


So for our lesson on Saturday, we started immediately with the exercise, with both jumps pretty low. At a lower height, there is more room for error, but Eli listened and we got through just fine, so I didn’t have to worry about correcting anything right away. Homework pays off.

July30_1 from patentlybay on Vimeo.

The 3 things we consistently struggled with were a right drift, Eli not quite listening to my half halts and then ignoring me closing my fingers, and me not taking enough of a feel at the first fence, and getting him together and moving from behind before we got there. My trainer emphasized that setting him up for success would happen with the trot fence. We continued to work on that and eventually got very nice results.

July30_5 from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Eli could get very deep to the oxer and rock back and jump up and over it, as opposed to his favorite thing, just cantering across from a less cozy distance. The preparation leading up to our lesson set us up for some really good learning experiences, and both of our brains were functioning at 100%, focused on what we were trying to accomplish. His jumping felt great, and he got Sunday off.

Well, not completely …


I thought a walk around the property might be good for his joints so I got on him bareback. I wish I had put the Ogilvy on him first. I had every muscle of my thighs flexed the entire time to stay off his spine. He enjoyed the walk and we skipped walking all the way to the road, because I didn’t think I would appreciate a spook, even if just a small one. After this he got a bath and he got his usual apples and cookies and I rubbed a little extra liniment on his legs again.


Like I said, I want 1 more crack at this particular exercise and will probably do it again on Thursday –I think we can improve the half-halting especially, so that Eli stays collected but still able to power off his hind end and maybe get to an even better distance–not quite so deep but a little more room to get his knees up. After that, I’m not sure we would have to revisit this particular exercise again, but we’ll see.

So how do you balance training and working and all that with letting your horse have time off? How do you know when you’ve done enough and avoid doing too much or not enough?

19 thoughts on “Balance

Add yours

  1. I have to be careful not to drill with Miles because he just gets grumpy and then we lose forward… which you need for just about everything. I try to have a few different things to work on, so each ride I can work on one. And then I always try to throw in some easier hacks or fun rides just to take the pressure off each week too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lt’s so hard to find that balance between schooling enough and too much. Mine is also very workmanlike, and would keep letting me drill him. I wouldn’t say you asked for too much jumping-wise. And you both look great in the videos :). Like others said, I like go hack a lot, even if its before/after a serious ride. And I try to mentally remind myself to find the good in a ride – especially on the flat where I try to chase perfection a bit too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reminding yourself about the good is actually great motivation for me–it works so much better than dwelling on mistakes, even though I do that, too–it’s hard not to.


  3. Nice job, that second video was awesome!
    Cosmo is pretty well schooled, we only jump 1 or 2 days a week, and it’s always for Carey’s benefit. Our flat rides are for Carey’s benefit, too. Cosmo is well schooled, but he makes you work hard for it. We worked hard on Sat working on accuracy in courses. Hard work for Cosmo, harder work for Carey. Sunday we followed up with a long-ish easy trail ride on the bridle path.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been struggling with the idea of balance this past week or so. We rode consistently and pretty hard leading up to a show last weekend…and then allllll my ambition to do anything flew out the window afterwards. I planned to give Drifter two days off, but he ended up getting basically an entire week off other than a short bareback ride. I finally rode for real yesterday and he felt happy and responsive, so I’m thinking/hoping that I did the right thing by listening to my own mental state and giving us both an extended vacation. I certainly feel more refreshed and ready to get back at it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I only ride 3-5 days a week, so most days are “working” on the flat with 1-2 jump schools. If I think the mare is getting burnt out, we’ll go for a hack or a gallop, but she seems to enjoy jumping more than hacking. I try to change up what we focus on and where we school as much as possible, so it’s hard for her to get bored.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I too find that asking for a few smaller efforts over the course of a few days can be better for them then drilling something repeatedly in one session. Especially with sensitive or green horses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In a lot of ways, I have been treating Eli like I would a green horse as far as the process of his training goes–what you say totally makes sense!


  7. I definitely mix it up with drilling and non-drilling days- Frankie is super workmanlike and will do the same thing over and over forever without getting bothered, but I’ll never do that two days in a row. Sometimes I’ll need to repeat an exercise a couple times so I myself can get it, but I’ll try to switch gears and do something else before returning and trying again. And then the next day we’ll do a bareback trail ride or something. Just as a reminder that being ridden doesn’t necessarily mean working hard 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a hard time not drilling things when I am given new exercises by my instructor. I just want to make things look good before our next lesson! Finding a balance is key though to keep ponies mentally fresh.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: