Training and raising a "green" horse is not for everyone. It is one of the ultimate equestrian tests for a rider who is captivated by a constant challenge, has great patience and is attracted to developing a unique and ongoing relationship with a horse.
Annie Ahern, a 0-goal polo player, based in Wellington, Florida, home of championship polo and Olympic riders, considers training green horses to be the ultimate challenge. Born in Arvada, Wyoming, Annie has rodeod, steeple-chased and played polo at a pro level. On a daily basis, she can be found working with green horses, often straight off of the track.
While the conventional definition of a "green" horse reads "inexperienced," Annie takes it to a more humane level by re-defining it as " a horse that doesn't know what you want him to do."
This immediately zooms the focus onto the relationship between the green horse and its rider, instead of putting all the attention on the horse. The nurturing of a positive relationship is built on communication, learning about your horse, being creative in your requests and commands, along with consistency and patience.
"Spend a lot of time and be patient. Your horse might settle down any minute. Avoid buying any horse that has run at the track more than ten times. When you first get the horse, turn him out, let him relax and be a horse. Avoid pushing him too far; he can only learn so much. The key to teaching a green horse is repetition. He might not be green at the track, but he is green with you. Remember, you're in this for the long haul."
As far as confirmation is concerned, Annie does not focus on myopic, conventional concerns.
"Look for happy eyes, good movement. Do have the horse vetted and avoid any problems common to resale value. If the horse is a little pigeon-toed, it doesn't bother me," she adds.
As far as the rider goes she recommends that "a green horse is not for a beginner, but for a confident and capable rider. Remember, a green horse is scared. It takes time before they can play high-goal polo, often two or three years, even longer. Starting a green horse that hasn't had a saddle on him is often better. I can start him my way. No one has taught him any bad habits, or done any real damage to him," says Annie.
Training a green horse is a consummate commitment to a horse. It takes time, creativity and an enormous capacity to give and understand the individuality of each new horse. It is a great opportunity for a rider to challenge his own knowledge and limitations, coupled with the potential reward of enjoying an enduring, growing and constantly evolving relationship.
"I love the challenge of training a green horse, and watching them go one to play high-goal polo or race," says Ahern, who has turned out an impressive number of winners.
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