Wednesday, November 29, 2023

lots'o lessons

One of my biggest goals in getting a young horse at this particular moment in my riding life is to get back to feeling like I'm learning, growing, developing as a rider. 

Which, I'm not gonna lie, is actually pretty hard for me. People who know me know that I can be a little micro, a little controlling, I like to do things the way I do them for real reasons that generally suit me and my horses just fine. 

So, stepping back, ceding control, letting myself be vulnerable in trying to change the way I go.... ya know, that's challenging. It feels a little exposed. But it's also exhilarating to feel little moments of breakthrough after years of "bad" habits.

she's not standing straight from nose to tail, but is kinda square in her body and is looking more grown!! 
also, everybody say "Hai!" to my ancient Bates dressage saddle from the Isabel days lol
We've since had two more lessons with resident dressage trainer MP. I've kinda been stacking them right on top of each other bc it feels like we're working on important fundamental stuff that can only benefit from supervision and real time coaching.

In my experience with various trainers, clinicians, instructors, what have you, it seems like everyone has a slightly different way of introducing and prioritizing the work. With Charlie, and dressage trainer C, our earliest fundamentals revolved around getting him forward and in front of the leg, and getting his big giant earthbound shoulders up and out of the way. 

lol stella trotting in like she never misses a meal!
Doozy is obviously (and intentionally) a pretty different type from Charlie, and MP is putting our pieces together starting with bridle contact as priority #1. But, from her world view, bridle contact is itself almost entirely a function of rider posture. 

ok. lesson time. be nice bc we are both working very hard on changing our posture and it's going to take time. also i'm in the Beval jump saddle in all these pics
Our last couple lessons were basically all about taking my position apart and putting it back together again. And a lot of what she's telling me is basically exactly opposite from how I've been riding the last few years.... so it's taking a lot of repetition and real time feedback to start to make the changes. 

she's concentrating so hard <3 <3
With each new lesson, tho, I'm getting a better understanding of what it all means. She wants me to 'stabilize my elbows,' which basically means to engage my triceps and feel the place in my back between my shoulder blades --- not pinch my elbows at my side. 

'Suppling my wrists' means a swift (but soft!) rotation from the elbow to basically release tension or rigidity from my arm while staying connected to the bit.  

somehow still manages to make her wispy thin tail look majestic
That all got a lot easier in our third lesson (yesterday, no pics sorry!) when I swapped the Beval jump saddle for my old Bates dressage saddle. It was much easier to keep my legs down under me (and on the horse), to support the more stabilized upper body. Which, ya know. Duh

pretty sure there's a big future horse in here somewhere
Right now, MP perceives that Doozy prefers to lean on her right shoulder. We tend to fall in toward the right, while counter bending left. A lot of my work in getting her straight will, for now, revolve around bringing Doozy's right nostril toward her right shoulder. 

And to do this, I need to keep thinking about my right elbow and right leg (regardless of which direction we're tracking), like I'm putting money in my pocket. 

managed to find a micro moment when my legs are under me so i can sit up lol
MP called me a bit 'wishy washy,' too. Like I'm a bit too much in the middle of the road. Which like, yea, fair, I don't really trust myself with a lot of contact bc I kinda feel a bit like I suck and have bad hands haha. But... ya know.... Again, see the first sentence of this post: Doozy and MP are here with me in this moment to help facilitate exactly this education. 

not gonna lie, it was seriously challenging to try to do the poles without either of us loosing our posture
MP's approach in this moment of our training is for me to bend Doozy to the right, sometimes a little exaggerated if needed, until she gives and releases with her neck. At which point I need to *not* just soften and release everything and turn to jello (lol), but actually be there to support with the left rein and both legs. 

it's easier to see in the video, but pics like this are why MP hates this new saddle, whoops lol
We had a few reeeeeally nice moments at the end of our third lesson (yesterday, again sorry not to have pics!) where I felt like I had a little bit of a breakthrough with my hands. 

MP wants me to hold the reins basically with my thumbs, with the rest of my fingers closed but soft. Which... again, is a little bit opposite from how I've held the reins for... uh, ever, lol.... Apparently I typically hold more with my ring finger... so it's taking intentional concentration to change that. But I also need to feel almost like I'm holding the bit at the corners of Doozy's mouth -- vs feeling like I'm just holding two rubber reins.

Anyway. I was seriously on the fence about sharing the video above bc it's so easy to be critical and see how much work and change needs to happen. But, eh, that's riding, right? Ultimately, I'd rather have the complete record vs only just the best snapshots. 

