The "big horse, big mover" issue

I know someone who has a lovely horse. Sixteen hands, buckskin, sweet and a lovely mover. However, prior to her ownership, he had two speeds:

1) stop
2) go fast

She has put some training into him, and he has done very well but the problem she is still having is that he just feels big underneath her. He launches into gaits with an enthusiasm that is scary to sit on and she’s having trouble making herself relax and not instinctively tighten up on his mouth. Her dressage instructor loves him – but this is a woman who rides warmbloods all day!

My friend is far from a wimp or a beginner. She trail rides all over on a hot-tempered Arabian mare who would be difficult for the average person to get along with. She’s shown on the national level. But her previous horses, like the Arabian, have had very collected gaits. Getting used to a huge stride is proving to be challenging and intimidating.

I think this is a pretty common problem! We’ve all ridden big horses that don’t feel big because of how well they collect. I’ve been lucky with the VLC that he doesn’t have a big stride and his transitions have always been quiet, if on the lazy side, so I quickly became comfortable on him. By the same token, I’m pretty sure that if I got on something his size that had the great big step or the super-springy trot (you know the one I mean – the one where you constantly have to remind yourself “post low, relax, absorb” because the gait is launching you skyward), I’d be a lot less comfortable too.

So who has got a horse like that and what guidance can you offer for adjusting and adapting?

An interesting offshoot – who has a horse right now that is totally different from what you “normally” own – i.e. you’ve always been a QH person and now you bought yourself an Icelandic, or you’ve had Arabians up til now but just purchased a 17 hand part-draft? I think this stuff can be particularly challenging for people who’ve pretty much always owned their own horses rather than gone through the “I’ll ride anything” phase that so many of us experienced as horseless teenagers in large lesson/training barns.

And some updates – the breath-holding Thoroughbred has relaxed quite a bit. Apparently you can touch him on the “scary” side of his neck just fine as long as you are feeding him a cookie with the other hand. Uh-huh. Breath-holding TB below. Reg. name Extinguisher, foaled 2003, rescued from Enumclaw kill pen late 2008.



The Drama pony I’ve talked about before is going to her first schooling show two weekends from now, so it’ll be exciting to see her progress. I turned her over to a more size-appropriate person for jumping and she has been doing fabulously.

The VLC is doing fine – holding up sound after his October stifle injury and continuing to be ridden and fitted up for training. You all know what a stickler I am for conditioning so there’s no way he’ll go out until I know he can work a very solid 20-25 minutes without strain. That shouldn’t take more than another month though, so we’re getting close.


I rode Thai’s My Mama, the old broodmare, last weekend and she was great. 100% sound and bright and well-behaved and eager to work. I can’t believe I finally rescued something sound. She’s technically available for adoption, because I really shouldn’t keep the sound ones, but I won’t cry if she doesn’t leave. Still, if you have a thing for old but rideable, personable red mares, feel free to contact me! She would be a gift contract to the right reference and site checked home. No special needs, but she’s a wimp and would do best living with another wimp.


I believe Lucy may have a home…she “picked her person out”…after almost a year of turning up her nose at myself and pretty much everybody else who has tried to work with her, and continuing to be hard-to-catch, snorty and distrustful, she went right to the farm owner’s adult son where she is boarded and decided he was her new person. She loves him and walks right up to him. Go figure. I am waiting ’til he gets a chance to ride her and make sure they get along before I am calling this a done deal, but things are looking very good for her. I would love it as she loves the “herd” there and fits in very well and it would mean she’d stay with her friends.


I rode Bessie again a few days ago. She had a bad case of scratches that put her out of commission for awhile but the hair is growing back and she’s not painful anymore, so I just got on her for a little walk around. I hadn’t yet introduced her to a bit when I rode her last summer, and I think she’s gotten away with being difficult for bridling since then as she really did her best to evade me. They have a very nice Mylar “comfort snaffle” on her and she doesn’t seem to mind it once it’s on – she’s just objecting to the process. So, that’s one thing to work on. She’s still the same old Bessie though – very quiet – always going to be the type not to get excited about anything that isn’t an alfalfa flake!


The flooded mess around here has subsided and the arena is almost rideable again, so I will get back to work with Sly and am looking forward to that. I’m also going to put some rides, weather permitting, on my friend’s rescued large POA pony, shown below. She got her from the Chehalis auction last fall – I believe she failed to receive a bid – and spent the next few months putting manners on the competely mannerless pony, who would literally run you over. The good news is that the issues were all on the ground. Once that was fixed, she turned out to be a lovely riding pony. She is a packer on the trails, has super comfy gaits, a good mouth and absolutely no riding vices. The only thing we need to do is finish her canter – she’ll canter nicely on trails but is lazy about holding her gait in an arena situation. This is definitely a pony that could come out of rescue to have a very successful show career with a little more work, and it’ll be fun to help with that. (Yes, I know, the mane is hideous and needs professional help!)


The rest of mine are just sitting and eating, their favorite things! I did decide I’m going to sell my two year old palomino Appendix gelding this year, but I’m wary of doing so because of the fear that someone will break him out immediately. I’m going to take some time to shine and slick him up and try to find a nice, like-minded, sporthorse type person for him later in the spring. You never know what someone will do once you sell, but I know I’m not the only person who doesn’t believe in starting two year olds, so I’m hoping that the right person will come along. His potential is going to be as a jumper or eventer, and those are things I’m never going to do so I need to find someone who will be able to use and enjoy him.

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Published in: on February 15, 2009 at 6:04 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I’m not quite sure how I got to your blog, but what I started reading kept me here! I got stuck on your “who has a horse right now that is totally different from what you “normally” own” comment. I grew up on a little arab mare, and have always felt more comfortable on arabians than any other horse. Until, that is, I had my confidence thoroughly shaken by one. I decided I was due for a change… by way of a 1650lb, 17+ hh Percheron gelding! It took a while to adjust from always having to “slow-em down” to having to constantly encourage and motivate your horse! Way beyond eye-opening, completely different in every way – and exactly what I needed to not only get my confidence back, but also renew my love of horses… big or small. 🙂


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