Holy Crappers.

You know how you can be talking horses with someone and you get the feeling that they are on your level, equal to you in knowledge and experience?  And then sometimes, you talk to someone, and they are so far above you, eons above you, in both knowledge and experience?  You get a little slack jaw and start to drool?

I mean.  Guys.  New trainer.  Holy shit.

I watched a little bit of the lesson before mine, with a couple of kids who have been jumping for all of a month.  I mean, really, the exercises were pretty damn hard and I was so impressed.  Impressed with them for being able to do it and impressed with her for teaching it.  If you're curious:  there were two lines.  One line was a zig-zag thing of four fences, each three strides apart.  You either had to counter bend or do a flying change over each fence to set up for the next one.  Then around the turn to the next line, which was another bending three to two straight, also three strides.  These girls, I mean, really, kids, were so calm and collected and I don't even think they realized that this was actually a pretty complicated little gymnastic.

Afterwards, she walked up to us last night, introduced herself, and asked what issues we were having and what I wanted to work on.  I stuttered out something like, "We have no balance, our transitions suck, my equitation is questionable at best, my go-to is the fetal position around his neck, my hands wander. We've spent the last three years trotting circles in a pasture with a cross rail.  Yeah, um, everything?"  She replied for me to go to the rail and pick up a trot when I was ready and we'd start from there.

I seriously trotted maybe a lap, lap and a half, when she told me to stop and come to the center.

And then she proceeded to tear apart everything I thought I knew and was doing well.  And it all made perfect sense.

I've taught Archie, or enabled Archie or encouraged Archie, to truck around in a false frame.  We talked about this at length, with prancing trainer included.  She said that on photo, she's sure he looks amazing.  But in action, his back end isn't engaged and he isn't lifting through his core.  She said that she thought it probably had a lot to do with him being slightly long, which he is.  He also falls right, and completely bulges that right side.  This is something that I commented on previously, but thought I had fixed somewhat.  I haven't.

When I went back to trotting, I had a looser inside rein and a tighter feel on the outside rein.  I also had my right heel in his side to encourage him to move his ribcage over.  But before I could really do any of that, I had to increase pace.  Um.  I go too slow?  I go too slow.

After I had gotten satisfactory results tracking left, we went right.  She immediately picked up that he was much stiffer in this direction.  I had to work so much harder to get the same results and also had to widen my circle because he just didn't have the muscling to do a smaller circle.  I rode with a crop for most of the trot work, which she said I didn't use enough because I was working too hard.  She thinks I would benefit from tiny spurs and when I expressed concern about the swinging of my lower leg, she said it wasn't an issue.

Tracking right, I essentially had to let go of my inside rein and ride inside leg to outside rein.  It's never made sense before because I didn't have enough of either.  The reason I had to let go of the inside rein is because I unconsciously jiggle it to get him to drop his head - going back to my false frame.

She asked if I had more in me to keep going.  I said yes.  Archie was sweating but not lathered.  And I told her that I really wanted her to see the canter, because I knew it was worlds worse than the trot, especially tracking right.

So, I immediately asked for canter, was embarrassed when he picked up the wrong lead, and asked again for the correct lead.  She told me to slow down in my canter transition and to get it right.  And, while I felt like it was one of the best canters we've had on the right lead, she had me stop after a lap or so.  Oh, I also have to work on my canter-trot transitions and not just throw him away.  I'm not supporting him and I have to sit deeper and push for the transition.  She said that it was pretty horrible and asked if I knew about counter bending.  Si!

So I changed direction, left lead canter, warmed up in that direction and then asked him to counter bend.  I'm not gonna lie.  This was fucking hard.  I had my left rein completely slack, my right rein along his neck, my right heel scooping his flank, my right thigh blocking his shoulder, my left heel exaggeratedly behind the girth and my left knee pointed out to get the thigh off his shoulder.  But I could absolutely feel it when we nailed it, he lifted his back and brought his ribcage over.

Then I did an immediate change of direction and picked up the right lead, keeping my body pretty much the same except shifting the pressure from the inside rein to the outside rein.  This was, surprisingly, even harder.

We practiced a more times in either direction before we called it quits.  But, at the very end, she said that he had maintained the ideal frame for several strides.  She advised that I keep working on this, but intersperse it with trot work because it's just so hard.  And get spurs.  And, eventually, we'll move up to the counter canter to continue building his balance and muscling.

After the working part of the lesson was over, she asked what I wanted to do.  Was I just interested in improving his performance or what.  I said I wanted to show.  That I wanted to do a hunter show and a dressage test.  She laughed at that.  Then I told her, "The ultimate goal would actually be to three-day event, but I'm not sure that he has the mind for cross country.  I'm also not sure that I have the balls for cross country.  I hunted when I was younger, but that was when I bounced.  I don't bounce anymore."

She said that he would have no problem with a dressage test, as soon as we sort out this self-carriage crap.  Oh, I also let him pull the reins out of my hands (because I love the snookums... and I don't close my hands enough) and I needed to stop that.  I've never even noticed.  But I need more contact with the bit, need to have shorter reins, stop letting him get strung out in the front.  If I get the pace moving, get the back end engaged and get him to lift his spine, get the right ribcage over and haven't thrown away his face, he'll naturally round his neck.  I know because he did it and it was fucking amazing.

Trail ride to cool out.

I can't remember the last time I rode this long.

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9 comments

  1. Sounds like a killer lesson! Hopefully you'll be able to get another one with her soon.

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  2. Honest, quality training from someone who truly knows what they are doing will change the way you look at every aspect of riding and training forever! When in doubt...go forward and stop thinking about his neck.

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  3. Wow. The new trainer sounds like a stickler, but hopefully she will be able to help you guys improve. It sounds like she knows her stuff. I'm sure she would massacre my riding.

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  4. So glad that you are getting to lesson :)

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  5. Sounds like a good trainer. I hope that you able to continue getting regular lessons with her. Congrats!

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  6. Sounds like a challenging first lesson with a terrific trainer!! I hope you are able to ride with her lots and lots more!

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  7. Go girl!!! Sounds like a hard but worth while lesson!!

    Lessons with a good trainer are crucial :) Seems like you found a good one and your game to work hard which I'm sure she loves :)

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