to the basics!!

I shan’t say back to basics since a) Speedy is in a pretty deep basics bootcamp with MIL right now but also b) we obviously never left the basics, right?

trot poles are very basic

I’ve seen a whole bunch of new horses come into TrJ’s program this year through a bizarre convergence of all the people looking for a new horse. And a funny thing I noticed with all of them was a massive backslide in their training after they arrived at the new barn. I even joked about it to one of my friends, “isn’t it funny how all these horses arrived and just…. forget how to horse?” One promptly went lame, one started bolting, one started voicing (and kicking) his opinions, one stopped going forward at all.

Most of the “new horse!”s I’d met in the past had a honeymoon period where they stayed pretty perfect for a while, then their behavior started to unravel. I always assumed it was the old trainer’s buttprint finally coming off them, and the horse realizing that they really did live in this new place with all these new rules. So it kinda cracked me up that all those horses at TrJs had that happen so much faster. I think it was actually because of TrJ though — she has a knack of finding those holes in the basics and shoving her thumb right in ouchiest one.

solution focused, that’s my boy. (and yeah, lunging him through here wasn’t a great choice to start with, but I was at the mercy of a DQ and a retired HJ rider, I just did what I was told)

We threw Speedy into a totally different program when he got here, with a pretty big focus on basics, so I expected a fair bit of embracing the suck for our first few months together. Some part of my brain still thought, though, that even though we are pretty fundamentally changing the way this horse goes, I’d just be able to bop him around 2’6″-3′ fences the whole time — even if I had to ride him “the old way”. Oh I knew — imagine dismissive hand flapping here — that there was a lot of grid work in our future as we helped him realize a new shape all the way to the base of the fences. But I figured we’d start with little Xs and work our way up to a fun, bigger oxer that would make me blush and swoon and fan my hands at my face all the while quietly demurring “Oh, it’s all him really, Speedy is just so talented.”

I did not figure that we’d trot him through a set of canter poles and he would go “what in the actual fuck is this shit on the ground I’m going to stomp on it”.

speedy stomp?

And then do a variety of different interpretive dances over the poles.

boing boing motherfucker

To his credit, he did actually try to solve the problem, and he didn’t panic. Unfortunately, his range of solutions ranged from “canter bigger” to “go faster” at various points before or during the poles. We set them on a 12 foot stride, and what Speedy really needed to do was compress his stride a bit to get through them properly, an absolutely bizarre feeling for someone who came from a horse with a preferred canter size of about 3.7 feet.

Speedy would go from calmly walking to pulling to the poles pretty quickly as we approached them, and my half halts were utterly ineffective. The next day, we got serious about the half halt (something we got to explore more with our groundwork trainer also!) and threw a halt in before the poles. The first time I tried that I got nothing, and just hauled on Speedy’s mouth through the grid. Next time around MIL reminded me to actually get the halt. Make it ugly if I needed to, but get the halt and then release right away.

it is the best canter

We clobbered our way through the little bounces a few times until Speedy and I found a much more settled canter on a circle. It is tempting to let him just pound down to the fences in whatever size canter he wants, because it’s a very pleasant canter at all the sizes. I also really didn’t have enough space, or spatial awareness, to help manage his canter to the placement pole so we could get a smoother ride through the grid. That will come, though!

bounce bounce bounce

Speedy definitely has some basics-shaped holes we need to fill in. And to be abundantly clear, I don’t think this reflects poorly on his trainers at all. They — one of them being a 16 year old — took a green-broke 4 year old and got him to Bundeschampionate finals as a 5 year old less than 18 months later without frying his brain, destroying his personality, or shutting down those amazing gaits of his. Speedy also deserves some of the credit. He’s a pretty reasonable and biddable fellow and is naturally quite clever and careful over the fences. So it was probably easy to skip some of those basics in favor of moving him up to the more impressive heights that were most likely to sell him. And some of those holes are definitely just “I don’t speak American!” issues, as well.

So yeah. There’s going to be some hanging around in basics-land for a while. I forsee alot of grids in our future. I am soooo excited about how super he’s going to be over the fences after we shore up this basics foundation a bit!

it’s the brain for me

I’m almost caught up on late-October Speedy adventures, just in time for another visit! Later this week I will head down for a groundwork/horsemanship clinic that was supposed to happen last month, but got rained out. I’m very excited we managed to reschedule while Speedy would be with my MIL though, as her groundwork person is fabulous, and I’ve had trouble scheduling up here as all our good cowboys are retiring which has left the other horsemanship trainers extra busy.

