Muddy the Quarter Horse

I gave a clinic in Kalispell, Montana last weekend. I’ve been going there for years, and it’s always nice to see everyone again. One highlight this time was a quarter horse named “Muddy”, who belongs to my friend Laurie Baldwin.

Muddy is a handsome fellow who has suffered from metabolic issues and resulting muscle stiffness. He moves nicely, despite a rather high croup, low shoulders and neck, and rather straight hind legs, making dressage work a bit more challenging for him than more “uphill” types.  Each time I see Muddy, he has improved in suppleness and balance.  Laurie and her excellent trainer, Linda Snyder, have been diligent in their attention to engagement, throughness and straightness, helping Muddy find balance in his work.

This last time, however, Muddy was even better.  He was more expressive in his gaits.  He had a lovely, cadenced trot showing “uphill” balance, and his canter was nicely collected and no longer appeared to be doing the “breast-stroke” with his front legs.  He was schooling flying changes, passage, and working canter pirouettes.  I asked Linda what she and Laurie had been doing with Muddy to bring about these changes.  The horse had become stronger from daily basic work including countless transitions, and she had taught him passage from the ground with Laurie in the saddle, which she had already shown me during the previous clinic. This taught him how to lift his forehand. Laurie would ask for collected trot, and Linda would assist from the ground with an in-hand whip, tapping him lightly at different places, until he responded by offering a few very cadenced steps. He immediately received a treat, then they would repeat it. He soon learned and enjoyed doing these steps.  Soon Linda could ask for them from the saddle, without assistance, and used them to improve his basic collected trot by riding many transitions within the trot.

Laurie also routinely warms Muddy up in long-lines, where she supples him first, and then asks for various movements without the rider’s weight in the saddle. This has made a big difference.  Muddy, who tends to stress and stiffen a bit when things get challenging for him, performs shoulder-in, leg-yield, travers, etc, on the long lines with more looseness through his body and expression in his gaits. Then Linda gets on and continues the session under saddle, asking gradually for more collection but trying to maintain the looseness. The result is lovely!

Linda and Muddy scored 67% at third level in their last show, and that was with some “pilot error”, according to a smiling Linda.  I do not profess to be an expert on long-lining, quite the contrary, but always find it interesting when riders work through challenging phases in their horse’s training by being open-minded and creative.  Muddy is a great example of how good training can improve a horse and bring out his best. Nice job, Linda, Laurie, and of course, Muddy!

S.H.

One Response to “Muddy the Quarter Horse

  • It looks like Muddy found the perfect home with creative people to work with him.

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