Thursday, April 23, 2015

Confidence and... Dressage? Sigh

it's a stretchy trot, ok?
So after my impulsive and rash decision and then my quite successful jumping lesson, I had a complete panic and scheduled a biomechanics lesson with S because...

Well. You know.


(noted: no media from this lesson. all pictures are from other rides.)

And while I accept that clinics are all about learning and learning is great and all that, I just feel like if I'm going to sneak into a clinic full of fancy, competitive warmbloods on my green, self-"made" OTTB, well, I need to bring my A game so I don't look like the hick cousin we all ignore at parties. Does that make any sense?

this is good
Like I'm completely used to embarrassing myself in public and at shows, but if I'm riding for an internationally renowned clinician at a fancy barn that some kind soul invited me to, I don't want to be the idiot that everyone remembers.

And I realize that's probably too lofty of a goal.

Regardless. Lesson with S. It started out fantastic. She said I had nothing to worry about and that my position wasn't that bad and then promptly fixed everything. I felt like my hands were pretty much in Courage's ears, but I finally got them out of my lap. Body was up. Horse was forward.

She really emphasized sitting down on my horse while riding forward--which changes "MADLY CAREENING AROUND SKETCH FOOTING" to "hey, nice forward canter". Interesting. She was sensitive to Courage being green and pointed out that I always need to give him some place to go--like a small circle, but give him the inside rein.

We were having a grand old time and then she wanted one more canter.

(guess where this is going)

Courage was like "ENGAGE MELTDOWN MODE". And proceeded to hop up and down in place and fling himself around, which is the thing that immediately precedes the hijinks he's been favoring lately. So with S on hand, we played with different methods of addressing it.

It took a lot of hard riding on my part, but what really worked for us was to go to the place he was trying to get to anyways (the gate), then push my hands forward and loop the reins, and just clamp my legs down like vices and keeping him going forward.

And release when he listened.

You could totally see him go "well now this game is poo. nothing to have a fit about and just have to work ass."

I've got this better in jump tack
At this point, we are treating it as a behavioral pressure response--he goes really well until he hits his pressure limit and then he tries to take the pressure off by freaking out. If I take the pressure off (throw the reins away and relax), he calms down. So the goal is two fold--increase the amount of pressure he can deal with by doing 3-5 minutes hard work, then 3-5 minutes easy. This helps him increase his pressure tolerance and takes enough pressure off that he shouldn't hit the top of his limit.

Oh, and biggest takeaway from S?

"You ride him great. I know it feels precarious, but you're actually just fine. You need to trust yourself that you can handle this. Be more confident, because you've got this."


  1. I like your trainer too! Glad that you and Courage can get to a calm, productive place and have almost figured out his freak-outs. I cannot WAIT to hear about the clinic, I'm sure you guys will kick butt! OTTB power! :)

  2. it's gotta feel good hearing that from your trainer! you're gonna do great at the clinic - seems like every new ride is adding to or refining tools in your tool box, very exciting :)

  3. I once rode with an international riding master who reminded me that even a Grand Prix dressage test lasts only about six minutes in the arena. He advocated riding well and hard for spans of 6-8 minutes and then letting the horse take a physcial/mental break. There was no need to demand more. It really helped keep my TB's happy over the years.

  4. We are our own worst critics. We're never gonna be perfect, but sometimes we have to give ourselves (and our horses) a little credit. You'll do great and most importantly, you're gonna have FUN and learn something!

  5. If someone said that last comment to me, I'd probably write it out and put it on my bathroom mirror so I could read it every day.

    Also, I loved the first part of this post, because we're going to our first rated show and our fancy trainer invited us to stable with her and I am TOTALLY convinced I'm going to look like "the hick cousin we all ignore at parties." I feel like the cool girls invited me to sit with them at lunch and I have literally NEVER been cool. {{{cue panic}}}

  6. I am so impressed by you - great job on riding through and having such a healthy attitude towards the behavior. I know how hard it is to cope with those kinds of shenanigans, both physically and mentally!!

  7. I was that hick cousin at our last clinic - just invite me along and you're golden lol. Of course, I know you guys are going to do great! I love the last comment :)

  8. Love her parting words, you guys are doing great things and have come so far. The improvements will keep rolling in ☺

  9. If anyone does give you a weird look just remember that he or she is not the kind of horseman whose opinion matters.

  10. Love to hear this, I think you're doing great with him! And those stirrups are just fab.

  11. Love to hear this, I think you're doing great with him! And those stirrups are just fab.


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