Overcoming fear of galloping

So, you’d think that as a foxhunter that rides an OTTB, I’d be a galloping pro. Not so. Ironically, given my choice of riding discipline, I’ve never particularly liked to go fast.

Okay, the people who ride with me will tell you I don’t like to go slowly either. But I do like to feel in control.

Kroni was a horse that never missed the opportunity to slow down. Yes, if I whispered to him “go” during a hunt, he’d keep up with the field, but if I sat up and gave the smallest inclination of wanting to stop, he was always willing. He also had the tendency, especially in his later years (when he started to get arthritic) to get slightly on his forehand. That left him predisposed to trip. Another reason to stay in control.

Then I got Freedom. Freedom is like driving a sports car. When you put your foot down you’re going fast right away and he’s not all that interested in stopping. The first year I had him, I’m not sure he walked under saddle for more than five minutes total. He basically had two gaits: jig and canter.

His endurance is phenomenal. When I first got him I took him out to a big field with the intention of tiring him out. I thought that if I let him gallop around a few times, he’s get tired and I’d get to choose when he stopped. After we’d gone around the field 10 times (and it’s a large field), I was exhausted and he was breathing like a dragon ready to keep going.

I spent two years teaching him that it was okay not be first (a difficult concept for him to grasp) and it’s okay to be slow.

Then I took him hunting. He was fine when we hilltopped but when I decided to move him up to first flight I realized that I had to come to terms with galloping him.

So this summer I started the galloping project. I took him out to the previously mentioned field and started letting him move out. We started with just a few strides and worked up to longer distances. We practiced surging forward and then collecting. I worked with him so that I felt comfortable going faster and knew that I could stop him. And I used more bit. Every day when I went out I galloped a little. Mostly I went on my own so that I could get into the rhythm of galloping without the distraction of another horse and I knew I could stop whenever I felt it got to be “too much.”

The first few hunts this fall were great. I decided to put him to the test. There’s one territory that we hunt that it full of big open fields. It’s notorious for causing problems — when the field gets going, some horses, well really get going. The first time I hunted there the field master fell off five minutes into the hunt. I had never taken Freedom there because I wasn’t sure that he could handle that much open space at a gallop.

Saturday was beautiful but cold and windy. When we arrived at the hunt, I was a tad concerned that the weather combined with the terrain, would prove problematic. I was apprehensive during the first cast, but for naught. Freedom was perfect. We galloped . . . and he came right back when I asked! All of a sudden, galloping was fun. And it’s kind of cool to have a horse that will go so fast!

One thought on “Overcoming fear of galloping

  1. This post is serendipitous for me, given my rocket ride today. I’m going to link back.
    I like the start small and build idea. It’s what my dressage trainer goes with. “Great! A few perfect steps of shoulder in. If you can do three, you can do four later.” Positive feedback and solid foundation in increments I can handle.
    Thanks Liz!

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