Monday, August 11, 2008

What does cross-training mean to you?

Thought this would be a fun topic...

Most of us have heard the term "cross-training." The general idea is, you shouldn't school your horse day in and day out to do Discipline X or pretty soon he's going to get sour and hate Discipline X. You should mix it up, do something different, and give him some mental breaks. I agree with this 100%, but I'm curious to hear what that means to you and what you do with your horses.

My old show horse Jack competed in pretty much all of the typical open show events. We did showmanship, hunt seat and western and he won a lot of high point trophies. While Jack was well trained enough to dink around with the other WP horses, he truly loved to run so we did things like gallop in my back hayfield and occasionally run barrels and poles at the shows. He wasn't good at barrels or poles - he was a big horse and not that great at pulling himself together for a fast turn - but he liked it. So we did it. At home I whacked polo balls around off of him, jumped a little, and used him to pony young horses.

(I've always hit polo balls off the show horses. I think it's good for them and most of them find it interesting. I will have to start that with the VLC. I am just not sure they make a mallet that long...)

Of course, I know that if I were keeping the VLC at some nice h/j barn and I went to whacking polo balls around off of him, people would think I had lost my ever-loving mind. In those kind of barns, cross-training means that you do a little dressage sometimes with your hunter.

To me, the perfect horse is something like the VLC's famous uncle, Favor Mr. Sabre. FMS is a full brother to the VLC's dam. He was AQHA Amateur Versatility Horse of the Year in 2001. He has points in halter, ranch versatility, barrel racing, reining, trail, hunter under saddle, working cowhorse, western pleasure, western horsemanship, hunt seat equitation, western riding, pole bending, showmanship, and breakaway roping. I love the idea of a horse that can win western pleasure and barrels at the same AQHA show. I'd very much like for the VLC to mature into exactly that kind of a horse. (By the way, if anybody has a picture of FMS, I've always wanted to see one and have so far failed to locate it. Super special bonus points for video!)

So, I'm curious, what does cross-training mean to you? What do you like to do with your horses that is totally different from what they show/compete at? Have you jumped your cutting horse or taken your warmblood team sorting? Do you have one of those fabulous all-around horses who does it all and does it well? Do you agree that cross-training improves performance and keeps their mind fresh, or do you think it's possible to confuse them by doing things that are very different? Does your horse like to do a lot of different things, or does he/she seem to get frazzled when you deviate from the norm?


Anonymous said...

My prissy warmblood has a mental breakdown if I put a western saddle on her. But it sure didn't stop me from trying it a few times. She's too forward to WP...not to mention that the weight of the saddle turns her into a bronc for a few minutes. (Hey, maybe I could get her a job as a saddle bronc!!) Did I mention she's a wuss?

I do drive her in hand every now and then. That's almost as amusing as seeing her 1700lb body in a western saddle, lol.

And although we normally just play around on the flat, I make sure to keep it interesting, lots of direction changes, gait changes, etc. And, if she's not being an ass, I'll pop her over a fence or two in the arena as a reward...the girl loves to jump.

kaptkaos113 said...

I absolutely change things up with both of my kids. My appy gets used as a kids horse quite often, its good for him to have to change his way of thinking and receiving aids. If he had a choice, he would be a kids horse forever! He is super duper lazy, but loves to jump on occasion. So I try to use that as a reward for him. I also use him for work around the barn. He is a hunter horse, but happily changes direction in what is needed from him. Keeps him on his toes and his mind engaged.

My mare gets switched from dressage to halter training. When she gets more training, she will go onto combined training. I also use her as a kids horse on the ground, she isnt ready for a child on her back just yet. We are still working on the arab halter stuff, I know nothing about it, so we are learning together. Her only problem is that she isnt a fire breathing dragon!

I keep them guessing and keep their minds engaged and interested. They are after all, like goldfish with really short attention spans!

manymisadventures said...

Well, as an OHSET-er and generally crazy teenager, you are speaking to the ultimate in cross-training ;)

For the record, yeah, I think it's great for horses. I've talked before about everything I've done with her -- in hand obstacle course, team penning, poles/flags/barrels, dressage, hunt seat eq over fences, hunt seat eq, dressage, etc. I've also driven her, tried my hand at steer daubing, gone on trails, ridden in a batman costume, and so on.

I think it's really, really good for her. No matter what I throw at her, she takes it with an open mind.

To me, cross-training is stepping outside your realm of riding. If you're a hunter, yes, dressage will really help your horse. But take your hunter to school cross-country, too. Try a little team penning or sorting to really get him listening to you. Make him participate in a gymkhana.

In my opinion, it makes for a better horse.

cdncowgirl said...

My TB mare was used on the track before I got her. After I got her she was used for trails, barrel racing and even team penning (to work on her "cows are unholy demons" issue).
Our Appy barrel races, is a lesson horse (when hubby has time for a lesson) and trail rides. He is supposedly an ex-ranch horse but I'm thinking the rancher's kids did 4H with him. He seems to do anything we point him to.
Next thing we're trying with him is team sorting! If he's rope broke I want to learn to breakaway rope. Wouldn't mind taking some English lessons if he's capable.
I'm a firm believer in getting your horse out there doing as much as possible. In the end it only ads to their value!

Pipkin said...

I do everything with my Colorado Ranger Pip. He jumps, trail rides, a little dressage (we'll be going to our first schooling show this fall) I'd like to do some western pleasure, or competitive trail. He really watches cows, but I dont know anyone who has any he could try to work. We've done 25 mile rides, gone up in the mountains, and - my favorite- ride to the coffee shop where he has to stand tied for 45 minutes while we have lunch.
I've also done some ground driving, and I think he'd make a great driving horse. He's just so steady and he likes to do everything.
I agree, I think he can do anything and it keeps him fresh, as well as giving the both of us a better understanding of each other. We have been in so many situations, that I'm not worried if something strange happens, I know what he's likely to do. And he knows what I expect of him. I liken it to me being able to drive a truck, car, motorcycle, bike, I can do all that, and I think it makes be a better car driver too.

He has an injury to his mouth (not riding related) and I had to ride him in a hackamore for the first time. he was great. Took it in stride, no problem. I think it's because I expect him to be able to handle it, and he hasn't let me down yet.

Stelladorro said...

