Telling you about my new horse Dandy, and our ambitious colt starting project, you need to find a bit about my previous horse, Joli (I’ll mention the ones that came prior, in a near future, as well).
Joli as a 4 yr old, after about one year of work
Joli was (still is, bless his soul), a young Portugese cross, a mix they call “Crusado” in Portugal. It’s basically a purebred Lusitano, crossed with… something else. If the “something else” happens to also be purebred, the resulting cross can be registered in a Crusado studbook, not unlike the “Appendix” Quarter Horses (QH/TB cross), but if the other parent is unknown, or the Lusitano itself unregistered, you end up with… let’s put it bluntly, a mutt. But Joli was a high class mutt. His buckskin color, to-the-ground wavy black tail, and soft eye, made for a really pleasant image of a little horse.
I bought Joli, please sit down and brace, unseen, over the internet, as a 3 yr old
He was advertised as very easy and gentle… and he was. He probably didn’t have more than a handful of rides on him when he was delivered (the day that very picture above was taken, about 20 minutes after we met), but he was meek and quiet as they come, had very good ground manners, led wayyy behind, turned to face when one entered his stall, etc. I can’t say a single bad thing about the people who bought him for meat price in Portugal, hauled it with a lot of other horses to France, spent a little bit time in starting him, and sold him for a profit (that’s what they do for a living, and as far as I’m concerned, they do it very decently).
Now, all wasn’t perfect, of course. As you can imagine, riding a just started 3 yr old in a new environment created its share of issues. Namely he was riddled with destination addiction, a concept wonderfully developed and explained by Warwick Schiller, and of which I was totally unaware at the time. No matter where you rode him or in which arena, this horse consistently bent in order to have his body arranged towards the gate, the barn, etc. That caused me a good bunch of sleepless nights, wondering how I’d teach this horse to actually arch nicely to the *inside* of a circle, instead of all hell bent to the outside, with hollowed back and stiff ribcage (I had taught him softness to the bit from the get go and he always broke nicely at the poll).
After a couple of months doing quite a bit of groundwork, I felt a bit stuck and the horse started to express some frustration, even belligerence at one point, so I got a riding coach to assist us. He had worked young horses for Josh and John Lyons for two years, and was an assistant trainer in a major French reining operation (not sure the term “major” applies to any of them, but that’s a different topic, altogether). Nicolas helped us with many things and we progressed nicely, though it was more a training approach than a horsemanship one.
Over 18 months of time, Joli went to super green colt, to reasonably well educated horse with some nice hang of some reining maneuvers. I sure was very proud of him and his accomplishments. However, some “sticky” parts remained, and I blamed a lot of them on his gene pool (“he’s not a US breed cut for Western disciplines”, I’d tell my husband), well unaware that the “issues” were in fact caused by some underlying anxiety, and me failing to recognize my horse’s real thoughts.
After moving to a new area I got the opportunity to have a few coaching sessions from Olivier Van Den Berg, member of the Netherlands national reining team. Olivier is a very advanced trainer, and with only a couple of sessions, Joli and I made huge progress in body control. And yet I failed to address his mind…
Joli shortly before I rehomed him with a dedicated trail rider lady
I was in doubt. I loved my horse, we had a really good relationship going, but I knew he wasn’t the guy I wanted to grow old with. On the other hand, I had a couple of people ride him for giggles, and they all got off with a big grin on their face and telling me “there is some proper work on this horse !”. That told me I had done a fairly good job, out of pretty much nowhere and being no one, and that maybe I had a tiny bit of talent to educate young horses. The seed was planted… As luck would have it, I had the perfect home lined up, waiting for him. I had avertised him for sale for about two days, before changing my mind, and a lady hunted me for nearly three months about buying him. A date was set and Emilie drove 6 hours to meet him, trailer in tow. I spent nearly two hours showing her our work on the ground, in the saddle, we went for a 15 minutes mini trail ride. After about three hours total I was ready to put the horse up and still not knowing what she thought about it. So I asked what she intended to do and she said “I love him, but I’m so scared not to know how to ride him. I never rode such a well trained horse before”.
After much discussion, the decided to take him home, and I trusted her with him for a few weeks, to see how the two of them would get along. We stayed in close (daily) contact for that period, so I could answer all her questions, give her advice on how to present things to him, etc. She just fell totally in love, and only 4 weeks later (she had never, ever, had any “Western” experience before), they entered a little local competition and placed 3rd out of 12 teams (11 of which had been training for the event for 4 solid months).
My daugher hugging Joli good-bye, the last day she got to see him
Now that I went over the experience I’d had with that nice youngster (and I’ll refer to him often in the future, as a comparison point), I guess you’re wanting to hear all about the new kid on the blog. I’ll disappoint you not, and promise to introduce, in tomorrow’s post, Dandy Lena Boon. Stay tuned !