Sticky Peppermint Mouth

By Terry Golson

The weather yesterday did not feel like fall. It was hot and muggy, but Tonka and I had a special lesson to take, so off we went to a farm twenty miles away.

Eva Rainsborough, a German Grand Prix rider and trainer, was here for a clinic. She coaches my instructor, Kim. Kim understands how slowly and incrementally I train Tonka, and how frequently I stop to reward. Kim goes along with, what in the modern dressage world, is quirky.

A clinic is different. I wouldn’t have time to discuss my training philosophy with Eva. But, I’d observed her previously and respect her quiet and calm approach, and her ability to see the minutiae  of how a horse moves. My plan for this lesson was to do everything she said, see how Tonka and I responded, and adjust what I learned for future training at home.

We worked very hard. See how fancy Tonka’s hind legs are moving? Neither Tonka nor I were at our best, but we listened and we tried. Eva took us out of our comfort zone and showed us that we can do more than we thought.


Eva is very good about including walk breaks into the lesson. But even the walk has to be energetic!


I slipped Tonka a couple of sugar cubes, which turned into foamy sugar mouth – something even traditional trainers like to see because saliva enables soft contact with the bit.


A peppermint made Tonka’s muzzle even stickier. Eva didn’t mind.


Afterwards, I hosed the sweat off of Tonka. He asked to have his face sponged, and let me know that his sticky lips needed scrubbing.


He even wanted his teeth wiped off!

I was happy to oblige.

6 thoughts on “Sticky Peppermint Mouth

  • Gin

    I really enjoy your posts on your dressage work. So now after this clinic you know some more methods for training at home. Looking forward to seeing how that works out.
    How do you keep Tonka from smelling the peppermint on your hands after you give him some mints?

    • Terry Golson Post author

      I’ve taught Tonka that food rewards are only available when he is calm. Good things come when he is relaxed – never adorably nosey! Sometimes people inadvertently train their horses to be pushy, then look away. I don’t want that – I want all interactions to start from a relaxed stance. People who meet Tonka sometimes think that he’s not engaged, but he’s actually doing what he knows will get food and attention.

  • Chickencarol

    Love the last two photos. No one wants to stay sticky! Not all animals accept the clean up so well though.

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