On Wednesday of my first week with Speedy (October 27th), we planned to haul out to a local HJ trainer/friend’s place for a jump lesson. By the time Wednesday morning rolled around I was not so sure a jump lesson was a good idea. I’d trotted and cantered Speedy over a pole to test out a new jump saddle, and upon seeing the pole he promptly inverted and stopped moving over his topline. Which was, honestly, very understandable. We had done nothing but focus very specifically on changing the shape of his body and the muscles he uses to get around in a very controlled and specific way — that is, large circles and short straight lines — and then just four days into that new paradigm we threw a pole at him and he said “the only way I know how to address this problem is the way I’ve always addressed this problem”.

so cute to the fences

I know that better movement patterns over fences will come with time and practice. And I figured that at the very least, the jump lesson would give me a chance to focus on my jump position a bit and there would be little harm done to Speedy’s progress in the long run if we let him run around inverted for one day.

He was a dream to haul. Got right in the trailer and rode backwards in the slant (MIL got a wild hair to see if that would be a viable option in her trailer), then got out quietly when we arrived. Which is exactly what Speedy did when I saw him at the gelëndeplatz at Luhmühlen — got off the trailer, looked around quietly, and then looked for a snack. His trainer specifically said to me “this is what he is like everywhere”, but I kinda didn’t believe him. I was wrong.

Right next to the arena, a cell network had staff servicing their cell tower with a crane lift and dues in harnesses. Speedy looked at them for about two seconds, decided they were not food and therefore were not worth attention, and ignored them for the rest of the ride.

The lesson itself was not great. HJ trainer — and I really feel like she did this in the best-intentioned way — recognized immediately that Speedy’s weakness is not moving over his topline and into the contact, and set about trying to help me fix that. Unfortunately, she took a completely different tack than MIL has been taking, but which also happened to be different from the way Speedy’s old trainer coached me to ride him. Since Speedy’s natural inclination is not just to come over his topline and drop into the connection, I didn’t get many opportunities to “follow and reward” him like she wanted me to. And since I’m not used to using my body the way HJ trainer was instructing, I couldn’t take as many of those opportunities as Speedy was offering me. It was…. not the best.

Speedy never stopped trying once, though. He did suggest maybe we could walk more (we could have, it was a pretty intense lesson) and he did break from the canter to the trot as I flailed around in the borrowed saddle trying to corral different parts of him. I hit him unnecessarily hard with the end of the reins at one point (a combo accident-frustration flail), I pony club kicked him when he didn’t move forward off my leg, I stuck my spur into him when instructed. And at no point did he offer to bolt, buck, or take the completely valid excuse of those construction guys and spook.

so cute over the fences!

The next day I made a point of taking extra time to fuss over Speedy while grooming him and made our ride very short and very rewarding (there were cookies). I could tell he was a titch unhappy to be getting tacked up again (chewing on the cross ties more than usual) and he didn’t offer me any prosocial grooming behaviors, but he was perfectly polite in the cross ties and quiet and responsive under saddle. Murray would have been running away from me during saddling or bridling for sure after that lesson (I used a bit he didn’t like for one ride and he refused to be bridled for two days afterward). I know my standards for pony behavior are kinda low, but this horse just has the best brain and attitude and gatdamn I am so glad I bought him.

The other thing this lesson reminded me of is that I really, really need to trust my gut and stick up for my horse when I think he needs it. I protected Murray by being very careful of the training/lesson/clinic situations I put him in, because he had a very special pair of very special kid gloves he needed to be very specially handled with, and I always made sure that new trainers or clinicians knew that he was one of those. I didn’t say anything during this lesson because of some slightly complicated social elements, but there were times in the lesson when I thought I should, and upon more reflection, I know I should have. I’m a fairly good communicator; I should be able to explain pretty clearly why I think something isn’t working for me and my horse. If a trainer can’t explain why this particular lesson is important enough to keep chipping away at or pivot and offer me something that I think is better for the horse, then I have to remember that I’m just fine walking away from that lesson.

Luckily, I don’t think there’s any permanent damage done. I think there’s a pretty solid path back to Speedy’s heart with treats, at least right now. It was worth my time to know how good Speedy will be off property and with shenanigans going on around him, and to remember that I do know a thing or two about horses that is worth piping up about.

power pony pedigree

Pedigrees are honestly not something I’ve ever paid a whole lot of attention to. Since I am not a breeder and prior to Speedy have never shopped for or sold a horse, I just…. never really got into it. Plus, as a data person, it has always seemed to me that people put a little bit toooooo much weight on certain aspects of the pedigree. When I catch people saying things like “the R line is very rideable” or “the S line is super athletic” or “Mr. Prospector offspring aren’t very sound” I can’t help but get skeptical. There is just so, so, so much that goes into the physical and behavioral attributes of any individual horse. How could those incredibly polymorphic traits be distilled down to characteristics maybe shared by one parent, one grandparent, or even a line of horses sharing an initial?

we hauled out for a lesson and some cell service guys were working on this tower the entire time — Speedy did not give a shit and he’s the world’s greatest creature


When your fancy new hony comes with a fancy Equidenpass you start getting kinda interested.

sadly, pony does not have (and will never get) that adorable little oak leaf brand

And boy oh boy did I find out some super fantastique and interesting things. (You can see Speedy’s extended pedigree here.)

