There is so much to post to catch up on that I can’t figure out a good flow!!
Cello and I have been at Salt Creek Ranch, sans trainers and instructors, for 2 years now. I wanted to share some things that I’ve learned in that time. I don’t know if I ever blogged about this, I think I did, but I used to teach basic English riding lessons (years and years and years ago.) I was a working student with really respected dressage trainers and rode everything from first rides to breeding stallions. I managed stables at a young age and was dead set that this was a career path. I was young…. so therefore, I was stupid!! (Okay, might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I didn’t know then what I know now.) I then preceded to take something like 7 years “off” from horses. Let’s bullet point some obvious things I’ve been thinking about lately.
- Starting horses who have been raised in a barn, trailered and shown multiple times before they were weaned and all-around desensitized does not prepare someone to start a horse who has a “wilder” background
- There is a difference between being a rider and riding instructor and being a trainer
- Being an assistant trainer or working student under knowledgeable guidance does not make YOU a trainer
- Riding a trained 3rd level, 4th level, grand prix schoolmaster (or whatever) does not mean you know how to train a horse to that level.
Some of that sounds obvious, right? Well, it’s not, to a lot of people. I’ve spent a lot of time lately around people new to horse sports and it is really hard to explain these differences. It’s hard when my friends, who know my past on paper, don’t understand the challenges I’ve faced with Cello. I’ve had to learn to develop a thick skin and be okay with where we are at. I’ve had to learn that anxiety needs to be overcome to continue learning and growing.
Anyways, off my soap box.
Cello is currently down at Dan Harris’s property in White Water for training. I’ll post a video of Dan (and about Salt Creek) sometime this week. He has an awesome reputation and the owners of Salt Creek rave about him.
I mentioned trainer roulette in a previous post and wanted to talk about that some. It’s pretty essential for a horse to have consistency, which is something Cello and I are struggling to achieve. My cues and handling are consistent, but I do need guidance (again, riding does not equal training, and training is not something learned by starting a few horses or schooling trained ones!) I just haven’t really found a training situation I completely gel with yet- aside from Justin Dunn.
If you go back a few posts, you can read all about how AMAZING Justin is. I really can’t say enough good about him and his horse handling, and other people apparently have the same problem! Since the 2012 Extreme Mustang Makeover (where I adopted Cello) his career and business has grown. He is so in demand, traveling, putting on clinics, picking up huge sponsors (like Weaver) that getting into training with him isn’t very feasible. I really would have liked to continue with him, but he was so busy he literally wasn’t taking on horses for 2015 (aside from a few he had left over from 2014.) He’s awesome to talk to on the phone and has provided continued support, and it’s great to talk when I’m super stuck on something, but I want to find a situation where I can keep learning.
We went to Jessica Dabkowski after Justin (she was booked before Justin and has a bit of an English background.) Justin approved of using her, they approach the fundamentals in similar ways. I hoped that could be our baseline of consistency. Cello came a long way with Jessica and she really helped me develop my round pen work, but Fort Collins is difficult to commute to in the winter and I felt like Jessica’s heart was really in her own mustang projects, not other peoples. Her mustang makeover record alone is a huge accomplishment and speaks to her passion for mustangs, but I felt like it was time for us to continue looking. Plus, sometimes I would drive the 2.5 hours out there and she wouldn’t have time for a lesson (schedules were busy and it’s hard to estimate a commute that took me over multiple mountain passes, so it was hard to plan around, but still was frustrating a few times.)
So for two years, we kept building on what I had learned with Jessica and Justin. We made progress, completely on our own, in many ways- with dropping his head, framing up a tad when asked, cantering around barrels, going over poles. Basics, but basics that I was able to work on without hitting road blocks.
Then the spooking came. He’s only thrown me off 3 times ever, which isn’t bad over years of ownership, but it was an escalating problem. Salt Creek is remote and not that many people are around, so I called up Dan Harris. Cello is currently going on his third week there, so I will post a synopsis when the month is over. He has made a lot of progress in some areas, but we will see how it all wraps up. I want to be able to assess the situation as a whole before posting. I do have to say what an awesome team is out there- Dan’s dad is great with the horses, and Daniel married an eventing trainer, so the pool of knowledge available covers a wide range of disciplines.
Here are some pics of Cello at Dan’s! The puppy is our newest family addition, Shashi. It’s a boys name, yes, and it means ‘moon.’ The photos of him and Cello are from their first introduction. Cello was super interested and cute about it, but I didn’t have the chance to capture an image of perky ears and nose touching. More on puppy later!