In making a decision to write this blog, I have debated writing about what is the reality about training young horses or just generalities and ideals. I believe what is most useful to readers is both the ups and downs of real life. There is always more to learn about horses, more refining of our skills, and always set backs to work through as one continues to make progress. 

This year I had hoped to have a couple youngsters ready to show at the first event of the Area VII calendar in May which also hosts one of the few YEH/ FEH classes in our area. I am riding 2 young talented Holsteiner mares that I bred and had dreamed of producing them to attend these classes. As opening day came and went, then another opening day for the next show, I found myself pushing to make every day / ride count. Pressure was on since they just started jumping after the first of the year.

As I began to push, small issues began to creep in. A little soreness here and there, affects of tension, and feeling enormous pressure to drag the girls to every last XC schooling. So I made the decision not to attend the first event of the season and the YEH. I have nothing but praises to sing over what an incredible job Christel Carlson does with running her event and young horse classes, but I decided it was just too much pressure. It was a real bummer coming to that decision. I did not enter but decided to support the new local unrecognized event at the Oregon Horse Center which would provide a great schooling opportunity. 

Of course I’m human and question if I have done everything right? Why had I not been able to get these super talented horses ready in time for the YEH classes? What does that say about my skills as a trainer? I’m supposed to be good at working with young horses!? Who doesn’t compare themselves to other trainers and their big brags on social media? I know that I’m quite a perfectionist but have also learned that when I don’t listen to that little voice inside me, that is when I get into trouble! 

I strongly believe that you must also listen to your horse and what his/ her needs are if you want to be successful. My horses were telling me in various ways that they needed more time. While pressure can be a driving force to achieve new levels in training, it can also be the very thing to blow confidence, cause training issues, or even injuries. Especially in dealing with young horses, I would rather error on the side of caution and be criticized that I can’t produce a youngster fast enough. I would rather have that horse have a life time of success!

These past few weeks I targeted outings to give the horses more experience just putting the pieces together before entering an event. One of them needed extra time getting acquainted with water jumps, another leaving the warm-up area away from other horses, another just riding in the warm up arena, and a 5 year old needing to just find his grove again galloping around the XC course.

So off we went visiting that various event venues for schooling, the Aspen Derby, and this past weekend the unrecognized event at OHC. The most entertaining outing was this past weekend at OHC which also ran in conjunction with the Oregon Region Pony Club event. I had been feeling pretty good about the horses and they decided to remind me just how green they still are! 

Where do I start? The trailer ride over to the venue the day before started with the 2 mares getting so attached that one of them was extremely anxious in her stall looking for her friend. To the point, I wasn’t sure she could stay at the show grounds. Thank god she forgot about her after a nice looooong ride! During warm-up for dressage, all the little Pony Clubbers cantering around on ponies brought out my inner rodeo queen for all the kids to see. That was fantastic! So back on the lunge line that one went! 

My braver young horse decided to be a big chicken the first few XC jumps so I decided on the spot that in the best interest for this particular horse we would skip a few XC jumps and jump the level below to increase her confidence. Of course this meant we would eliminate. One of the benefits of being at an unrecognized event is that I continued around the course instead of being pulled off. I did manage to get back on track to the level I entered and she jumped like a champ! So big boost of confidence! My 5 yo who showed last year had an uncharacteristic spooky moment and almost had a refusal early on the XC course, later finished the course finding his groove again. The more broke youngster lost all her power steering for show jumping and rode like a Mack truck around the course. The least broke one decided to ride like a Ferrari! All in all, it was a super weekend! I came away with more information and a very positive experience for all the horses I showed. Hopefully as the summer progresses, we can select another YEH class to attend!

I remember calling my friend during the show and saying “why do I do this?” Young horses can make you look like a complete monkey out there sometimes! They are so humbling! There is no point in pretending like you have it all together on a big fancy young horse because you don’t! So amateurs, remind yourselves that even us professionals have days where we feel like we just want to sell our horses and take up some other sport like biking! Something that you can just buy another part like tires or handle bars.. and one you only have to controlling your own emotions and not yours AND another sensitive creatures emotions!

Sarah Lorenz