Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Building Wex’s Confidence

Wex and Jessica with their RRP banner
Wex and Jessica with their RRP banner (Courtesy Dan Sheidy)

If you’ve followed my story, you no doubt recognize that life with Wex has its challenges. In addition to training challenges, we’ve had numerous lost shoes, a kick from a pasture mate, mud, mud, and more mud. However, I am thrilled to report that we’re working through those challenges and accomplishing some of our goals!

Wex and Clara
Wex and Clara (Courtesy Jessica Sheidy)

Before we discuss progress, let’s go back to the challenges. The biggest challenge (that I’ve described at length in previous posts) is that he rears. We’ve determined that the issue is less likely due to pain, and more likely due to behavior. In that case, I have to find the reason for the behavior. Wex is not a mean or malicious horse. He’s sweet, and shows a desire to do the right thing. So why does he rear when I ride?

The answer is more likely found in the fact that he does NOT rear when my trainer rides him, or when I ride him in a lesson with her. Clara (of Clara Etzel Dressage LLC) is an experienced professional. She’s patient, and soft, and most importantly, confident, clear, and deliberate when she asks the horse a question. I am an amateur, and am decidedly less confident, clear, and deliberate when I ask a question. Horses gain their confidence from their riders. Some horses have more confidence naturally, and some need more help from their riders. Wex derives his confidence from Clara’s presence. As an amateur, I need a horse that can forgive my mistakes. Wex and I need to meet in the middle.

So what do we do with this information? I have to set Wex up for success, so he starts to gain some confidence from me, too. Success for us comes in working with Wex on the ground, and continuing to build our relationship with each other. Success for us comes in riding in frequent lessons with Clara. Success for us comes from only riding when Clara is around. If we continue to create success, Wex will start to realize that I can give him confidence too.

Wex and Jess
Wex and Jess (Courtesy Jessica Sheidy)

We recently saw our success in action. Our first off-property field trip (aside from his visit to MSU) came in the form of heading to a United States Dressage Federation show for the day and schooling with the big kids. Wex traveled like a pro, with his friend Reggie riding shotgun in the trailer. I was not sure what to expect when we arrived at the incredibly busy show grounds, but Wex took it in stride. He definitely looked around at the atmosphere, but he was a good sport about everything, and even relaxed into the contact. I couldn’t be happier with his first outing.

Up next, Wex will be competing in his first show! In other news, I’ll be commissioning a life-sized cardboard cutout of Clara to bring with us wherever we go. Look for Cardboard Clara at the Makeover in October!

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