I normally do all sorts of things with my horses - just because I want to have the ability to throw them in any type of class at open shows, take them with me when I go camping, or just fool around in the pasture.

Then I got Stella, who is the type of horse I searched a long time for. She's going to be an absolutely fabulous hunter, and because of that, I've been pushing really hard all summer for the perfect hunt ride. She was great up until about two weeks ago, she even went to state fair and got reserve champion - not too shabby for a horse that's still fairly green! But, recently, she started being flippy with her head, she's regressing in her training, and she's started to get really light on her front end even when I have no contact on her mouth. My sometimes trainer thinks she's bored and getting burnt out, and after she pointed that out, I can see it.

All I've done is push all summer for extended trots, round canters and perfect transitions. She's been amazingly patient until now, but apparently enough is enough. I need to start treating her more like my all around horse and less like the show horse I'm afraid to break. We're going to start hitting the trails a couple times a week, and see if we can get her mind back. In addition to that, I'm also starting side saddle lessons, and as soon as our season is over, Stella's going off for a month of side saddle training. If that doesn't give her something else to think about, I'm not sure what will!

rhinestone said...

With Blue, who normally is my hunter, we play around in jumpers, gaming, a bit of western, dressage, and trail riding (not really cross training, but good for mixing up the routine!). I did borrow my friend's polo mallet and ball and jogged around the arena hitting the ball - put up a couple cones and pretended I was competent. Blue even scored a pony goal! Mind you, this was totally new for him - all I did was swing the mallet around on the ground to make sure I wasn't going to be on a catapult. We're hardly ready for a polo match, but I know I had fun and Blue thought it was kinda fun to trot around in all sorts of random directions.

rhinestone said...

We also tried eventing a couple of times, for a little student-only horse trials. Ridiculous fun. We ended up winning! The horse is a speed demon out in the open!

Karen V said...

My fat appy mare, Angel, was a “mostly” finished WP show horse when I bought her. I’m not a WP rider, so I switched her to barrels. She is patterned and loves barrels, doesn’t like to work them slow or school on them, it tend to frustrate her and cause more problems than it solves. I will leave the barrels “on pattern” and go back to basics, schooling on flexation, lateral movement, and collection. She will “watch” the barrels, just in case I change my mind and want to work them. She’s an idiot on the trails, so we ride there too. I don’t jump. I’d love to work her on cows. I won’t ride her in an English saddle, because she can turn out from under me. (Besides, she looks silly in English tack)

Another exercise I do involves 4 poles set in a square, with the poles 20 feet apart. I will collect and lope in a square, or clover leaf, lope in – halt – pivot – lope out. I change it up, ride in no pattern whatsoever and at various gates. This “brings her back to me”, making her listen. This translates to a better barrel pattern, because she’s listening to me, rather than running in autopilot.

smottical said...

Regarding Favor Mr. Sabre - the lady who owned him and showed him is Gretchen Keller (nee Kurzweg). Her phone number is (719) 542-3036 and she lives in Pueblo, Colorado. So if you're not phone-phobic like I am, you could call and ask for pictures!

Jamie said...

I plan to cross-train my Saddlebred. I love Dressage (I know not a typical SB discipline, but why not? They have the movement for it!), and he loves to jump, run, basically anything where he can MOVE :) His brain goes 100mph so I have to change things up for him.
Oh I started the Applejax blog!

sidetracked said...

Oh, I love this topic. I have a rescued appy gelding. We compete in hunters and equitation and an occasional jumper show for fun. His passion like your old horse is galloping. We trail ride, we just went to a gymkhana show this past weekend for shits and giggles. He's not that great at poles or barrels but we both love the game. We also go swimming, hunter pace, dabble in endurance and ride in many parades. I personally think it's great for a horses mind to get out and do more than one thing. My horse especially loves it because he has an adventurious spirit like myself. We are always up for new things especially if their speed related. He needs a good gallop atleast once a week to stay sane. Luckily I do not board at one of those stuffy barns and everyone at my barn knows how I am with Possum. When I was in college I was on the riding team and horses were strictly walked from the arena to the barn and no where else. They had 1hr turnout alone and lives in a stall. My horse lives outside in a paddock with shelter 24/7. He woulds tear the barn down if he had to be stalled all the time. He is most happy outside, riding and having fun with me. To me having ahorse should be fun. Sure competing is fun and things like dressage and hunters is like eating our vegetables, it's good for the both of us, but soemtimes we need to cut loose. I love a horse who is up for anything. I like to have fun and I think they should have fun too.

wolfandterriers said...

I used to do mounted archery, but with my old horse retired, what can I say? Everything with the cannibal pony is "cross training." I'm just trying to get into her a range of experience. It ranges from practicing in hand movements (turn on the forehand etc) by the road, watching the local dogs bark, stalking deer, etc. And when we school in the indoor she is flippin' perfect. She has a smooth, steady contact, is extremely responsive to half halts...whatever I ask it's BAM! So THERE!

I'm left somewhat disgusted, as I have nothing to be aggravated about in her under saddle work. I simply cannot complain about anything with her.

Then we have to go back outside and do something *hard*. I'm defining hard here as something that makes her more responsive, attentive, and provokes some new thoughts in that half metal skull of hers.

Tina said...

We used to take the Polo horses on nice trail rides. It really broke up the routine of going around the track constantly for conditioning. They always seemed to like it.

ORSunshine said...

I have an old-style Morgan that we just bought. He literally does a bit of everything! Dressage, hp, wp, cutting, team penning, saddleseat... Anything but jumping! We'll be cross-training so I can try out different styles, my kids want to each learn different styles and we'll be able to keep Charlie on on his toes.

Redsmom said...

Great topic - love all these ideas. Polo looks like so much fun -- I'd love to try that. Our guys were pretty school sour when we got them, so variety is key. So far, Matt has been to team sorting, been to chase cows on an actual ranch, been in WP WTC, barrels, poles, etc., in addition to his little hunter/jumper shows. Can't wait to take Dude to team sorting and see what he does -- he's such a QH and he helped me chase a little neighbor cow in the other day. People at our local club are very nice. One girl runs barrels with her TWH and another with her OTTB (that joker is FAST!)

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>So if you're not phone-phobic like I am, you could call and ask for pictures!<<

Bahahaha! I am TOTALLY phone phobic. Who's got an e-mail address? *flaps elbows* *bwaaaawk* *bwaaaak*

PaintedSneak said...

