The first week with a new horse is always one filled with a mix of excitement and anxiety. The horse world doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to buying & selling so you can’t always bank on bringing home the same horse that you tried. With that being said, you can tell a lot by your first few days with a horse and it all starts with the arrival home…
After picking Cosmo up we had a good 40 minute drive home. Half of that he spent pawing the floor of the trailer and making a general nuisance of himself while I spent that time calling him a git! Thankfully he eventually settled and we had a quiet uneventful drive home.
We arrived home and I hopped in the jockey door to see a less than relaxed horse. He was a bit on edge, obviously not used to the trailer experience and also wondering where the hell he was (poor divil). It took a bit of time to get him off the trailer as he was so confused about how he was supposed to do it. It was amusing enough but my main concern was making sure he didn’t try turn in the trailer as that would have ended in total disaster. Eventually he clambered his way off the trailer to see his new home!
I walked him around to give him a good look at where he was. Getting his travel boots off was another interesting experience as he was totally freaked out by the sound of the velcro. It was around this time that I started having the “Oh shit…why did I buy another 4 year old?” thoughts! He was so jumpy but once we got the first boot off he seemed to realise the end result was worth it so he began to relax and we managed to get the rest of them off. Aside from those two instances, he was remarkably calm about taking in his new surroundings. With that I brought him to his stable and settled him in for the night with some grub.
Day 1 – Getting to Know Each Other
My first day with Cosmo was all about us getting to know each other and showing him a bit more of the yard. So first thing was a quick groom to familiarise ourselves before clipping on the lunge line and heading out for a walk. We headed up the yard towards the main arena, taking our time and stopping to have a look at anything he found interesting. When we got to the main arena I spent my time in there walking him around the track and into the corners so he could have a good look.
Our arena would definitely be spookier than most so I was expecting at least a bit of a reaction when we got in but amazingly, all he cared about were the horses in the field beside us and once he got over them he didn’t look twice at anything, not even a flinch. I couldn’t believe it..he was just so chilled.
Next we moved into the sand arena where I took the lunge line off to let him roam. He spent most of his time following me around until he eventually decided to wander off and say hi to the horse in the field beside us. He had a bit of a trot around before coming back over to me where he pretty much stuck himself to me from then on. By this point I knew I was screwed because he had just totally stolen my heart.
Day 2 – First Ride at Home
I had originally planned on just doing a short lunge session with Cosmo on our second day together but Sue (friend + coach + horse-finder extraordinaire) was around to come down to the yard that evening so I said feck it – Ill hop up and see how we get on. I wanted to have someone there on the ground with me the first time I tried riding him at home just incase something were to happen (back to riding a young horse means all the extra precautions need to be taken) so I figured I should take advantage of the opportunity.
So we grabbed all of Coco’s tack, hopeful that her saddle would fit Cosmo and skeptical if her bridle would fit – amazingly, everything fit!! Her saddle, girth, bridle and martingale, I was shocked! Her bridle isn’t as good a fit as I would like and the girth is tough enough to close but they will definitely do the job until I can afford to buy new ones.
With the lunge line hooked up I gave Mo a quick lunge on each rein (his trot is so frickin cute, I can’t even cope) before heading up to the main arena and giving him a quick lunge in each corner to test the spookiness before I hopped up. I genuinely had nothing to be worried about though as just like day 1, he didn’t bat an eyelid at anything. He just seemed more excited about the fact that we were in a big arena with so much open space compared to the small lunge ring.
With that I hopped up – I don’t know what exactly I was expecting but it definitely wasn’t a totally chilled horse which turned out to be exactly what I had. From my first ride I knew he was very responsive to the leg so I made a point of applying very light squeezes to get him moving forward but aside from that he was a total saint. For the first day of ridden work we kept it easy with a good bit of walk before some trot and canter and then we called it a day.
Day 3 – First Ride with No Ground Back-Up
This may sound silly to some people but when you go from riding the same horse for 3 years, who you know like the back of your hand, to a new youngster who you’ve only ridden twice before – that first solo ride can be a bit daunting. Horses and especially young horses can be unpredictable so it’s important to have your wits about you and be prepared for anything. Thankfully I needn’t have worried though as Cosmo was just as well behaved as he was the other times I rode him.
Again, I gave him a quick little lunge before getting on. For this ride I focused a little bit more on transitions from walk to halt to walk and also some circle work in the trot. With a big youngster like Mo, all of this basic schooling is going to be so important in building the foundation for his flatwork. He’s still incredibly weak in the canter so I don’t want to challenge him in this gait just yet.
Day 4 – Introducing Polework
After seeing how well Cosmo handled the first few days of ridden work, I wanted to make sure to keep his work interesting so I decided to introduce him to some polework (after a quick little lunge first).
I set out a simple variety of poles – a single pole on the longside, a single pole on the centre line and three trot poles. I started by just walking him over these to get him familiar with the concept of lifting his legs. After some nice work in trot I started him over the single poles first, using the pole on the centre line to change rein and then we tried the trot poles. For his first attempt he did incredibly well, I just need to get used to his rhythm and way of going so I don’t push or hold him too much over the poles.
I finished him then with a quick canter on each rein which is improving more and more with every ride.
Day 5 – Day Off for Cosmo, Physio for Me
Mo had a well deserved day off while I went to the physio for my foot & ankle where I was told there is huge improvement but still quite a bit of stiffness so I need to keep up my exercises to ensure I don’t have problems down the line – other then that, I’m all clear and no more physio visits are needed..YAY, it only took 11 weeks and 6 days!
Day 6 – Darielle’s Turn
Day 6 was a Friday evening after work and I definitely wasn’t in the mood for any hard work so I kept it light and easy, just doing a walk, trot and canter before finally giving Darielle her first spin on Cosmo! Up to this point I hadn’t actually seen someone else ride him so I was dying for Darielle to give him a go. By now, I had a good feeling Cosmo would behave himself and he didn’t disappoint. He was an absolute gent and rode no differently to how he would go for me so I was delighted to see that he’s consistent no matter who’s riding him. I think once Darielle got over the shock of riding a 4 year old again, she enjoyed herself too!
Day 7 – First Ride in the Field
Something so important when training young horses is to remember to give them their fun days. The last thing anyone wants is a horse to go sour and not enjoy their work so being able to ride in a field is almost a requirement. With Cosmo being young, I expected our first venture to the field to be an exciting one with at least one outburst of excitement…and yet there was absolutely nothing. He was forward and felt happy to be out but there wasn’t a single point where I felt I didn’t have control. I swear, this horse must not know he’s a 4 year old – HE’S SO FRICKIN CHILL and I love it!!
Check out a lil video I made with a few clips from the first week!
And there you have my first 7 days with Cosmo. I’m still kind of in shock that he’s so level headed but I have to say it’s such a welcome change to the sharpness of Coco. Seeing as I don’t seem to have to worry about any baby antics (for the time being anyway) I feel like we can get stuck right into getting some solid flatwork in place and get to building up those muscles.
I’m so looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together and regardless, I think we’re going to have so much fun doing it!
Thanks for reading,
Orla & Cosmo