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Lessons From Lesson Horses-Chapter 9

Updated on November 4, 2018
Ellison Hartley profile image

Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.

Lesson #1-Horses Can Succeed Living A "Backward Life"

Dublin has lived a "backward life" as I like to call it. Meaning, as a young horse, he did not work hard at all, actually spent most of his time standing around. It wasn't until years later when his owner died and he came to live with me, that he had to have a "real job".

Dublin is even now at over 20, a beautiful liver chestnut Morgan horse. My mom's friend, Gail, his original owner first saw Dublin at a horse auction. The owner didn't sell him that night because she didn't get the price she wanted, so she brought him back home with her.

Even though Gail, was looking for a well trained, beginner type horse. Dublin caught her eye. There was just something about him that she loved from the very beginning. She had to have him, even though he definitely was not the best match for her at the time. It turned out he never was the best match for her, but she did learn to ride him and loved him nonetheless.

Gail spoke with Dublin's owner after she didn't sell him that night at the auction. She ended up going to her farm and purchasing him privately a few days later. He was 2 years old and very, very, and I mean, very, green broke.

Gail was used to riding a quiet push-button horse named General Lee. Dublin was far from that when she bought him. He was hyper and bug-eyed. He always looked like he was about to jump out of his skin.

Gail was intimidated by him under saddle, rightfully so, she had never ridden a horse so green. She sent him to many trainers over the years and with age, he did become a nice obedient horse. Dublin was and still is sensitive and quick moving, even when he is behaving himself. When Gail "rode" him, she mostly just sat on him in the center of the ring and watched other people ride.

I was 11 when I first met Dublin and Gail when I boarded my very first horse at her farm. I was young and stupid at the time. Not afraid of anything, and would gladly ride any horse. I rode Dublin all the time. Gail liked seeing other people ride him more than she liked being on him herself. That being said Dublin lived the majority of his life doing nothing. When he came to live with me, I gave him a tune up and started using him in my lesson program. This was the first time Dublin had to work regularly in his life. He liked having a job and he fit right into the program. Dublin basically lived a backward life, spending his young years in retirement and then started working as a senior citizen. Sounds weird I know! It worked out fine for Dublin though, he thrives in regular work. Lesson #1 horses can live a backward life!

Dejavu' Dublin, dressed up in his St.Patty's day best!
Dejavu' Dublin, dressed up in his St.Patty's day best! | Source

Lesson #2-Don't Show Off/Jump In A Western Saddle

As I said before, Dublin was quite a handful when he was younger. He was known to buck and spook, and everything he did, he did fast! I didn't care, I was young and at the time fearless.

I honestly don't remember who it was that challenged me to jump Dublin over some barrels that day. Someone did and I, of course, rose to the challenge. Dublin was still very green, I was in a western saddle and he had never jumped before.

For some reason, none of that crossed my mind and I trotted him right up to the barrels. He paused, almost as if he was going to slam on the breaks or run out. Nope! He used that pause moment to gather himself and jump straight up and straight down over the barrels. I would compare it to how a deer jumps. It all happened before I could even think twice. The saddle horn got me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me. I ended up on the ground. Ended up with a broken wrist, a partially detached retina, and a bruised stomach, not to mention bruised ego. Looking back on it, I'm proud that he jumped when I told him to. I had to learn the hard way, jumping in a western saddle is not a good idea. Neither is showing off when you are on a green horse.

The only positive that came out of that in my eyes is that at the time I got to postpone taking my SAT's since my right wrist was in plaster and I'm right-handed

Dublin doing his thing, working as a lesson horse.
Dublin doing his thing, working as a lesson horse. | Source

Lesson #3- Less Bit Is Better

Lesson #3 I learned from watching someone else, not by doing it myself. In her attempt to get Dublin a bit more reliable, Gail had hired a trainer to come to ride him a few times a week. I was super young at the time and didn't know right from wrong with horses and I watched her ride Dublin quite a few times.

Her solution to his quick pace and containing his nervous energy was to keep putting more and more bit in his mouth. He learned to evade every single one of them. It just made him tenser and more anxious. By the time Gail realized this trainer was not doing Dublin justice, she had pretty much ruined his mouth and made him totally untrustworthy of a rider's hands. She ended up having to hire another trainer to correct the problem, but to this day, twenty some years later, Dublin still has a sensitive mouth.

Dublin and I in pink in memory of Gail.
Dublin and I in pink in memory of Gail. | Source

Lesson #4-Don't Showsheen Your Horses Back

After one of his stints with a different trainer, Gail decided that she wanted to take Dublin to a horse show. We stabled him at the show grounds that weekend. The night before we groomed him and bathed him. He has a very thick mane and tail and we used Showsheen detangler, to smooth it out. It also hence the name Showsheen makes your horses coat super shiny.