My all-around mare can do it all. She's a Scotch Bar Time daughter, so she better. ;) I switch it up every now and then by changing disciplines, or doing complicated patterns.

She HATES it when I change our routine too much, though. I tried taking her on a trail ride down the road with another horse once. She flipped her shit and would not calm down until we were back in the yard.

I also tried jumping her. She trotted up to the cross poles, then stopped and politely walked right through them. :) I'm pretty sure she's a creature of habit.

PaintedSneak said...

Whoops. I meant to say "can do most everything." Sheesh.

Shadow Rider said...

I totally believe in cross training, not just for the horse, but also for the rider. It improves your riding to challenge yourself and your horse with something new.

As for what I have done with my 'show horse' My TWH Shadow is a Versatility champ. She has trophies in Saddleseat 2 & 3 gait, Western Pleasure 2 & 3 gait, Obstacle Trail, Hunter OF, and Competitive Trail (15 and 20 miles). We have blues in Horsemanship, Model, Western Reining, Hunter pace - intermediate, Water glass, Ribbon race, Obstacle driving (ground driving, I didn't have a cart). We have done barrels, pole bending, costume class, bareback on a buck, Parades from local 4th of July to National Cherry Blossom parade in DC. We have swum in the bay, jousted and fenced on horseback (with crops!), camped, historical re-enactments, and handicapped riding.
I have used her to pony green colts, nervous riders on ponies, and as a leader past 'scary' things on the trail. We have herded other horses where they don't want to go, and chased down loose runaways.

Of all of this, her favorite thing in the world is to gallop through the hunt trails jumping all the jumps at approx 90 mph. So occasionally we do that too.

She's not just my show horse, she's my 'Fun horse'.

smottical said...

>>Bahahaha! I am TOTALLY phone phobic. Who's got an e-mail address? *flaps elbows* *bwaaaawk* *bwaaaak*<<

Sorry! I tried to find a website, but no dice. She's now riding a horse named "Pleasure Too Burn" but I couldn't find any pictures of him either.

smottical said...

On second thought, maybe you should just send fellow Coloradoite Mugwump after her at an AQHA show down there since the lady is still showing. Don't ask how I know all this. I'm just a frighteningly good internet stalker.

June Evers said...

I like to teach my PMU tricks. He absolutely loves it because I coo and go bonzo when he gets them. I have to add clicker training to it as it'll up his learning. And, he just loves the attention. He can shake his head yes, no, act ashamed, put a hoof on a special hoof stand we made, shake hands, counting...I'm working on others. (A trick horse is a horse that you'll own forever which he is...Shaking hands in my eyes is striking or pawing in another's.)

I also like to work him in hand doing dressage manuevers. We have actually created a little dance we do in the barn aisle that uses these manuevers, very cute and one we should take on the road. He is actually super at it and I can tell it makes him feel more limber afterwards.

When I ride, we do some dressage...very little as I'm older, have terrible reaction times, etc. so I basically trail ride. Which he hates until he gets out there and then he really likes it.

So yes, I "cross-train" if you call adding tricks and dancing to my trail riding repetoire...then yes!

(No nasty comments about the tricks and's all in good fun and at least keeps me moving and getting exercise. Ain't that what it's all about?)

Redsmom said...

June Evers - no nasty comments! I think it would be great to teach a horse tricks and in-hand dressage moves. You must be very patient and he must be very smart!! You should put up a video!!

Anonymous said...

My barrel racer can win a barrel class and then go pin in the hunters.

June Evers said...


It's all the horse. I have worked with TBs all my life and then got this PMU, a TB/QH/Perch cross who is as smart as a whip. I literally taught him to smile in 10 minutes....Unheard of in horsedom I'd say!

I'll have to figure out video and/or pictures...I just figured out how to blog/forum...He's quite a handsome devil and should be out on the internet...but you can seem him on then click on June and Beasley. He's also the one wearing pants throughout the web site...Is that cross-training, wearing pants?

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>Is that cross-training, wearing pants?<<

I'm not sure but if he were wearing a skirt, it'd definitely be cross-dressing! :-)

a beautiful disaster said...

well since i ride at one of "those prissy h/j barns," cross training usually means that i dont just do wtc circles and leg yeilds every time i ride :) especially for buddy (the slm really just needs to work her butt of and build a top line at this point), i have been doing only 3 or 4 days of "real" work/hacking (normally i share him but for the next 3 weeks he's all mine), 2 days of random stuff and one day off. last week was a pretty good example and went like this:
monday- day off
tuesday- light hack, mostly trot all on long rein
wednesday- bareback, walk with a little trot, ~15 minutes total
thursday- normal hack, jumped a couple small jumps cos my boss was teaching and let me play
friday- hack...lots of bending and trot work with contact
saturday- tacked up, got on, walked into the ring, got off and fed treats (he's been having meltdowns about walking into the ring so it was very productive randomness)
sunday- jumping "lesson" given by my friend over the show jumps
[wash rinse and repeat]

the short answer is, to me cross-training means not having to stick to the same training plan every day and finding new and inventive ways to reach the same objectives

i so can't wait to go to college and move out of my h/j so i can go somewhere much more forgiving of my *creative* ideas. i think i'm the only girl (other than my friend) over the age of ten who rides bareback:D

a beautiful disaster said...

oh, and both buddy and the slm were polo ponies before they got to me...the slm probably a much much better one than buddy :)

millie said...

my tb will do every thing. from WP and gaming to dressage and eventing. i do western with him but my friend will come over and jump a course or 2 with him. he is kid safe, but loves to run. we do alot of trail riding to keep from getting boring.

Sydney said...

I think cross training to me means that I can train my horse and someone says "hey lets go so such and such a show" even if the show is not my horses primary discipline he/she can compete in a few classes.

For instance, my mare Indigo has been to english shows (takes ribbons) western shows (same thing as english) and driving shows. She can do it all from slow western pleasure to a long fast trot and keep up with the rest of the driving horses.

To me cross training is introducing new and potentially frightening training things to your horse. It makes them more broke and less likely to spook or go batshit crazy at new things.

Leah Fry said...

C'mon Fugs! Hike up your big girl pants and just call her. You know you want to! And she'll probably be delighted to hear from you.

