Ploddy Pony to Race Horse

If anyone remembers reading my earlier blogs, you will know the first horse I rode at my riding school was a 14.2 HH sweet but slow coach plodder named Harry. Harry is the type of horse, you just have to love. He’s cheeky, sweet, loving but my goodness, is he hard to get going most days.

I think they put many novice riders on Harry because he’s ploddy and likely to just plod along without causing the rider much issue. For this same reason, once you’ve learnt to ride for a while, he can be hard work. Harry is stubborn and he’s also just BlasΓ© about the world. Not to mention Harry is the horse that the hungry as a horse phrase was coined for. If you make him leave his beloved hay net behind, you’re going to suffer for it on the ride. Needless to say, that your leg muscles get a work out on him.

Harry was my only choice of horse today. Kenny was resting after his competition yesterday while Shadow, Bella and I believe Topaz all went to the competition today. So it was Harry. I wasn’t dismayed at all, you often get off of Harry feeling like you’ve run a marathon but it’s always a smile upon your face once you’ve got a cuddle from the hairy beast.

I went and put Harry’s bridle on, which is always fun to do. Try and get that horse away from his hay net. But managed it and then I knew I was in for it. I asked him to walk on, he just stood still. Most of our riding school horses are good about walking when you ask, Harry did not want to leave his hay today.

Eventually mounted, and my usual RI came over and said she was giving me a crop today. She showed me how to hold it and said to just tap him behind my leg as I squeeze to get him to do what I’m asking if he didn’t respond the first time I asked. I’ve never used a crop before so this was all new to me.

Up the hill we went, and to begin with he was ploddy Harry but then I swear, if I didn’t know better they switched the horse from underneath me. No longer was I on the ploddy familiar horse I was used to but an energetic, eager horse was walking along so nicely. I smiled and our first trot was lovely, although short lived.

Second trot was non existent to begin with so my RI came over and showed me how to put reins into one hand while tapping the crop on his side when asking if he refused to go off of my leg. This didn’t work at first but on the third attempt, he trotted. She said I need to mean it without whacking him and that’s what I’m afraid of doing. I don’t ever want to hurt the horses but I understand a crop is a useful tool.

Down the cobbles we went and usually, Harry plods so much down the cobbles that he trips but no tripping for Mr Harry today, he was forward and collected until the mean flies got to him. He’s sadly really bothered by flies, he’s so yummy tasting apparently that the flies just swarm around him so Harry gets scared when flies are about. He broke into a trot but I quickly got him back to a walk, and told him it was OK, we’d get rid of the mean flies. He was still rather quick and when the horse in front of us trotted as instructed, I had to really make Harry stand. He wasn’t interested in standing but made him and off we went into the most beautiful, forward trot he’s ever done for me. However, halfway through, it was apparently time to canter but I quickly got my half halts and transitioned him back to a trot with ease. Smiling all the while, as he’d not been a good little, keep my hooves in line pony today, I’d kept him under good control anyway and had a fabulous ride on him. If it had ended there, it would have been my best ride on Harry to date. But we had the back lane to go on yet.

As we turned the corner, my RI took my crop away as she said I wouldn’t need it, he’s full of energy. I said OK, but didn’t really know what would happen. This was a new experience with Harry being so full of life so who knew what would happen?

The girl in front went and Mr Harry was eager to follow so off we went and into an amazing canter. He was fabulous and probably could have gone on and on but I knew I’d have to trot him soon as there’s a road so had to transition down to a trot and I only just realised this but my sitting trot was really good on Harry after that fabulous canter. I was so pleased. I’d got him going and in a perfectly, balanced, forward canter. Loved it!

He walked very forwardly to the yard and jumped off, took him back to his stable and untacked him. What a good boy he was! That was a Harry no one sees often but I was delighted to experience it.

My RI said I did brilliantly on him today and have the Harry knack. I’d be delighted to go on him again. Not sure if the presence of a crop helped but I don’t care, that horse was a legend today, just wish it hadn’t been over so soon.

Holding a crop takes a lot of getting used to but glad I’ve finally had one in my hand in the saddle.

So looking forward to next week.

Thanks for reading,


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I learnt to ride on a Harry πŸ™‚ AKA Cavalier. He was the slowest thing on four legs and nobody else wanted to ride him. When I was 7 I was a bit of a wimp so I used to ask to ride Cav so I knew I’d be safe. Anyway once I’d got the knack it was plain sailing. I had a great – and safe – time with him. What’s more it’s far easier for us ‘hot-seated’ girls to ride the speedies too. If you can get a equine snail to get a shift on you can easily sit quietly on a speed merchant. Not so easy if you’re the other way round though. So enjoy your time with Harry because once you’ve mastered him everything else will be simple. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Lorraine. felt good to have him feel like an energy house as oposed to the proverbial snail. Was super fun. hope I can have another ride on him soon. So glad they’ve always insisting on me riding different horses, all skills come together in time. πŸ™‚

  2. How fun! The Harry on our yard is called Bailey: he is the safe, lazy plod who wouldn’t hurt a fly… Yet I’ve got him so excited he’s bucked and danced his way around the school, and have picked up rosettes with him in jump-offs. It is such a lot of fun to have an electric bum and energise a plod, isn’t it?!

    I can’t believe you’ve not had a crop up until now, especially with not always achieving canters when on canter stretches! I think the best advice is do not be afraid of it: use it firmly and consistently, and it is both your and the horse’s friend. (Too many people I know tap with it, making it a less firm aid than their legs and writing the horse’s pass to being a lazy bum. One firm slap with a crop’s kinder than 20 pony club kicks by a country mile too)! My rule’s ask twice with the leg then use the crop: by always giving the horse a clear chance to avoid it, you get them off your leg and are fair.

    In my experience, generally RS horses are more bored by the school and less forward because of it (sharp types excepted): learning to carry and use a crop before your lesson is a good thing. I also find with some horses, just carrying a crop makes them more forward: they know how it’s used so offer the extra energy at the first request with your legs. (This also feels completely different to a nervous or panicked horse: it’s not a ‘move it or you’ll get thrashed’ fear response. I’ve ridden welfare cases and the two feelings are worlds apart).

    Anyhow, I’m waffling! Am delighted to hear what fun you and Harry had, and that you broke him out of his plod mould! It’s a mark of a good rider, getting the best out of the laziest of horses. Can’t wait to see what you can do when given the opportunity to school & refine πŸ™‚

  3. Ah, yes, this all sounds so familiar! Our Maggie is one of those horses! She is extremely clever and tries her luck on anyone who gets on her. It’s up to the rider to make her want to work, but when she does she’s gorgeous. Our first lessons were the marathon type you described, but now she’ll shoot off at the smallest squeeze (in trot mind you – canter we’re still working on!!). Re using a whip, I’ll always remember reading one of Lorraine’s posts, where she asked “what would you prefer? A good tap on the bum or endless kicking in the ribs?” (or words to that effect). I know which I’d choose! Actually I find a dressage whip easier to handle than a crop. Great post as always!

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