Only thing is, it also makes it slippery! Later that evening Gail decided to lunge Dublin in the round pen. I sat on the grass and watched. He lunged perfectly fine and then she asked me if I wanted to get on him. He just had a halter on, no bride or saddle. Gail took the lead line she had brought him to the round pen with and tied it to the side of his halter, like reins. Well, she thought it would be like reins, I was dumb enough to not question it.

I walked and trotted him bareback, he was his usual self, quick and nervous, but I was used to him and it didn't bother me. Stupid me, decided to ask him for a canter, knowing full well that he always bucks when he first canters. With his back so slippery from the spray I had sprayed him with. I didn't have a chance of staying on. He sent me flying!

Of course, there were a ton of people watching and I totally embarrassed myself. I still think about that and I'm pretty certain that even with a lead line for reins if it wasn't for his back being so slippery I would have stayed on! Be careful when you spray those types of things not to get them on your horse's saddle area!

Dublin working in a lesson on a  steamy hot summer morning.
Dublin working in a lesson on a steamy hot summer morning. | Source

Lesson #5-You Can Teach An Old Horse New Tricks!

Dublin was almost 20 when he came to my house and became a lesson horse. As I said, he didn't do much in his early years. When he did, it was just a short trail ride, or ride in a ring. He had never jumped before.

When I brought him home we began riding him and taught him how to jump. Just low jumps because he was older of course. He picked it up right away and seemed to really enjoyed doing something different. He definitely enjoys all the attention and treats he gets being part of our lesson program.

It is never too late to learn something new!

Dublin competing in one of our on farm shows.
Dublin competing in one of our on farm shows. | Source

Lesson #6-Don't Assume The Hair Will Grow Back

When Gail died, her husband, knowing how important Dublin was to her, wanted to bury her with some of his tail hair. Nobody thought anything of it when he cut a chunk out of Dublin's tail. It's just hair, it will grow back right ?! Not always!

To this day, years later, probably 6 or 7 years, that section of Dublin's tail has never grown back. His tail is really bushy and thick at the top on one side and then the other side you can see right where it was cut.

I can't explain this. Dublin has had his mane pulled and it has grown back. I have seen a lot of horses get their tail's trimmed or cut, and have never seen one that didn't grow back beside Dublin's!

Gail would be appalled, she was always proud of Dublin's thick, pretty tail.

This is Dublin's tail from the good side!
This is Dublin's tail from the good side! | Source

Lesson #7-Appreciate All The Opportunities Your Life With Horses Brings You

I was lucky that Gail let me ride Dublin. She took me to clinics with her. She loved all the natural horsemanship trainers and always signed Dublin up for their clinic's and let me ride him.

I went so many places and learned so many lessons because I was allowed to ride Dublin and meet so many different trainers with so many different methods. I'm very lucky that because of Gail and Dublin I got to go so many different places and ride under so many different trainers. Which leads me to lesson #8.

Winter Dublin! He has a huge thick coat that has never required blanketing to keep warm. He seems to enjoy the cold and snow.
Winter Dublin! He has a huge thick coat that has never required blanketing to keep warm. He seems to enjoy the cold and snow. | Source

Lesson #8-There Is More Than One Way To Ride/Train A Horse

The biggest lesson of all that I learned from Dublin and all the trainers who instructed me with him, was that there is more than one way to do things with horses.

I know horse people are opinionated and there are people who think that their way is the only way. I don't believe that to be the case. I have taken things from every trainer and instructor I have had over the years. I have tweaked them and made them my own. I have found out what works best for me, and it is a combination of many different schools of thought. From the natural horsemanship trainers to eventing and dressage. There is so much to learn, so soak it all up and never stop learning.

If you are close minded about riding and training and aren't open to all the method there are out there you are really missing out. You might not want to ride western or do dressage, but watching and hearing other trainers methods and philosophies you will most definitely find bits and pieces you can find to improve your self and build your skills.

You can tell by this picture how much Dublin has relaxed in his old age!
You can tell by this picture how much Dublin has relaxed in his old age! | Source

Wrapping It Up

Dublin is still part of my lesson program and I continue to learn from him when I watch my students ride him. He has definitely influenced my riding, training, and teaching. I'm lucky to have him.

Dublin looking concerned!
Dublin looking concerned! | Source
You can teach an old horse new tricks!
You can teach an old horse new tricks! | Source
Dublin with a proud rider at one of our farm shows!
Dublin with a proud rider at one of our farm shows! | Source
Dublin out for a nice relaxing canter with one of his favorite riders.
Dublin out for a nice relaxing canter with one of his favorite riders. | Source

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