Photo by Kimberly Loushin/Chronicle of the Horse.

Elvis is 7. He’s had an accomplished career in the young horse divisions, including being long listed for the World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses. He understands collection beautifully; he takes a half-halt; he is respectful of the leg and is steady in the connection.

And he’s also been in my care for six weeks, a lot of which I’ve spent traveling, so I’m still absolutely at the beginning of our journey together, and it’s not fair for me to make any sweeping statements, but he’s got basically two options in the trot: wide open or wide open-er. When I try to make any changes to his outline, he loses rhythm. When I try to activate the hind legs in isolation, he jacks his knees up higher. I feel like I can do the Prix St. Georges, but I can’t just trot around in a quiet and boring fashion.

Puck is also 7. To say that he’s been complicated to get to this point would be an understatement, but now, with the exception of the occasional burst of youthful exuberance/juvenile delinquency, he’s fairly rideable. I can pick him up in the bridle or let him down, and the trot stays the same. I can make his canter quicker or floatier. I can ride him short or long in the neck, compressed or stretching in the back, strong or light. Of course I can’t really do anything—I’m thinking he’ll show third level if he shows this winter in Florida, but it’ll be a stretch of his abilities to put movements together—because I’ve focused more on the basic rideability (and also, admittedly, not dying) than on the upper-level work.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!