It’s no secret that I love the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. The past two years I’ve tagged along with TrainerA (who coaches the University of Washington’s western IHSA team) to warm up horses for our local IHSA show in February—I even jumped my first 2’6″ fences during an IHSA warmup round!
Never heard of IHSA before? Here’s what makes IHSA shows unique: the riders compete on horses they’ve never ridden before! They don’t get any time to practice on the horses they draw, they just get to watch the horses being ridden by their owners during warmup. They usually have a few minutes to ask the owner some questions, then they go directly into their classes. They even jump and do reining patterns!
This year LJO is taking over as coach for the University of Washington’s English IHSA team, and this weekend was TRYOUT WEEKEND. We had a great core group of lesson ponies for the UW riders to jump around on, but guess who else got to participate with a couple of the advanced riders?
The greatest test of an amateur horse’s training is their ability to adapt to new riders. It’s really important to me that Raglan has the tolerance required to be ridden by different riders. Not only that, but watching a stranger ride him is a great way to discover holes in his training that need to be addressed. I love finding opportunities to put other people on him while they ride under the careful guidance of a trainer that I trust!
People often ask me whether or not I think Raglan is a particularly difficult horse to ride. It’s a hard question to answer. Raglan is large, strong, and high energy, but he’s also got a good personality. Whether or not he’s an easy horse to ride fluctuates depending on how he’s feeling that particular day.
On Saturday, for example, he was a very pleasant pony. He cantered around happily with his (very tall) IHSA rider on board, hopping over the bitty fences and jumping cleanly around the little course LJO had built for them. His ears were perked up and he thought everything was super easy, but fun.
Sunday was a different day entirely. If he had a half halt in him, it hadn’t showed up to work that day. He chomped angrily at the bit, did some wildly extravagant lead changes, and turned a vertical-to-oxer line into an impromtu bend when he pulled hard right mid-ride. He was so fierce.
Both of his riders did an excellent job handling him. The difference between Raglan on Saturday and Raglan on Sunday wasn’t because of rider error, it’s just him. He’s never a “kick ride”—he’s 95% GO TIME—but some days he uses all of that energy for good and some days he’s an over-sensitive monster. It takes a good amount of instinct and feel to manage his mental state. It’s hard to find the middle ground between setting boundaries and having the soft touch that he needs to keep his brain screwed in.
I would be lying if I said that I’m not looking forward to watching him (hopefully) mellow with age. At the same time, though, I’m so happy with him that I don’t mind dealing with some occasional fire and brimstone. It’s part of the territory of owning a young, athletic Thoroughbred.
Despite Raglan’s semi-murderous behavior, all of the IHSA riders made it through tryouts and LJO was able to group them up by skill level so that they can start taking lessons together. I’m excited to have the UW students back at the barn and I can’t wait to see how they do this season! Raglan might even get to participate in this year’s IHSA show—attitude dependent, of course. 😂