Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Western Lesson!

That's right, Izzy and I had lessons on two consecutive days. I feel like one of those cool rich people who can have more than one or two lessons a month, except I didn't pay for either of them. (Cathy is letting me use up residual credit with lessons and Teri doesn't charge for lessons).

This was our first ever western lesson. Heck, it was my first ever western lesson. The truth is, whoever put 30 days on Izzy before I got her probably rode her in a western saddle, so Izzy probably has a better understanding of what's going on then I do. Then again, she probably doesn't really remember it.

We actually did very little riding and a lot of talking about theory--specifically, the biomechanics of how a horse moves and how it effects the rider, which leads to how the rider can be most effective with the horse. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the volume of information, but I did better when we moved to applying it. Oh, how to summarize... I'll just highlight the main points that I plan on continuing to practice until our next lesson.

1) Halt. This is important. (Der... for most of you, I'm sure.) In order to achieve a quality halt, we need to focus on preparation--set the horse up to succeed. It is a 3 beat count. One, prepare your body, two, say "whoa", three enforce with the reins only if necessary. I think I have the sequence right. In order to allow the horse to lift her back and use her back end properly, I am to put my weight into my stirrups instead of my seat.

2) Back. This is an important step following the halt. There is a pause in between, as the horse must only back when asked. In order to ask for the back, push your weight into your stirrups and move your legs in rhythm with the horse. I need to understand and influence which legs she moves. Thus, if I want her to back starting with her right front, I need to lift my right rein, while pushing my weight into my stirrups and using my right leg. Then left leg for left front, and so on. On one level this made sense and I like understanding which leg the horse will use and being able to influence that, but it's different than what I've learned before (close the leg to engage the haunches, close the rein to block forward motion, allow backward motion).

Izzy had no problem with it. We're still ironing out my aids as far as selecting which leg she starts on, but when I do it right, she responds correctly. So. Weird. I'm barely grasping the concepts, and she's like, "Ok, now what?"

3) Jog. I was glad we spent some time on this, because it's been a struggle for us. I had been asking Izzy to jog directly out of the walk, which she would do for a little while, but then fall forward and either run on the forehand or break to walk, both of which are non-desirable. Teri explained that I basically want a slow collected trot (also not our forte). In order to get it, I take Izzy out on a loose rein (encouraging the long and low outline) in working trot. I am posting. Then, I sit and half halt, bringing her back to a collected trot. Right now, I also need to shorten my reins. We hold the shortened trot for a few strides (<5), then I give her the reins and we trot on, continuing long and low.

It worked so incredibly well. We had some of our best work ever, and Izzy only broke to a walk once. It makes so much more sense... slow collected work, then forward as a reward. Plus, it keeps Izzy thinking forward and should alleviate our stickiness problem. It only took a few circles for her to get the idea, and then she was fabulous.

Overall, Izzy was really good, though she did get bored of the standing and learning part of the lesson. It's good for her, right?

The only bobble we had was when a couple at the barn (who are very nice) brought their horses out in the indoor. They are Clinton Anderson followers, so I guess they were doing Clinton Anderson stuff. I don't know; I don't keep up with all that. Anyways. One of the horses got popped with a whip a couple of times (I wasn't watching, but it didn't seem excessive). The horse reacted rather strongly. Izzy and Panache (who Teri was riding) both got pretty worried and acted a little silly, but we kept things under control and they settled down quickly. Fun times.


  1. Awwww, Izzy, you are such a good girl:)
    Between all your talk of western fun here, and another blog that said she found her western saddle horn invaluable for riding out (and staying on) a horse that spooks on the trail, y'all had me browsing western saddles for thoroughbreds online last night. Just what I need! :)
    Glad you had a great lesson.

  2. Sounds like a great lesson. What a nice opportunity to work with someone who has such a good grasp of the basics. Sure, some of it's a different than the dressage aids, but you can apply the theory to all your riding and training. Izzy seems perfectly happy to oblige, so, well done.

  3. First western lesson! How fun. I am really surprised at how different the aids are for backing. Weight in your stirrups instead of your seat? Very different. It's interesting though, I can't wait to hear more.

    Happy holidays!!

  4. Thanks for providing all the detail on your lesson. It sounds great and I love a teacher who really goes into detail and theory.
    I've enjoyed reading about your horse and training this year as I learned to blog. You certainly have a beautiful mare.
    Merry Christmas!


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