Friday, December 4, 2015

Light. Bulb.

The estimable Alyssa came out to play bridles the other day. Alyssa kicks all the ass at jumping but is new to dressage. I am also new-ish to dressage, so I took the opportunity to talk her through what we're doing right now. It's super riveting--80% of my last two rides have been walk.


We're cementing the freewalk (with stretch! and swing!) and the working walk (with contact! and swing!) and really trying to have a solid, defined transition between the two.

(Dressage nerd aside: I've been watching a lot of a dressage videos lately, and this is a place people just GIVE points away by not having enough of a change or a solid enough walk. Walk may not be our strongest gait now, but I can make it a LOT better. Ha! /end aside)

Anyways. We're talking Alyssa through the super-interesting walk transitions and then demonstrating how much the trot transitions improve when the walk is good.

Of course, then Courage starting demonstrating his very-thorough understanding of dressage, and Alyssa again proved her mettle as a photog by capturing one of our better moments:
such dressage. very wow.

Because I was trying to talk Alyssa (and myself) through the process, I kept breathing and kept talking and kept riding and was pretty well able to rule myself out as a cause of the annoying spooking problem. Doesn't matter if I'm loose and happy and talking--the wall is still sometimes randomly TERRIFYING.

I explained to Alyssa how I couldn't really push him forward at the trot until we got a handle on the stupids and little alarm bells went off in my head.

Then I got home and looked at the pictures she took. This is our best trotting picture:
that's not tracking


Am I right?

I mean, there are nice things about the picture--my position is less jumper-y and more upright. My hands aren't quite in my lap. Courage is accepting the contact well. The overall outline is fairly harmonious.

OH YEAH ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: the horse isn't forward. Not even sort of. Combine that with my realization that 80%+ of our spooks are in the trot and then toss in my statement about not riding forward...


Courage isn't spooking as much in the walk because his ass is WORKING. He's forward and balanced and NOT BEING THROTTLED TO DEATH.


Well that sounds suspiciously like a rider problem.

I mean, he's a fit OTTB in a dark indoor who feels GOOD. He's going to have some stupids. Buuuuut I bet you right now that if I put my big girl panties on, kick him in the belly, and TROT FORWARD, I'll bring our trot stupids right back down to roughly the same level we have at the walk.

Which is really not that bad.
getting so pleasant

Hmmmm yeah so there's that.


  1. Whyyyyyy is forward so hard sometimes?!

  2. I always feel SO DUMB when I 'figure out' something like 'putting the horse to work and riding forward fixes problems'. I think winter is the perfect time to work on the walk, too! I once spent an entire winter on free walk. It was awesome and SO helpful.

  3. There was a great article in USDF Connection a few months ago by Hilda Gurney, and the title of it was "Are you blocking your horse?" Because I looove to hold, I think about that from time to time. Am I blocking the energy? Am I not allowing the forward? It takes some bravery to let the energy flow but really, it does work!

  4. It really makes you think about what you're doing when you explain what you're doing while you ride haha.

    My friend runs into the same problem with going forward, you're not alone. I used to do it too. There's less to think about when you're up and forward. Forward is focus. ^.^ I see a lot of people now confusing forward with just faster and that causes a whole other sandwich of problems. A der.

  5. oooh i love dressage 'aha' moments!!! (even if they always kinda make me want to murder myself bc it always seems so simple in hindsight...)

    both the horses i ride very badly need work on "forward" - tho in different ways. at least it's obvious with bali bc he literally kicks out every time you ask for more. isabel is sneakier tho bc she'll be plenty *fast* ... but it's not really the same thing, ya know? anyway good luck!

  6. oh, it is so hard to go ahead and ask for forward when you are trying to block stupid and prevent spook fallout! I come across this a lot when riding--the instinct of what I want to do is usually the opposite of what would actually work. :P

  7. Love light bulb moments. Forward, always forward.

  8. Makes me think back to the dressage training pyramid. Sounds like you're right on track! Go you! You're right, it's time to layer in some more impulsion now that the major issues like turning and flailing are resolved and rhythm, relaxation and connection are becoming more established, even if it's only truly there at the walk right now. You're doing great! Forward (not fast) fixes many probs of the distracted horse :)

  9. Your elbows could be a little more back and in line with your body, bent and hands up a touch to straighten the line from elbow to bit. I see this because I have the same problem, pointed out to me often.... *sigh*

    Also note- Walk scores in dressage are usually worth DOUBLE points. (At least they are in driving) Nail a good walk and it really, Really improves things. Coming up with some sort of cue or signal for the extended walk helps. Been there....

  10. Lol, "kick him in the belly" the comment I hear 90% of the time when my horse is being an idiot. My boyfriend has even picked up that line when I'm at shows and we're struggling... because we're not going forward! (though he just thinks it's funny) Amazing how those lightbulb moments work.

  11. LOL - at my last lesson, my trainer actually said, "forward solves a lot of problems."

    Right now, Speedy is getting his ass kicked with the whip AND spurs. Spurs are for gentle reminders to move laterally when he doesn't hear my seat and leg. The whip is for when he ignores the spurs and needs to get his ass MOVING RIGHT NOW!

    We had a little come to Jesus meeting tonight in fact. :0)

  12. I was thinking about you and this post while I rode this evening! Apollo is still muttering "vive le resistance!" every now and then, and I worked on solving it via forward. He's not as reactive as Courage, but he has his moments. :)

  13. Ooooh interesting... this does make me think about a discussion I had with my MIL about how lower and upper level dressage riders handle disobedience. Lower level = push forward (stop being a giant jackass, Murray). Upper level = back up (engage and lower haunches, fancy horse Nicole doesn't ride). I can't wait to see how this works out moving forward!

  14. I am finally caught up. I can't wait to read more about you and Courage!

  15. You're going to be a spectacular DQ, Grasshopper. Seriously, I know dressage riders who have been competing for decades and haven't figured out those two things you figured out (don't throw scores away at the walk and ride the horse forward). Awesome job!

  16. One of the hardest things about hot/forward horses has to be slowing them down while keeping their butts in gear. I mean if you're not a dressage person you'd probably be dumbfounded that it takes way more leg to do a canter walk than a walk canter. More leg to slow down than to speed up? Doesn't seem to make much sense, but dressage is just magical like that.


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