Windsong Stables said...

I was raised to ride it all on a 14.1hh Arabian/Quarter horse.

I was in 4-H and then eventually branched to open shows. With him I did dressage, all english flat (pleasure, equitation, show hack etc) and western flat (pleasure, equitation, reining etc) along with showmanship And trail. We also did halter, costume classes, and the odd games day (where yes, barrels and poles were a given!)

I found that it kept him sane. I also did a ton of trail riding in and out. He was my high point everything, and I loved him to pieces. I could leave him for a year, pull him out and win some more. I loved the little guy. Sadly, my mom has him now.

But i have pictures of him!
Hes on the "About" page, the big fat Bay hehe.

I have to say, that i try to "cross-train" everything, because it leaves their mind open to learning. Very beneficial!

LongBranchFarm said...

My Paso Fino has done small local shows and competed quite well against the western pleasure crowd around here, he's done team penning, endurance, dressage (he's amazingly good at that), riding lessons, and costume classes. My baby (ok..he's three now) is being trained to do everything...and I'm going to start him driving here pretty quick.

I just wish the dressage world would allow the gaited horses to come play. Alpine is so good at it, and we both enjoy it.

MsFoxy said...

Well, sometimes I feed apples instead of carrots. Or make her actually stand tied in the wash rack while I go do stuff, instead of letting her chill in the field or stall.

Every now and then I pick her feet before I brush! I know, I know! Man, it just throws her for a LOOP.

Or not. Seriously though, other than the parelli games ('nuff said) I need to find some new things for us to do. Since she can't be "worked" per say, maybe I should start teaching her 'tricks'? I feel like we need to do something different these days. Grooming and feeding treats and taking pictures only goes so far! While the point of the horse may be riding....for horses that are not sound for riding but otherwise healthy and young and smart.....I need to come up with things we can do on the ground for fun.

mugwump said...

Broom Ball! Big old natural bristle brooms, and those 3.00 big balls from Wal-Mart.
Hockey type rules, or whatever works....Beer helps.

LolaJ said...

it's not a picture of Favor Mr Sabre, but of his sister.... and she's for sale.....

SOSHorses said...

I absolutely agree that cross training is a good thing for horses. My daughter's barrel horse is also a Fan-freaking-tastic trail horse, he likes to do short jumps, and has enough buttons that she works on some dressage with him.

My TWH gelding is a team sorting fool. This poor horse has NEVER trotted under saddle, but he loves him some cow. He likes running poles, barrels he likes but he isn't so good at them because he is 16 HH, and not that great at making those turns. He is a wonderful trail horse above everything else.

Of course all of my horse get to play around with other stuff, besides what they normally do. I firmly believe that a horse that gets to do something fun for them every once in a while is a happier, and more mentally sound horse in the long run.

SOSHorses said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention driving. I used driving to start my TWH mare under saddle. I taught her to drive so she got exercise and accustomed to having stuff on her before I threw a leg over her back. Makes a huge difference.

RB the TWH gelding who loves cows. DOES NOT love the jog cart. Just imagine a 16HH Horse with full harness, and blinkers spinnging a jog cart behind him like a wind mill. So chase cows yes, drive a cart...Never again.LOL

Vee said...

My little mare loves

Laura said...

I think cross-training is good for horse and rider. Some horses are more adaptable than others, of course, but changing routines is good for the mind and body.

I just bought a new gelding from a very serious dressage barn. I asked if there were some trails to take him out on just to see how he reacted. I got blank stares from everyone - they only ever rode in the indoor arena, all year round! I was glad to get that gelding out doing other things, since he wasn't suited for dressage!

equus said...

i am a firm believer in any type of cross-training. it strengthens the horses body, enboldens them emotionally and enlivens their minds.

here is something for those of you looking for something different to enliven your horse's mental attitude: trail class at speed!

(hope that link works. not very tech-savvy.) while the horsemanship is a little questionable and the leads are sometimes crossed, all-in-all it looks like fun. what a good horse.

CyborgSuzy said...

I used to do team penning and gaming with my lazy, half-draft trail horse. We were terrible at everything except keyhole, but we both had fun.

crystal said...

having my fjord at a primarily dressage barn is a hoot. when i bought him, he had done some schooling shows with his former owner, and knows the basics.

but i was a western rider, and the good thing is, nobody cares. the other riders aren't snooty, and we are free to do our own thing.

with him, i have to get his mind engaged. we ride a lot inside, due to some insecurities on my part, but we are making moves outside and i can tell he likes that.

i alternate saddles depending on my mood, western or english. if he gets bored, we set up obstacles to work around.....poles, cones, little jumps. this weekend we were riding during a lesson with a student on the school pony, and they were trotting over a small jump. we followed along and he liked it, even jumping once.

i find i need to keep his mind busy, or he drags his ass. as i get more confident, i am sure we will make our way down the trails that surround the barn.

we have done barrels at a fjord show, mostly trotting, but he acts like he likes it. it really helps to have a horse that can do pretty much everything......

Erika said...

Another Fjorder here :D

Constentine is my first OWN horse, and the first horse I'm starting from a baby all by myself. I love this blog... it's great to know I'm not the only formerly-fearless-now-chickenshit rider out there!

Obviously, I havn't done too much with my boy yet, he's still young (turned 2 in april), but in preperation for his riding training which will start next spring, I'm doing all kinds of wacky ground work with him. Fjords are super smart, and love to be challanged. The fresher you keep it, the more they enjoy the lesson. When longing, somtimes I'll put lay cedar posts on the ground (makes mind his feet) sometimes I'll bring a big excersize ball into the pen and kick it around. At first he was chicket shit of the giant horse eating ball, now he gets excited and kickes it around while we're working.

I take him for walks aound our 26 acres, usually with a saddle on, and if I find something interesting, I'll tie it to the saddle, and have him carry it around, or have him drag it home. (once I had him carry a very scary branch with all kinds of leaves. I figgure if he can handle that, he won't be a nervous once I get on him, lol)

He's prone to mischeif, and the weirder i keep things, the less likely he is to try and start somthing.

