Well, my baby Friesian, Merlin, will be a year and a half old next month. We have now been together for one full year as I purchased him when he was 5 months old. It’s been a fun year.
Being a liberty trainer, I have made sure that everything we have done together was at liberty. Meaning that we have done all our training, and playing, without any tack. That includes no halter, lead lines, or lunge lines.
Of course, since Merlin has to be handled by other people, I did teach him how to act properly while on a halter and lead line. We still need that equipment to stand for the farrier, the vet, move around the farm, and be handled by the barn crew.
So we have spent a lot of time together just walking around the farm, finding special patches of grass, and checking out all the farm equipment and parked horse trailers.
I’ve done so much with Merlin in the past year, including work on our relationship. It’s amazing how much horses learn to be a part of our world.
Sometimes I think we take for granted all the little things we think are normal when we purchase an adult horse that’s trained; like haltering, leading, voice cues for walk, trot, canter, halt, back up, wait, stand, etc.
Plus other little things like picking up their feet and letting us clean them, farrier work, having to deal with shots and a vet prodding around, taking baths, being groomed, and being tied up.
Then there are the more important things like proper socialization with other horses, patience and proper etiquette around people, loading in and out of a trailer, having a work ethic, working with tack, and proper manners around food.
And then there are the more ethereal things that go into a relationship like trust, respect, willingness, focus, love, and companionship between horse and owner. Those are earned, not trained. So that takes some time and effort.
Well, Merlin has learned all of the above plus our relationship has blossomed. So I’m thinking now what?
He’s 16.2hh right now and looks like a full-grown horse if he was another breed. Anyone who sees him and doesn’t know his history thinks he’s an adult. Someone asked me the other day if I was going to take him in the arena to ride and I had to tell her that he was only 17 months old and too young to ride.
The Friesian breed can take 5-6 years to fully mature. Their bones continue to grow and form during these years and it takes at least 2-3 years until their knees are closed and their leg bones are strong enough for a rider.
Other breeds are different and can mature faster. As you’ve seen there are 2-year-olds in certain races. I disagree with this, but it’s done.
My quarter horse Jazz, before I was his owner, was ridden too soon. When I got him at the age Merlin is now, he had been ridden and ridden hard. Because of it, Jazz had a deformity in his back legs caused by the excess weight when his leg bones were still forming.
So there is no way I am going to risk harming Merlin’s bones by riding him too early. But the good thing is that I can now take Merlin’s ground training to the next level. My 3 C’s of Horsemanship program takes a horse from the basics all the way up to everything they need to be rideable.
And it’s all done from the ground. So I can teach Merlin everything he needs to know in order to be ridden without getting on him.
I will wait until he’s at least 3 to get on him and then it will only be light riding. And before I get on, I’ll get x-rays to make sure that he is physically capable of being ridden without injury.
So far Merlin has been excited to learn and he’s been very gentle and willing to try new things. I can’t wait to see what comes of our next training level.
Even more so, his personality is really starting to shine through. He’s playful and sharp. I can see him thinking about what we are doing and I’m sure he will be outsmarting me in my own games quickly. This will be fun.
But more than that, I can’t wait to see what things he will resonate with…
- Will he like jumping?
- Will he like trails?
- Will he like being around cows?
- What discipline will he prefer – English or Western?
- What will he enjoy doing?
That is the fun and exciting part of having a foal and growing up with them. Seeing what they enjoy and allowing them to be who they truly are, deep down. No bad habits to start with, just a clean slate.
I love to see them grow up and watch them as they learn what life has to offer.
Often I’ve seen people purchase a horse for a specific purpose. Such as getting a horse that is a jumper because that is what they like to do. That is fine and understandable. But sometimes that is not what the horse wants to do.
Just because he can, doesn’t mean he wants to.
This usually causes a type of frustration or friction between horse and rider. Or it causes a horse to look as if they aren’t very good at a certain discipline.
This happens when you and your horse have different goals or different physical aptitudes. Like when your horse is older and not as agile as he used to be, but his owner is young and athletic with lots of energy or vice versa.
When you, as the owner, want a specific desired result from your horse, i.e. to compete in top-level shows and be a champion jumper.
And you purchase a horse that has been trained for this field, but nobody checked with the horse to see if he actually likes this field. This makes a big difference. But because of his experience, you think he will be a good jumper.
Then after years of trying to compete and train your horse to reach higher levels, you realize you have reached an impasse. You think your horse just can’t get any better. Or worse, you think your horse is disobeying you on purpose.
So you get another trainer in to see if they can train your horse. But after trying they tell you that your horse is being resistant, not listening, and it’s not going to work.
It might not be that your horse is being “bad”. It could be that your horse just doesn’t have the motivation to do well and doesn’t enjoy the sport anymore (if they ever did, to begin with).
Especially if your horse will jump when you ask but you can see that your horse isn’t happy doing the jumps and he just does it because you push him to, begrudgingly.
So what do you do?
This is usually when I’m called out to help. But my goal isn’t to MAKE the horse do what the owner wants, my goal is to find out what the horse wants to do. This is the fun part. Finding out what makes your horse happy and feeling like his true inner self again.
But you can do this yourself as well.
If you have a horse that isn’t doing exactly what you want and you’re frustrated or just plain tired of fighting him, then stop. It’s time to take another approach. That is if you want to keep your horse.
Here are some other options:
- You can buy another horse that you’re sure likes to do the same discipline as you, i.e. jumping as the above example. And keep your other horse as a pasture mate and friend.
- You can take my new “Heart-To-Heart Communication” program and learn how to ask your horse, telepathically, what he wants and likes to do. (email me if you’re interested)
- You can take my “3 C’s of Horsemanship” program to hit the reset button and start over with your horse to find out what he likes to do and what makes him happy. Thereby doing it together.
- You can start over yourself with your horse and do a few years of trial and error to find out exactly what discipline makes your horse happy and what he excels at.
There are lots of ways to fix this particular issue with your horse. But the most important thing is to listen to your horse and try to find a way to be together that is good for both of you.
Figure out what makes your horse happy and do that together. Something you both enjoy!
I promise it will brighten up your life so much, you will wish you had done it sooner. And if you would like suggestions or some help, I am only a phone call away.
Here is a video compilation of Merlin’s 1st year…
I’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s blog, so let me know in the Comments below.
Until next week, Happy Horses!