I’ll start with a little history.
When I first took the lease on Georgie I was told by her owner that she was not a Prelim horse, nor would she ever be. My trainer agreed. Georgie would be safe and fun to take Training, but that would be her max. And I was happy with that! I wasn’t looking to go Prelim. At the time, Training seemed scary and challenging enough.
Georgie has been well cared for her entire life. She was bought at an auction for PMU foals. I think she cost her owner $800. Her owner brought her along nicely, never pushing her, and always having fun with her. She was elated to take the mare that she had raised since a 4 month old filly to the Novice level.
When I took the lease, I immediately put Georgie into a lesson program and got to work with her. She’s as honest a horse as you could hope for, but no one had ever asked her to get out of her comfort zone before. Shortening before the jump, or leaving long was completely acceptable, as was careening around corners. So, it was a lot of work. But amazingly, for a horse that hadn’t been asked to work really hard before, she seemed to be completely willing to try. Sure, we had moments of “I DONT WANT TO” but they were fleeting and fairly easy to work through (all things considered).
And as Georgie and I continued our training, she changed as a horse. She got stronger, and things got easier for her. She began to listen to what I wanted, and jumping 3’3 got easier and easier. With her strength and newfound scope, getting a long distance to a 3’3 jump was no longer scary. Sure, it’s not something we strove for, but I knew she’d have no problem jumping from an awkward distance at that height.
Even 6 months ago though, my trainer and I had the “she’s not a prelim horse” conversation once again. She can jump 3’6. But can she get out of a sticky situation at 3’6? Probably not.
So, what changed? Why am I suddenly eyeing Prelim with a mare that previously was maxed at Training.
I think 2 things happened.
For some reason, about 3 months ago, I decided to actually ride. And no longer let her bail me out of situations, or take over on our rides. I credit a lot of this to my back having healed, and my ability to become a stronger rider. I could feel so much more when I started sitting deeply in the saddle. My core became strong enough to keep her uphill to the jumps. It’s a marked difference in how I feel, and therefore how I ride.
So, being able to ride better, I was able to ask more of Georgie. To expect more. Time and time again. And she began to change as a horse. She could stay in an uphill frame. She could engage her hind end way more effectively. She could stay balanced and forward. And I could now help her do all of these things.
The Training 3 Day was kind of a test. And while neither of us said anything, or thought anything at the time, after it was all said and done, when Sarah and I looked back at the ease at which we rode the courses, we kinda knew Georgie was ready for the next step. Notice I said Georgie. I’m not sure I am ready to take a horse that has never gone Prelim and give her a safe and confidence building ride. I want to ride our first Prelim and not have anyone think it’s our first go at the level. Georgie deserves that. So, I’ve asked Sarah to ride her at her first Prelim, and after a winter of homework, I’ll take her in the spring. By then I think Georgie and I both will be ready to be successful at the level.
Georgie had an awesome jump school with Sarah this week. While I don’t think the change in Georgie is obvious and huge I think there are some subtletys which are lovely. Length of stride, rideability and adjustabilty are all largely improved. And yes, Sarah gives her a far better ride than I do. But she still wasn’t able to get this ride out of Georgie 6 months ago. And hopefully I can get it out of her in 6 months, lol.
So feel free to compare and contrast our rides. The first from March of this year, and the second from earlier this week.