Once we do start riding, I will be doing all kinds of things with him. We will focus on reining (obviously not expecting to get to the worlds on a fjord, but I'm confident with good training he will be able to perform respectably at local shows, even if the judges might never admit it) I think any horse can benefit from some reining training. And I've always found that horses enjoy barrels and poles even if they're not all particularly great at it, so we will defineately do some of that. And who knows what else? I daydream about driving him in a nice red santa sled in the winter, but I'd have to learn how to drive first.

Horses are smart, and if you keep things interesting, you keep their attention. (remember in school when you got 5 pages of long devision to do? After the first page, you pretty much got it, and didn't see the point in doing the other four? That's when the spitballs would start... or was that just me?)

Whywudyabreedit said...

For my gelding that I purchased to ride primarily as a dressage horse cross training meant...
-Taking a leave from my job for 5 months and guiding trails off of him part time as a 3 year old.
-Joining the local horseman's club and attempting to work cattle off of him 1-2 times a week.
-dinking around bareback with a halter until I installed enough operating instructions to be able to walk, trot, canter, halt, back, turn on haunches, and turn on forehand with no tack at all from just leg cues and no rope around the neck.
-My horse also heals better off leash than most of the dogs I have seen around. This way I have gotten in a bit of running myself (never a bad thing).
These things, while they amused me, were also intended to mix things up a bit for my horse. He became nicely trained and broke enough that he now pays his own way leased out and fully insured with a wonderful woman in Carmel Valley while I finish college for a second career.
-I am actually one of those people who could be happy doing nothing but arena work strictly in Dressage. I try to keep it a bit more interesting for the horse and in the process satisfy my training geek nature on more fronts than just dressage.
These are fun to read! I am always interested in what others are doing to mix things up.

Smurfette said...

My old youth horse, Greta, was your Jack. Chased cows, match raced her, working hunter, equitation, barrels/poles, showmanship, had AQHA points in WP, HUS, horsemanship, reining, western riding, trail. Only had one dressage lesson, the horse has NO controlled motor, no impulsion. But other than dressage, you point her at it, she would do it. I think the fact that I rode her an hour + 6 days a week had something to do with that, don't you?

NOW, I would consider any discipline english to western (or vice versa)as cross training, I think. Maybe riding to driving, or flat work to over fences work. Not sure where I would through cow work in, maybe a barrel horse/rope horse would be cross trained. Not sure why I come up with those definations.

*Sharon* said...

Yes, I totally agree you need to do all sorts of things. I get bored too, so my girl and I have a go at all sorts of stuff. We are currently learning how to lunge properly which will lead on to long reining and other ground work.

Our true love is cross country, and if there was a competition just for pinging around those fences, we'd be in! But to do that, we have to do the dreaded "stressage" so we do that and show jumping. We hack out around the roads, the farms and vineyards and on the beach. She won champion at our Riding Club games day and completely kicked ass in the obstacle course. We were nearly a minute faster than the next placed duo. I have waved a polo stick around her head, but I am not so good at actually connecting with the ball so that didn't go far. She doesn't like cattle that much but I'd have a go at western type stuff if I had the opportunity.

I think it is good for both of our brains, good for getting to know each other better and that everyone should cross train.

They don't come better than a Quarter Horse! said...

My horse is actually even more of a perfectionist AND even more obsessed with details than me, so the most switching up we do is the posting trot and getting a little extension out of her lope. Maybe one of these days we'll try a little reining and we'll probably do some hunter and eq for fun but she's a pleasure/horsemanship/showmanship horse and she KNOWS it and she intends to perfect it. We'll probably start doing trail this spring and western riding in a couple years but we probably won't ever do any jumping or barrels...I don't think my pleasure/halter bred horse would be very impressed. She's a total pleasure princess.
And if I tried anything polo related with her, I would probably end up on the other side of the arena.
I wanted a dedicated show horse who knew her job and a dedicated show horse who knows her job I did get.

naughty_but_nice said...

I'm lucky with my tb x, he's a real allrounder and never seems to be fased by new things (I spend half my time trying to scare him by putting tarpaulin, barrels, umbrellas under or next to jumps to put him off, which keeps him interested). We go out to shows often, usually showjumping but sometimes cross country and the odd bit of dressage. I aim to do something that he finds fun at least twice a week (naturally his favourite is to gallop for miles with my friends tb in the forest!)

Another thing I've found that keeps him fresh is schooling while out hacking. It tends to hold his attention more, and he doesn't associate the arena with work and grass with being able to do his own thing, which helps at competitions on grass arenas!

I've never tried western with him, mainly because there aren't any trainers near me but I'd love to try it sometime!

naughty_but_nice said...


Are you in britain or america? (or elsewhere?)

I live in england, and we have loads of hunter trials around here which are just cross country. I've seen everything from lead rein classes to 3'6" open competitions. The british horse society also has national cross country championships once a year. It sounds like your horse would be perfect for these!

CutNJump said...

I didn't read the post. Maybe a few words here and there. I'm hiding out for a while because I'm sure I pissed of more than a few people over on the Fugly blog with things I had to say concerning the Field Trip.

Is this one because of wanting to try cutting with VLC even though he would tower over the other competitors as well as the cows? They could run under his belly for sure with the long legs he has on him.

We cross train, of sorts, with all our horses. Dressage for everyone for softness, suppleness and balance. Trail rides to unwind the minds, ground poles for the cutters to remind them to pay attention where they put their feet, riding turnback on the others who aren't cutters to give them some down time- just chase the cow... The Tb's wear the english and western saddles just the same- no princess behavior allowed, and I keep threatening JohnieRotten I'm going to put polo's and my close contact on his colt, braid him up and take him to a hunter show. Mondo would probably do well as everything just comes naturally easy for him.

crystal said...

erika, my daughter's name is erika. where are you and your fjord located?

do you know there is a champion reining fjord on the west coast, in oregon, i think? his name is dusty and he also does cutting and cow work. how great is that?

i am also a chicken shit rider, after having been broken by my first horse, a quarter horse. my fjord is teaching me a lot about trust and patience.....and also silliness, since he has a large streak of that. we have to work hard at lessons, since he likes to suck up close to the instructor. he's finally learning he only gets loved on by her when he's done with lessons.....

they are really super people horses, and pretty much do anything you want to do with them.

Jami Davenport said...

Hi, there, I'm a bit of a lurker. I would love to take my warmblood mare team penning. In fact, maybe I'll do that this winter.

