Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some Thoughts on Morgans

I read a couple of really great quotes/opinions about Morgans over on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums today.  These quotes inspired me to share them, as well my own thoughts on Morgan horses.

Morgans are pretty special horses, and as much as I love them and think they're the best horses in the world, they really are not for everyone.  Morgans are thinkers, and can't be pushed around.  Working with Morgans requires having a partnership, rather than taking a stance of, "I'm the boss."

This was posted on the forums recently: "I'd say Morgans are craftier, a little more sensitive, and require a little more finesse... they have an acute sense of justice and will tell you in no uncertain terms to F-Off. I wouldn't try to muscle one around or you might end up in trouble."  Case in point: I guess someone tried to take the "I'm the boss" stance with Star at this past weekend's IEA show.  Honorary Big Sister Jen couldn't figure out what the rider was trying to achieve with Star, as the mare was being perfect (as she pretty much always is).  But this rider trying to push her around pissed off the mare, and they didn't have a good round.  Her other riders, who have been willing to work with her don't have these issues.  As is always the case with Star, her IEA riders place exactly where they deserve to place.  She will do anything you ask of her... but you do have to ask!

Morgans kind of need to understand the "why" behind doing something.  They are pretty quick learners, and are easily bored with repetition.  They also have a strong sense of self-preservation.  This is another quote from the forums: "The Morgan is usually a big thinker, and a lot of that though is about putting forth no more energy than is necessary to get the job done. That's why they last all day!"  It's funny as hell, for sure, but if I were Politi-Fact Georgia, I would rank this statement as only "half-true." 

The thinking about how to expend the least amount of energy possible applies in a manner relevant to the conveyed and percieved importance of the task to the Morgan.  If you don't treat the task as important, then of course a Morgan will put forth the least amount of needed effort!  If you treat the task as important and ask the horse to perform the task, then the horse will keep going as long as you want.  And if the Morgan truly loves what they are doing, they will do it all day, no questions asked, for anyone along for the ride. 

Another IEA example (and I've referenced this before): if you are just a pretty eq picture when riding Star, rather than being effective, then Star goes around doing her own thing.  She'll walk, trot, canter, and reverse on command, but she's not going to give one iota more than asked.  If you are an effective and pretty eq picture, then Star will come onto the bit, lift her belly, use her back, and step under herself.  And if pretty much anyone or a monkey is jumping with Star, she'll keep going all day... but if the fence is 2'6" or less, she still only gives it the minimum required effort.

And to quote the movie Seabiscuit, "Though he be but small, he is mighty."  Morgans are definitely a big personality in a small package.  They are very strong for their size, and often far more athletic than people not familiar with the breed give them credit for.  People are surprised when I tell them Star can jump a 3'6" course no problem, and that she has jumped 4'3".  And even Honorary Big Sister Jen seemed surprised when I told her that Sparky is, in every way, even more athletic than Star.  And Bumble Bee, one of the Morgans I rode back home and who was about the same size as Sparky, was able to outpull a Jeep CR-7 back in the day.

And the final quote (and this one I liked well enough to put on Facebook): "You can ask most horses; you have a conversation with a Morgan."  While a Morgan may not initially come across as a horse with lots of energy and a great desire to please (a comment made about thoroughbreds), they really do have great minds.  If you get into these thinking minds, and have that conversation (rather than bossing around), the Morgan will step out of their energy-conservation mode and you will have a willing partner who is eager to please and who will go to the moon for you.

For more information about Morgan horses, go to  The Morgan horse - the horse that chooses you!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Lesson Here?

I talk about bitting a lot, I think.  But my somewhat-frequent bitting changes are rather validated, I think.  I work to find the bit that works best for each horse in a given situation, thereby keeping both the horse and rider happy.  And then when I find what works, I leave it.

I took Star on a trail ride last night (well, evening).  It was a rather impulsive thing - I was about to go to the arena when my already-mounted barnmate asked if I wanted to go on a short trail ride with her.  I thought for a moment and decided Star might like that.  I then thought for a moment more about changing her bridle from her snaffle (the same snaffle I've flatted her in since August, I might add!) into her ready-to-go bridle with the Kimberwicke.  And then I thought, "Nah, it will be fine."  So I mounted up and off we went.

The first half of the trail ride was rather uneventful; my barnmate was in front and Star was in back (Star is *not* brave).  And then we turned around.  And Star was in front.  And we were going home.  And Star had been that way before.  And I had *no* brakes and a suddenly brave horse.

Our fast(!) walk turned into a jog, which turned into a trot, which turned into a faster trot, which turned into a canter, which turned into me thinking, "Just don't hit any branches!"  That damn mare merrily cantered along the trail... and I was just along for the ride.  Until we got to the creek, that is.  I don't know that I've ever seen something induce such fast breaking in that mare.  If she were a car, her tires would have screeched as she slid to a halt.  And I, thankfully, halted with her, rather than continuing over her head.

I made my barnmate get back in front of us, and the rest of our ride home was uneventful.  And you know what?  I couldn't even be mad at the damn horse - lol!  Horses are just that - horses.  At the end of the day, no one was hurt, and nothing happened.  And I was the idiot who didn't heed my own warning and change the bridle.

The lesson here?  Listen to your gut.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

P**ters*n Ponies REPRESENT!

YAY!  As Honorary Big Sister Jen put it, what a difference a year makes!  The Sparkplug made his first IEA outing of the season on Sunday.  I equipped him with a Happy Mouth full cheek with a rolly peanut and his riders with no crop or spurs.  He was put in the pool for 2'6" and 2'0" flat.  And I had no idea how it was going to go.

As it turned out, my little Napolean was just about perfect!  I rode him for his warm up, taking a good, long time.  I could tell he was definitely unsure and nervous, but he just tucked in his nose and trucked along.  He was perfect for warm-up, and as I got off, I was feeling pretty good.  The only thing that could muck it up would be a rider who couldn't ride for shizzy.  Been there, done that... got pulled.

I had to leave to go to work, so I left Sparky in Honorary Big Sister Jen's capable hands.  His first class was a 2'6" flat class.  All was well until the canter, when Sparky popped off a wrong lead.  And then the same on the reverse.  And a little bucky for a swap.  Uh-oh.  Tough break for the kid, but no mad-pony antics to get him pulled.  His next two kids, however, had perfect rides on him: correct leads and no antics!  The assessment then became that the first rider had maybe tried to ask a little too much of him, rather than just leaving him alone and letting him do his thing.  Sometimes the hardest thing for us to do as riders is to do nothing.

Star was, of course, her usual perfect self.  Our warmup was fun, especially when I went from the second-to-last fence to the last... but jumped the last one the wrong way.  Lesson: If you're going to do something wrong, do it with style!  Our turn between the last two fences was stellar - except for being wrong, of course.  I then did it correctly, but neither Star nor I thought the correct way was as much fun.

Overall, I am just tickled pink that Sparky did so well (and Star, too, of course)!  While we are still far from perfect, it certainly serves as a gauge of just how far we've come in the past year and shows that my work with my horses absolutely accomplishes something!  If I had more time, obviously we could progress faster, but hey, at the end of the day, we are progressing.

I'm just pleased as punch!  P**ters*n Ponies REPRESENT! =D