Tho, it's really pretty crazy to me watching how I look in this saddle with the posture MP is trying to effect in me, vs how I look (and feel!) when I'm just out doin my normal thang. So, eh, for now we'll stick to the dressage saddle unless jumping is on the agenda. 

meanwhile, my old Bates is quite literally unsellable (at least, not without repairs like replacing those dry rotted billets). but, i've always been fond of its neutral geometry and adjustability
Another thing worth mentioning, kinda separate from the lessons themselves: It finally happened that we arrived at the indoor while bff Stella was already in there riding. Which, obvi I knew bc I'd seen her and her person down in the barn and we'd chatted etc. We knew it'd be hard if I got there before they finished, and then had to watch them leave.... But also, ya know, that's life

Like, our farm is the sort of place that, at 11am on a Tuesday, there might legit be 3 different horses in the indoor -- us for our lesson, C doing a schooling ride with Stella, and another boarder lunging her own young horse. 

also got fancy new wide stirrup leathers in a black friday sale from Millbrook Leathers. right now they're on the dressage saddle with my similarly ancient Izzy-era Compositi 'irons,' but eventually some of my nicer irons will get shuffled around onto these leathers
And Doozy was significantly unsettled and upset about Stella being there. Like, by far the worst she's ever been with ring company. But Stella left and eventually... Doozy coped. 

Then she continued coping while we did our lesson in one end of the ring while the other young horse lunged. Then she melted down a little again when that horse left.... But eventually she coped some more and we finished our lesson with actually legitimately nice trot work. 

Millbrook Leathers threw in a really cute USG-knockoff belt as a gift with purchase too!! i love these stretchy woven belts and have a few from USG already
She is for sure going to be a more difficult management case at shows and in warm up rings. I don't think she'll ever be like Charlie was. But I'm also seriously impressed with her (eventual) willingness to cope and relax again even after being pretttty worked up

good girl, Dooz, see ya later!
So. Lots of long details in one mega post.... But it's so helpful for me to write it all out and try to commit a least to mind if not muscle memory (yet lol)! 


  1. 1. We're currently trying to find a saddle for Goggles that the three of us (him, me, and JT) all like. What a task.
    2. Y'all look great in the video, like you said with one of the pictures, definitely some moments where you can tell the future horse in there, how cool!
    3. I'm right there with you on the warm up ring angst. I've been avoiding that task/trip so far.

    1. what a task ---> AMEN. like, i knew the one i bought would kinda have a limited shelf life but basically just needed to be useful enough for us to "get going" without the mare feeling any sort of way about the fit.... was hoping for more of a 7-12 month life cycle vs 2 months tho LOL, but eh it'll keep serving us for jumping for now!

  2. She is looking very elegant!

  3. I can't believe how much condition she has put on - she looks fabulous! Also I am obsessed with that belt - where do I buy one?

    1. thanks i'm so excited with how relatively easily she's put on weight!! here's hoping we can keep it thru the winter lol.... and re: the belt, idk what brand it was bc it was a GWP, but it's a knockoff of the USG belts which i LOVE. Fair Hill Saddlery has some here:

  4. She looks sooo good! You've got to remind yourself of how much strength and balance she needs to hold that pretty posture and how long it's going to take to shift to the sport horse mode from racehorse mode. I'd be pretty damn happy if she was mine and that's where we at at this point! 👏 And as the owner of a horse that came to me obscenelyyyy herd bound, it gets better. Thankfully. Otherwise I would probably not own horses any longer if the crazy stayed at a heightened level 😂

    1. ha thanks yea it's so easy to forget how out of shape we both are... esp given how quickly she's catching on. definitely gotta keep reminding myself to be patient and take it easy! still tho, i'm super excited :D

  5. She’s got a lovely trot. I think with new relationships lessons are great to get everything on the right track.

    1. thanks! her way of going is so very different from charlie haha, but i really like it !!

  6. You two are looking great! And I wouldn't stress too much yet about her angst when friends leave in relation to horse shows. The nice thing about shows is that there are horses just absolutely everywhere. So even if they leave the ring you're in, there's still plenty in eyesight. Al hates when his friends leave too, but at the horse show, he wasn't so concerned about the other horses.

  7. This is the best I've seen you ride, and that on a bebe horse, too! Kudos to you!

  8. There are some really beautiful moments in there!

  9. Those lessons sound and look really helpful. Great to be able to access coaching at your barn. What fun!


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