What a kick that would be.

Love your blog, BTW.

whywouldyouknitthat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
whywouldyouknitthat said...

Trying again, sorry!

You might be in luck! I have some old journals with his pic in it, and come to think of it I might even have video. I showed against him back in the day, I know I bought videos of the classes I showed in at Congress. I am willing to bet he is on there!

I love mixing it up with my show horses. My old show mare had points in Halter, Showmanship, Hunter Under Saddle, Eq., Western Pleasure, Horsemanship, Trail, Western Riding, and Reining.She had an Amateur Versatility and we even won a few Grands and Reserves in halter. We even did some barrels and poles at an open show or two. My current horse is a pleasure horse and I don't know what to do with myself at the shows just doing one class! You just don't find good all arounders anymore. Nowadays that means the horse does western pleasure and western riding. I miss the good old days!

I'll see if I can round that video up for you. If I can find it I will try to put it up on youtube or something.

SakiBasenji said...

My horses can do everything... My retired Arab taught me the importance of that. So I've had my Appendix mare a year now (she's 5) and here's what we do:

Work on dressage to get her supple and round, and moving off my leg and not falling on her fore.

Work on jumping gymnastics to get the rhythm steady and the knees tight.

To cross-train, we do a TON of trails - the majority of my time on her is on the trails. She learns fast and has an awesome work ethic, so if I put in 1-2 schooling sessions and 2-3 trail rides a week, she's golden! If I put her in tack (Eng. saddle and snaffle bridle w/flash) she knows we are working. Sometimes we go out into a field and do flatwork there instead of in the ring,and I expect the same level of responsiveness no matter where we are. If I hop on bareback or put her hackamore on, she knows we're doing a relaxed trail ride and can jog along WP style.

In addition to ring jumps, we jump logs and natural obstacles, and haul out to cross country courses occasionally. I never over-jump her. Just a few jumps until I accomplish whatever I wanted to (or took a small forward step, even if less than what I wanted), and I don't jump her every time we ride-probably less than half at this point.

I taught her to line drive and pull random things behind her (buckets, a tarp, branches, a log... a cart is coming next, when I have the money to invest in driving). I also own a polo ball and mallet, and sometimes play with her... but I suck, and would never, ever, be competitive. I taught her to stand still while I throw a rope off her... and reel it in, 'cause I invariably missed what I was throwing it at.

I am entertaining thoughts of sidesaddle training, once she is more solid in regular dressage training (goes the way I want w/o frequent prompting).

She is not super quick to turn like my retiree was, but we could still have fun with team penning practice... we may look into that.

And there's foxhunting in the fall! I can't wait :)

I think if you change up your training / schooling practices, it helps the horse's mental health as well as its physical soundness. Give the joints and muscles you're always pounding a break and do something different! And while not every horse will like certain activities, there is always more than one thing for each horse to enjoy doing. Even if your horse is a jerk outside of the ring, by incorporating field rides into schooling routines you'll get the horse to come around to it... it may just take some work. You'll have a better horse for it.

polocrosse21 said...

Well my arab is 25 and let me tell you he does not look a year over 8! I have had him for 5 1/2 years. I got him as a barrel horse - he still loves to race other horses and run on the trail. I learned how to jump on him - he is really good at it, but his joints are not 8 so he has stopped jumping except for the occassional low fence for fun. He's done WP, he gives lessons several days a week to beginners in Western and English, and I've ridden him for polocrosse. In the last year, he's added cutting and auto lead changes to his bag of tricks. He is just a great all-around horse. I think he enjoys learning something new as much as I do, and he's always the first horse I grab out of the barn if I have the chance to do something new... he's solid and full of heart, and I know he will try... even if we don't master it.

gillian said...

My boss and his buddies were hooted and jeered at when they took their dressage horses, still in dressage saddles, to go team penning. They got the fastest time of the day, of the show and of all time for that barn. Which shut people up a little. (They had quite a bit of luck, I should add.) They went to go see their time posted but all they found was a new sign that said "for safety reasons, all team penning must be done in a western saddle"

OutRiding01 said...

I have always done lots of different things with all my horses, show barn or not! I'm strictly a hunter/jumper but I play around with a little bit of everything. My pony hunter used to be able to keep up over the jumper courses with the big horses because I taught her to neck rein, turn on her haunches at any gait and do sliding stops. We did a lot of bareback, went on trail rides, ran barrels and poles and even pretended to joust and sword fight more than a few times.

My junior jumper was my big show horse and we did the a-circuit all over FL and GA, but we only practiced jumping really once a week. He knew how to jump, he didn't need it drilled in his head. He also neck reined, and even though he was a "crazy jumper" in the ring, outside I could ride him on the buckle using just my voice. Rode him bareback 60 percent of the time and worked cattle with him on occasion. Did lots of running because that was his favorite and lots of running through the woods because he started out as a fox hunter and it made him happy. Tried to learn vaulting on him as well. Even threw a western saddle on him a couple times.

I think the biggest thing is that I'm kind of ADD myself so I'm always finding new things to get into and fool around with. If I didn't, I'd go crazy, so my horses never have to worry about it. And I've always been at big show barns, since I started riding at 5, and no one has ever blinked an eye at the things I do because I still win at horse shows so I must be doing something right!

Bill Schaub did a clinic with us once and asked us to make up and ride a course that was challenging and showed off our best skills or traits (whatever we thought they were). Halfway through mine, I jumped out of the ring and jumped back in on the adjoining side and finished the course. He said it looked like I'd done that before. Well of course I had! I got tired of the same boring jumps all the time. He asked what my best skills were that I was trying to show off. I said I was showing that I was brave, creative and a little bit nuts!

*Sharon* said...

naughty but nice

Sadly I am in New Zealand where the only hunter trial are restricted to members of the associated hunt. And I can't go hunting as the season is the same time as our busiest time at work where we do 7 days a week, 10-14 hours a day.
Maybe one day...

Actually I don't mind show jumping or show hunter but I am a bit of a speed freak so that's why cc is for me!

Sagebrusheq said...

Hmmm, can't add much to the above- you guys about got it covered- except to say that I like to mix it up too.

