My experience with young horses has been almost exclusively with two kinds. The first are ones with very good characters who weren’t international quality. As they’ve been owned and ridden by amateurs, that’s been by design. They were bought so that their owners could ride them as they developed up the levels, so the trade-off—less power, better rideability—was absolutely what they needed.

The second kind has been wildly talented, pig-headed doofuses, ranging from the pleasant enough, but tight and bananas, to angry, hostile little turkeys who spent most of their young energy telling me to stuff it. The Midges, Fenders and Pucks of the world go through their younger years being unrideable jerks, and eventually, through diligence, basic work and a boatload of patience, they emerge on the other side of their adolescence ready to take pressure and learn the big work. They’re armed with a ton of coping skills at that point and are a hell of a lot of fun to ride.

I knew that there were creatures out there who were both talented and uncomplicated, but I’d never met one. Until I met Swagger. And I’m coming to appreciate the dirtbag teenagers. Having one with crazy gaits and an eagerness to please at 5 years old is freaking me out because I’m really feeling the weight of the responsibility to not push too hard, too fast.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse! And if you love reading my thoughts on young horses and the development of the equine athlete, join the Red White and Blue (Ribbon) Club! You’ll get exclusive content, and the behind-the-scenes peek, at the bringing up of an American-bred filly in my program!