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Endless Posibilities
By: Jocelyn Petitto On May 06, 2013

Today, I sat on two different OTTBs and the feeling underneath me between the two could not have been more different.  The difference, unadulterated by years of training, is one of the things I have found I love about sitting on young horses.  Right now, both are at various points in the process of learning the language of horse and rider.  Off the bat, all horses learn to abandon one of their most instinctual responses, leaning into pressure, and we go from there.  Even their responses to that most basic of foundation pieces could not have differed more: my gelding, younger and greener, is happy as can be learning the correct response; my mare responded to this idea of yielding with a firm “who died and made you queen?” argument which has inspired a complete revamping of all conversations (you never EVER tell a mare, you simply bring up ideas that must have been hers in the first place, they just had slipped her mind).

When I get on Salt, I feel like I’m sitting on the makings of a truly honest, go getting amateur horse.  After being initially sacked out, he took to all new learning tasks like a fish to water.  He has already crossed water and worked up and down banks in hand with no hesitation.  From the moment I first hop on, to the moment I jump off, there is no tension under my seat.  This is a complete contrast to my grey mare, who is concerned not only with what I ask her, but the exact tone and what may happen next… unless we’re fox hunting or anything else that involves two key elements: jumping and speed.  This mare is hungry and this hunger exists independently from any desire to please the rider.  She is one hot, opinionated ticket.

A horse’s attitude and temperament should play a significant role in where they end up, not necessarily their breed.  For example, my bold, self–assured little Theo made an excellent hunt companion.  Spot’s forgiving attitude makes him good for what he is doing now, teaching low level event riders.  The two youngsters I have now, as well as those horses I just mentioned, are all off the track.  The track is a great source of all types of horses if a rider looks hard and is realistic about what they can handle.  When I bought Suki, I knew she was a little bit of a fire ball, she would not jog out calmly, and I knew Salt was a gentle giant just by the way his groom interacted with him.  Young horses are very honest about what they are or aren’t.  Riders must be just as honest with themselves about what they can handle.  The other thing I love about young horses is guessing what they’ll end up doing.  

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