Do you ever wonder if a beginner rider riding your horse will confuse him?

Popcorn is on the drill team this summer.

Popcorn is on the drill team this summer.

“Stacy… since Popcorn is trained SO well… do you ever wonder if a beginner rider riding him … does/will it confuse him??”-Lesia L.

Years ago I was riding Popcorn at home and I was feeling slightly frustrated. I didn’t exactly have the words to explain what I was experiencing but thankfully my husband, who knows me well, was riding with me. I explained that I was feeling frustrated but couldn’t express exactly why. He asked what I was trying to work on. I replied I wasn’t sure what I should work on. He suggested that maybe I needed to accept Popcorn for who he was and that, in a way, his training was done. As soon as he said it I knew it was right. Although I was not frustrated by Popcorn himself, I was a bit at a loss because I knew that he had reached his maximum level in many areas. He was never going to slide like Roxy or spin like Vaquero even if I trained him for several more years. I felt free to enjoy Popcorn for who he was, including the fact that he wasn’t going to learn much more.

Although I say Popcorn wasn’t going to learn much more he had already learned, and earned, a lot. He was the horse that I won The Road to the Horse with. He is the only Road to the Horse horse to earn his AQHA Register of Merit in Performance (Reining). Plus, he was made into a Breyer horse. He has traveled thousands of miles in the US and Canada with me.

After the conversation with Jesse I focused on ways that I could use the training Popcorn had. We then went on to move up through the levels of mounted shooting from Level 1 to Level 4 (there are 6 levels). We also trail rode every chance we got.

Popcorns exam

Popcorn at his vet appointment

In the last two years of riding Popcorn I became suspicious that his age was starting to show a little. Popcorn has always been a very gritty, fast horse that loved to run hard. Early on I would have to bring him in from the pasture because he would run and play so hard that he would make himself sore. Around the age of 10 this subtly started to change. Even vets couldn’t see what I could feel so I just followed my gut and adjusted his use accordingly.

Last year I had Popcorn looked at again. Again his symptoms were very infrequent which makes diagnosing tough on the vets. After an hour long exam and several x-rays the vet detected subtle navicular changes. This fit with the occasional misstep that I was feeling. The vets said I could continue using him because the changes were probably going to continue to progress at the same rate no matter what. I appreciated them telling me this but I didn’t totally agree.

I couldn’t bring myself to ride him the same way I had in the past. We did keep riding because exercise is good for him but I slowed things down. We stopped mounted shooting and did trail riding or I would play on him bareback. I started teaching him more tricks. Things were good…but Popcorn had more to offer.

Popcorn is one of the smartest horses I know. He is highly intelligent. He is not always easy because he is also strong willed but he is kind both to other horses and to humans. He had all the right qualities to make an amazing lesson horse. I know that riding well trained horses helped me learn more than what people told me. The first time you feel a correct spin, a series of straight line lead changes, or a well executed roll back, your body and mind remember that feeling and it makes it easier to train the next horse you ride. Popcorn was perfectly prepped to be that horse.

I have had a relationship with Miracle Mountain Ranch for years. Jesse and I have been to marriage retreats there and our boys have gone to summer camp there for years. They are also approved as a Private Licensed School in the state of Pennsylvania with students that live on campus for almost a year at a time…and one of their areas of training is equine. It was a perfect fit.

Will Popcorns training be affected? Some. The bigger question is…does it matter and how much will he change?  It doesn’t matter to me because I will own him forever. How much will he change? My guess is a little but not much. He probably won’t be held to standards that are quite as high as he has had in the past…but I bet he will enjoy it. In fact, I know he is enjoying it. He sends me texts (with a little help) and I have stopped by to see him.

The questions I asked myself were; “Will Popcorn be happy? Does he have something to offer? Will it benefit both parties in the long run?” The answers were yes, yes and yes…which makes it a win-win-win situation.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.

Popcorns pasture and his pasture mates at MMR.

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  1. Mardi Thomas on June 29, 2015 at 12:15 am

    10 years ago I was looking for a horse that would take care of my niece and that I could show at the AQHA shows. I found Penny, Principle Payment. She was an accomplished show horse in Western Pleasure and Amateur All Round. She had been retired and had been a broodmare for 7 years when I went to look at her. She and I just “clicked” but the sale was made when I put my 9 year old niece on her. My niece had been born at 24 weeks and had mild CP. She had been a riding for the handicapped program since she was 2 and I felt she was ready to move on to riding on her own opening up a spot for another person in the program. No matter how nervous my niece got and how confusing her requests were Penny tried to do what she asked. Penny never got mad or frustrated nor did she just ignore my niece and do her own thing. Through the years Penny taught my niece how do ride. She was able to adapt from her “spur” training to understanding the queues my niece gave her. Then she was able to go back to her original training when I rode. She always took care of my niece. As we joined 4-H and we used Penny to help new horseless kids have a horse to show and ride. She was always patient and willing. Some times at open shows there would be 4 kids riding her with tack changes between classes and her doing almost every class on the bill. When my niece wanted to “play” at running barrels or poles I would let her RUN Penny. She had such a solid foundation on her I never worried about her “getting messed up” by doing new and different things or helping new kids do things they hadn’t before. On more than one occasion when kids were trying to do a trail class and I was trying to explain side passing and they weren’t getting it all I would have to do was put a log down and tell the child to step Penny’s front feet over the pole and stop then have them “put thier leg on” and she’d do the rest. Then it would help them figure it out. She has been a real blessing over the past 10 years!

    • Lesia Lowe on June 29, 2015 at 8:35 pm

      great story Mardi! 🙂

  2. Julia on June 28, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    It’s an interesting question and I’ve heard it a lot myself. I definitely relate to how you view things will be with Popcorn. I have my Fjord, Geir who is in training for Dressage but I also use him as a lesson horse for my absolute “no idea what they’re doing up there” beginner students. Maybe if I was going to be doing recognized shows I wouldn’t use him for lessons, but he’s so sweet and patient and kind he’s a perfect guy for beginners. But he’s also got a great work ethic and is really smart and loves a challenge so it’s fun for him to be learning Dressage. For me it seems like it varies from horse to horse, but I haven’t had any problems with Geir bouncing from one role to the other. I definitely don’t have two beginner students ride him in a row – I try to “tune him up” between students by riding and working him myself. And he does get confused with students but he’s honest and safe about it and it provides a learning experience for the students where they realize they aren’t giving clear aids and need to learn how to and practice how to do that.

    • Paulo on June 29, 2015 at 8:14 am


  3. Dee on June 28, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    How lucky those students at the ranch are. And Popcorn has a different job to do. I think it is so wonderful to have the awareness and assuredness to know what is best for your horse. Some certainly are true gems.

  4. Nancy on June 28, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Love this update Stacey and agree with your thoughts.

  5. Pat on June 28, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Your logic never fails to amaze me. You always seem to be able to figure out the correct answer to every question or situation. You are very fortunate to be have this ability.!

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