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Welcome to training outcomes

First, let me introduce my equine friend and competitive partner for the series of upcoming articles, Mack.

Have you hugged your horse today?
Cheryl and Mack, equine
friends and partners
in competition.

Who is Mack? Mack is a seven year-old gelding that I had the opportunity to purchase as a five year-old from the Dave Dorrance Family of Elgin, Illinois in 2005. He is a son of Dash for Perks. Mack is patterned but has had limited experience in competition. Mack is 16.1 hands and is what I would call “late to mature.” The Thoroughbred breeding of his mother is a factor in his maturity. Mentally, most would describe him as quiet, however, Mack has a subtle intensity that can come as quite a surprise. His body style gives him a long stride and powerful acceleration. Mack has big brown eyes, which reflect his kindness.  

Mack has an incredible amount of “try.” He also loves to run and slide and do wheelies and leaps at play. In his runs, he gives his heart. It's important that he is schooled correctly so that he has the best chance to avoid injuries to his muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. 

Mack’s training program will follow progressive levels of training based on the elements of the Classical Training Pyramid. Included will be utilization of the skill sets from The Leading Edge Series: A Training Program for the Speed Event Horse by Dorothy Peth, application of training tips from Train with Jane Savoie,  application of personal coaching tips from Sharon Camarillo, techniques and philosophy of Dr. David Hayes, One Step Horsemanship and  some of my other favorite things. So, let’s begin.

Part of creating a program to improve training outcomes is accessing your horses strengths and weaknesses and to set short, mid and long term goals. The next step is to create a riding plan.

Evaluation

  • As of spring 2007, Mack’s strengths were his personality, trainability, natural athletic ability and positive life experiences. He seemed to enjoy running barrels. Mack was happy to move forward in all gaits and had great rhythm to his gaits.
  • During his runs, Mack felt that he was too heavy on his forehand when he rated. He seemed to lose his hindquarters on the backside of the barrel and he had difficulty regaining his straightness when he left the barrel. Mack had a difficult time stopping straight. Mack was not comfortable with a shank bit or a curb strap.
  • The more I got to know my horse, the more I realized Mack’s flat work off the pattern reflected he needed help to improve his ability to maintain his balance when asked for transitions, either between gaits or within a gait. Initially, Mack would throw his head in the air when asked to transition from trot to canter. Mack had difficulty picking up the correct lead when asked at a specific time and place. He pulled and leaned on the bit when asked to travel with even a light connection to my hands. Mack was able to bend his head and neck but was very stiff through his body. Mack preferred to travel with his nose poked out. He had the beginning of an overdeveloped lower neck muscle and a weak top line.

Goals

  • My short- term goals were to create riding experiences to enhance his strengths and address his weaknesses. Part of this is being critical of your personal strengths and weaknesses. I committed to being present and mindful every time I rode him. I wanted to pay special attention to maintaining his great attitude. I determined I would utilize his ability to complete his exercises and his progress up the Training Pyramid to gauge and predict when he would be ready for competitive work.
  • The mid-range goal was improve his transitions, increase his understanding of lateral work, and improve his suppleness through his body versus his tendency to bend his neck.
  • The first long- term goal was to improve his balance in all gaits. To accomplish this, I needed to increase his adjustability, improve his ability to maintain contact with the bit, improve shoulder control and expand his understanding of the outside rein.
  • The second long- term goal was to improve his gymnastic ability and balance to the level that he remained balanced at a high rate of speed.
  • The third long-term goal was to get Mack in a bridle for competition that complements the training equipment.
  • The ultimate goal is to maintain Mack’s healthy, happy work ethic, prevent injuries and head down the path where every aid given obtains a fluid response, and riding is mental and not muscle.

As I once read, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” I look forward to sharing our progress and hope Mack’s development will inspire you to join in the journey with us.