I first heard the term 'cross training' used for human athletes training in appropriate sports during their off season, like hockey pros playing tennis during the summer months to keep their lateral skills sharp. With horses the term I'm most familiar with is 'combined training', similar but not exactly the same. It dates back to the early days of the TDE (at least) and denotes combining outdoor riding with manage riding which were thought to be antithetical to one another, and are so to some extent, hence the difficulty.

I know that the term dates back to at least some time before WWI because Rupert Brooke had a horse by that name that he brought to France with him during the war. He wrote about him/her ( I forget which) in a short but touching memoir of those years called 'Alice and Combined Training'. (BTW, both horses made it through the war- Alice was shipped home early after sustaining a minor injury to rest and retirement where she was kicked by a jealous mare in pasture and had to be out down- go figure)

And of course there is 'Eventing USA' which used to go by the more dignified and meaningful name 'The United States Combined Training Association'- much mo' betta.

I've been on a work mode lately and don't multi task like you gals do so well- one track mind. Horses getting grass bellies and if it weren't for my neighbor taking a weekly lesson I wouldn't be getting on at all.

Ciao, S

PS Haven't the O's been great? Getting up at 4AM now to watch the dressage on streaming video. Great coverage. Nice rides this morn by Germany, Holland GB and the U.S. It's sort of nice not having any commentary to go by as it makes you think.

Sagebrusheq said...

PPS: Not to say that I wouldn't gladly trade my own thoughts for the expert commentary of Melanie Smith Taylor, but it has been an interesting exercise and in some ways more edifying. To have both would be great.

Alexis said...

What is WTC?

Also, I think Constantine is my favorite name, EVER. *in response to a reeee-hee-he-hee-eeeally far back post*

Redsmom said...

Alexis, WTC = walk, trot and canter. It usually denotes a class where you'll be asked to do all 3 as opposed to just walk/trot.

Finally a question I actually know the answer to!

all-canadian said...

We used to have a "Games day" at my hunter barn... we would take all our hunter horses and ponies out and do barrel racing, pole bending, and various relay races. Some of them LOVED it, some didn't like being asked for speed and they would get pissy, some of them just didn't care. The mare I rode got really revved up and enjoyed herself, although she got confused with all the tight corners... but she was game! I think she would have gotten good at it if we actually took the time to practice and work on it... and stopping and turning on a dime is always useful.

x_slowpassintime said...

The gelding I lease (11 year old QH) and I do Performance classes at local shows. We don't do a whole lot in the way of cross training - we just do most of the WP classes plus English Pleasure and Equitation. At the last show the stupid judge made us do the WHOLE equitation class minus stirrups. Posting trot and all. Stupid judge. You all may laugh, but as a western rider who had previously posted without stirrups once in her life, my legs were killing me. But I got 2nd. Ha. But I digress...

Since there are both gamers and pleasure people in my lesson class, on games night the English people trot the courses to practice diagonals, and sometimes we're allowed to let our horses "run" (okay, fast lope) through the courses. Garth LOVES it. He thinks he is the shit and should be a gamer. I laugh my butt off, because it's so obvious he loves it. And he's not too bad either.

One thing I'm amazed by is how few people take their pleasure horses on trail rides. I don't think Garth ever went on a trail ride before I leased him. He's getting more comfortable on them now, and starting to like them. I think that kind of break is what pleasure horses need.

We play amateur polo in the winter at our barn - as in, broken hockey sticks and those volleyball sized blow-up balls. The horses love it.

Okay, that was more of a novel than I intended. Sorry O.o

Heidi the Hick said...

With my 1/2 Arab, I did almost everything- and none too well I might add! For most of our 17 years, I lived a long drive away from him, and we were weekend warrior types. I'd ride for hours on Saturday then show all day Sunday. We did Showmanship, horribly, then western pleasure, which was a joke because he turned into a little red race horse... then the horsemanship, always last. We did okay in the trail class because he was used to doing all kinds of goofy things. In the afternoon we ran the games classes. He wasn't the fastest but we had nice turns so we did okay.

My "training" involved riding around the pasture at the farm, over boards, around barrels, and sometimes going for an hour long ride around the block.

We did parades, taught riding lessons, ponied young horses, and went on a few loooong trail rides.

So what does cross training mean to me? Do it all. I haven't even gotten started on the two I have now. They've got some work to do. I think we have to have some fun with our horses. If all they do is trot around a circle they'll sour. I never won piles of ribbons but I had a good time and always learned something. I think I ended up with a better horse for it. I shudder to think what a diva he'd have been if he'd only been ridden in an arena. He needed to get out and see the world.

Anonymous said... could thumb thru all 2001 issues of the Quarter Horse Journal and probably find a picture of Favor Mr Sabre with the announcement that he had won his Amateur Versatility Horse award. If it was late enough in the year, you may have to also go into the 2002 issues. You could also thumb thru back issues if he was awarded a Superior in any event. If you know the owner at the time of his showing, call them...offer to pay for a copy of a good picture or video. I've gotten lots of ancestor pictures that way.

Kim said...

I couldn't even find Favor Mr. Sabre on

Colleen said...

First time commenting! I love trying new things, and making my horses and dogs try too. My new-to-me steady school horse had done dressage, and jumping all his life, then the both of us went on our first cattle drive. It was a blast! Even my dogs try new stuff, my pit bull traditionally stuck with conformation shows and weight pull contest, now we are trying schutzhund with my shepherd. My shepherd also does sheepherding.

LuvMyTBs said...

Late to the party I see.All of our show hunters hit the trails and I'm not talking groomed riding trails.They learn to break brush,slide down banks on their butts,cross water,navigate deadfalls without jumping them and they have all been on a picket high line overnight.They get used to seeing other horses,people coming at them or whizzing past them on mountain bikes and ATV's.

We also take them into the hunt field to get them used to the hounds and the pace of the group before trying them out as full field hunters.We also raise custom beef steers so all of our horses have moved steers.We also turn them out with the steers so they get very used to being around them.
This makes them very sensible when we encounter deer out riding.

We also do alot of dressage basics and bending exercises with them.We don't start riding ours till age 3 but at age 2 they are used to being fully tacked and long lined
(ground driving)for basic commands and walk trot transitions.They also at age 2 begin their education for standing still at the mounting block with lots of repitition and praise.When it comes time to finaly get up on them it is no big deal which is a MUST for my handicapped self.

Liri said...

