Equine Comeback Challenge: Team Ruby

How has training been progressing with Ruby?

Ruby’s training has been a little more consistent lately. We can get right to work because she’s focused and ready to go. She accepts new things easier and more willingly goes about the day.

How has the training process been similar and/or different with Ruby for the Equine Comeback Challenge than with other rescue horses you’ve worked with in the past?

Credit: Photo courtesy of Erin Zellefrow Ruby helps pony a friend’s horse off the trail.

Training with Ruby is similar to most rescue horses that come in, in the discovery process of finding out what they know and what they don’t know. Each horse has their own personality and learns at a different pace because they have their own set of fears, set-backs and strengths. However, they all learn with the same concept; the release of pressure. Being consistent and adding pressure as needed, with a release from the slightest try builds a foundation for the horse. Once the concept is set, more pressure can be added, with the release as the reward. No matter what you are asking of the horse, this is how they learn. So, Ruby is not different in the way she learns, just the rate she learns, as they all are.

Describe a break-through moment you’ve had in your training so far.

The biggest break-through we have had thus far is patience. Ruby was not a patient or respectful gal. We have struggled and spent hours together, moving her feet when and where I wanted her to, and making her stand still when it was my idea. Standing was hard for Ruby. So when she decided to dance or run me over, or spin in circles we would work, but on my terms; making the reward her rest. She has a busy mind, but is very sharp. She wants to please her rider, which is so nice because she learns quickly. Her try is backed with a lot of heart.

What challenges are unique to preparing a horse for an event in a limited period of time (i.e. 90 days)?

Preparing for an event in a set period of time is tough no matter what the event or level of discipline. That’s why so many futurity event competitors start with a handful of horses. Some horses can take the pressure, some can’t. It doesn’t mean they won’t make a great horse, just not in that time frame. Whether it is mental, physical, or emotional, there are circumstances. The important aspect for me is to do what’s best for the horse. If the horse is ready for the next step or to be pushed, then we do that. If that horse isn’t ready, and steps are skipped, it’s not fair to the horse in the end. Holes in training will always show up later. A solid foundation full of knowledge, exposure, experience, and confidence prepares a horse to have the future they deserve. If you listen, a horse will tell you when they’re ready for new challenges. It is often easier to teach a young horse, rather than an older horse that hasn’t been handled or ever asked to do anything as they are set in their ways of “being a horse.” This is often the case with rescue horses.

Describe a typical training session.

A typical training session for Ruby and I starts on the ground. Ground tie, groom, saddle, and bridle. We spend a lot of time with the bit. Ruby works well in a snaffle, but hated getting bridled. She is getting much better now through patience and consistency. We start with a little bit of groundwork, flexing, and then work in the saddle. We start with where we finished the day before and go from there. If what we worked on the day before goes well then we move on. If there is hesitation, or confusion, we work on that particular thing for the day. And the next day, same approach. I often introduce or expose Ruby to new things, like swimming, or horse shows, camping, obstacle, etc. I want her to be well rounded and confident in herself and trust her rider/handler. I really enjoy my time with Ruby and I feel very blessed to have her in my life.

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