Speedy is approved as a “Hanoverian small horse” (since he’s not actually a pony). I don’t have a clear idea (not enough research and probably won’t muster up the will to do so) of exactly how the different warmblood “small horse” registries work, but I do know that much like the main warmblood registries the stud books are open (so open omg) and that all of the small warmblood horses/warmblood ponies fall under the “German Riding Pony” umbrella. He’s also 1/8 thoroughbred (two great-great-grandsires are xx) and 1/4 straight warmblood (sire’s sire is Hanoverian). Aaaaand…. he’s a full quarter WELSH!

no we have not been getting into trouble together why do you ask
(I’m trying not to pirate anyone else’s images so I’ve linked to things as much as I can, and am filling in the blanks with the International Mouse of Mystery.)

Speedy was bred in Poland, and imported to Germany when he was 4 and sold through Ponyforum Gmbh (sales videos here, here, and here. Side note: ponyforum used some pictures of Speedy to sell his 2019 half-brother Ulisses this year, and you can still see them thanks to Google’s caching function.) He is by the GRP stallion Simply the Best TCF — appropriate, since Speedy is the best — and out of the mare Niina PP. Niina PP doesn’t seem to have a competition record, but Simply the Best TCF competed at the Bundeschampionat twice and potentially went on to compete further. Simply the Best TCF doesn’t seem to have a ton of internet presence.

Which is fine, because this whole post is really just an excuse to talk about Niina PP’s sire: Machno Carwyn. Machno Carwyn is a Sec. D Welsh Cob born in 1992, who lives on to this day toting around children and enjoying a pasture puff life. Standing a robust 146cm (14.15hh, that’s 14h and 1.5 extra inches, to be clear) and sporting a truly impressive set of bangs, he won the European Show Jumping Championships twice (in 2000 and 2001). Once again, I’m not entirely sure of how it goes in Europe, but it seems that the pony European championships have jumps up to 1.4m (4’6″, and the ponies are piloted by children??).

Mancho Carwyn
Machno Carwyn — hair, hair, hair, omg hair for days

Machno Carwyn also competed extensively at the Grand Prix — not just the PonyGP — winning 7 of the 25 international Grands Prix in which he placed (it’s unclear how many he entered). He’s also known for being ridden extensively by a 12-year-old. For the pony championship classes in Europe, riders are to be between 12 and 16 years old. And good old Machno was happy to be piloted by a shrimplet through the big classes. And obviously he has a ton of offspring out there. His performance record makes him an incredibly valuable performance sire.

A little more digging (and talking to Jen!) revealed that Welsh ponies are a huge component of GRP (and other continental-european-RP) breeding programs. Which makes sense — there is a lot of warmblood in most of the GRPs, and I imagine those get oversize (see above magnificent hony) easily. Breeding in some smaller, yet still super athletic, Welsh blood is probably extremely helpful. And Welsh ponies have a righteous badonk on them, which would definitely improve some of those flat-crouped warmbloods.

yep already teaching my fancy pony bad things. funny, this reminded me that when we first saw Speedy being ridden by his trainer, they executed a very nice square halt and that was commented upon by my entourage.

As much as I “don’t” pay attention to pedigree, I do think it’s worth paying attention to the performance record of the dam and sire (or damsire, if that’s all you can get!). Both Simply the Best and Machno Carwyn have good to exceptional performance records. I’ve stalked Speedy’s siblings (I know he has two, and one was sold through Ponyforum this year) a bit to see if they are as cool as he is. The one I found seems pretty neat also, lending credibility to the magic uterus-Machno Carwyn influence.

I’m not about to go out and buy any of Speedy’s siblings (or any other horses or ponies…… right now, anyway) but learning a little more about his pedigree has been a lot of fun. And definitely made me reconsider Welsh ponies (sporty cobs especially!). Also — yes I will eat this crow — it has made me think more about the value of studying pedigrees. There is some serious power tucked into Speedy’s bloodlines, and it shows.

but also a brain worth its walnut-weight in gold. we put him in the trailer backwards (for…. reasons its complicated) and he was like “okay weirdos I guess this is how Americans trailer”