My older Ay-rab mare has pretty much done it all. I showed in 4H when I was a kid with her, and since then we've done jumping, dressage, team sorting, lots of trail riding, and a little bit of driving. She's pretty much bombproof now, and is used as a lesson horse for beginning riders. She still likes to prance home on trail rides, though...

My new QH/Morgan has not done a whole lot. Eventually I want him to be a Hunter/Jumper, but mostly we have just been getting him used to scary things. Cars don't bother him at all, but shadows on the ground do... He's been exposed to cows and doesn't seem to mind. I would like to take him team penning at some point. Mostly he's just going to be a trail horse for a while until he settles down.

Samantha said...

I'm a firm believer in cross training.

I have a 13 y/o lesson student with a 17 y/o x-roper turned Western show horse. Only, the now Western Show Horse not only does WP, Eq. Halter and Showmanship, but she trail rides him, runs him in the local playdays, and trots him over a few small crossrails (that one's all me. I've insisted she keep up her English skills).

My own gelding is in no way ever going to make it as a western horse. But while he's destined to do dressage and hunters, we'll also trail ride and putz around the English Eq and pleasure arenas at local shows.

IMO, cross training keeps horses fresh, attentive, improves their responsiveness and gives them that wonderful been-there, done-that attitude that we all want in a horse.

Jackie said...

It looks like PrimaDonnaDiva was at least started on barrels & poles...was fooling around with her working serpentines and set up 6 markers...and she tried to run the pattern :) So I set up barrels...same thing! She's rusty (so am I) so I held it to a fast canter (except coming out of the barrel pattern) but it's something different and fun (she got sooo excited!). Of course, I did this in my English saddle LOL! Boy did I have to hold on with my legs! Good practice for me1

Anna said...

Speaking of training, I would appreciate y'all's help. I work with a just-turned-4-months old Appy colt (yes, the one in the pic). He's the first foal I've ever laid hands on, and his daily care falls to me. I love it, and am head over heels for him, of course. I know very little about Appaloosas, his dam is the first I ever met.
Anyway, I've picked up his feet since he was about a week old, and he's been haltered and worn a lead rope at least a little each day since shortly after then. He leads beautifully, even if not perfectly. He doesn't care where a rope touches him, either.
I don't know what exercises are age-appropriate, outside of walking him over tarp or trailering him. You can read his story on my own blog if you want to, but I'd like some input on where to go from here so that he doesn't get bored or I don't throw too much at him for where he's at.

Jamie said...

I'm really glad I picked up my appy pony already! He's showing himself to be a pretty smart little guy, with a lot of try! I have updates...

amarygma said...

So what's up now? Been a while.

Jamie said...

What is the VLC up to these days? :)

crash test said...

I have a welsh cob who loves jumping but a was bit too fizzy, we did some dressage and by the end of our second season were getting placed.

Riding 20 mile set speed rides with her has improved her steadyness and she's really footsure and a lot more sensible than she used to be, which means much less dangerous, she pretty much always goes clear. It does also mean we're not as good at insane fast jump offs anymore...

Oh, and she does tricks, teaches novices, gymkhana games, cross country jumping, hunter trials, gives leads to other horses, trail rides hundreds of miles a year, conversationally nickers at anyone in the yard and general being my best pal in the whole wide world!

crash test said...

Anna - I have a big baby appy, my only advice would be just don't do anything you wouldn't do with a grown up horse! previous owners of my old horse thought it was really sweet to have a foal put his front legs on their shoulders, maybe it was, it wasn't sweet when he was a 15hh 3yo!

Heather said...

I have a 5 year old Arab who I am just starting under saddle. We longe every day and I have only ridden him about 4 times, today was the first day I rode him while being longed rather than being led around. Our 'cross training' involves longing in different locations each day, longing over tarps, and over trotting poles. He does seem to be bored with longing but has so much energy I don't know what to do other than longe him daily! Hopefully soon longing will become a warm up or occasional tool for cross training and I will be riding him on the trails most of the time! I also have a blog detailing my training, if you are interested.

Redsmom said...

Anna, you could teach him to bathe - go into the wash rack, etc. My friend, Mr. Eddy, does this with his foals.

Redsmom said...

OT, but...

How come nobody ever told me of the wonders of riding in sweat pants? I have a pair of lightweight sweats I threw on yesterday to ride and it was a life changing experience. Granted, I was on my Western saddle with a roughout seat, but the sweats were better than breeches because they are thicker. There was leg protection against rubs and much better wicking properties than jeans (its 90F and 100% humidity here). I highly recommend it. If I were to sew on knee patches, I could probably sell them for big bucks!

Carry on ...

Cathy, where are you? Hope you're training madly or rescuing, or some other fun activity!!

Drillrider said...

< knock, knock, knock >

VLC - are you out there??

snaffles said...

Favor Mr Sabre was one of the coolest horses ever, he wasn't classically pretty - but he was so solid and consistent - I believe he & Gretchen were in the Holly Hover/Carla Wennberg Western Horsemanship video. I know I have a copy of that somewhere - sad thing is - I no longer have a VCR!

You might want to check ebay or local tack stores and see if you can find a copy of it.

Pipkin said...

I took Pip out today on the trail, just us alone. A great cross training adventure. I think cross training means making sure your horse is confident and happy in a lot of different scenarios. If you're going to show, I think having a horse that can handle strangeness is a great asset. I'm having trouble getting on yuku to post a training log, but i've stared my own on blogger, carpepipkin, check it out!

Anonymous said...

I have a little eventing pony I ride, and also play games with for pony club! She absolutely LOVES games!

quixotesoxs said...

My cutting horse has never really gotten sour with his job, in fact, I haven't seen too many cutters get sour. I guess their cattle instinct keeps them interested in their job. However, I still try to switch things up for him. I have to be careful how I ride him since their cues are a little different then any other horse, such as stopping when you take your legs off their sides, rather than them waiting on you to pull. When I'm warming him up sometimes I'll ask him to do a few dressage manuevers. It's a great way to keep him responsive to the bit and my legs. I also try to ride him outdoors and on trails whenever I can. It's a good break from going in circles in the arena. He is very solid and we go to shows about every weekend, so I usually only work cows with him the day before a show and he will be good for me. If there is something I notice I need to work on him with, I might work him on the flag a little during the week.