December 5, 2011

Saturday's Lesson Wrap-Up (on Monday)

Thus far, I've done it "all wrong": bought a pony without my trainer's guidance, purchased a non-eventing breed, bought a horse for a sport I've never shown in before, bought a 13.3hhpony instead of a horse, etc etc etc.  As a result, I went into Saturday's first lesson with my trainer with as much apprehension as excitement.  I felt like we had a lot to prove, and Contender gleefully playing hard to catch for the better part of an hour did not help things at all.  We finally did catch him, after herding him through the gate and into a corner by the main barn.  Sigh.  None of the usual grain bucket or treat tricks work with a sensitive, happy, overly intelligent Cob.  They weren't kidding when they said "You have to have a sense of humor to ride Cobs."

Have I mentioned it's raining?
But when we got into our lesson, he redeemed himself.  She isn't the most forthcoming with compliments, so when she kept saying things like "I really like him," and "I love his brain, the way he's so willing to take and think about what we're asking and then try it," and "He really is a nice mover," and "I really can't wait til he's ready to pop over some crossrails!" and "He's going to look so cute on the cross-country course next year!" I was about ready to slide off in relief and burst with pride.  As one of the top eventing trainers in Indiana, her approval means so much to me, and to have it...well...I'm really looking forward to the 2012 show season.

She left me with a lot to think about, so have some bullet points:
- Giving him cues off of my seat instead of my legs or hands (We're starting this horse right!)
- Exaggerated arm position, with elbows at my sides, to get more of an angle in my usually straight arms.
- Riding deep instead of perching, with my back straight and sitting more on my seatbones than perched on my pubic bone and hip bones like a hunter.
- Using that seat to encourage him to "sit" through his hind end, and using that seat to regulate his gait and control his "hopping" into the trot

The overarching theme of today was that in my hunter position with stiff arms and a hollow back, I am unable to compensate when he does green horse things, like get dramatically ahead or behind my leg for a stride, or when he takes the reins a bit too hard, or when he "hops" into the trot.  She demonstrated this by standing in front of Contender, taking the reins, and pulling me.  When I was in my hunter seat, I did get tipped forward.  When I was in a Dressage seat, I felt the energy of the pull being directed through my core and down my thighs.  So cool!  I'm so very glad I don't have this horse on my own.  With her, we are going to be so much better trained than we would be without her, and we're going to go further, faster.

Homework for the week of 12/5:
- Continue to solidify the strong Dressage-style seat, with an active core and seat bones tucked underneath me
- Work on transitions, paying close attention to position through the transition and making each one seamless and quiet (getting rid of the hopping into the trot)
- Work off of my seat and using as light of aids as possible everywhere else
- "Metronome" work at the trot - developing an even rhythm

Afterward, while I was sitting on him and talking to my trainer about board bills, Contender suddenly shook so hard, I nearly came off of him.  I have never felt a horse shake like that in my life!  She said the look on my face was absolutely priceless.  I'm pretty sure that it was first surprise, then anger that a shake almost threw me off my horse!

(Photo credit to Austen at Guinness on Tap.)


  1. just found your blog randomly and love the title. Love that pony too! We have a few things in common: ex hunters trying a new sport riding breeds not normally associated with said sport. My horse is often mistaken for a cob and I always take it as a compliment. Look forward to seeing you guys progress!

  2. I know how you feel. My first horse was a 13.3h Arab. He and I had to have private lessons since he was a bit of a hot head. After we worked out the kinks, I evented him from 18" to 2'9". He was 14 when I got him and nearly 24 when he was forced by injury to retire. Everyone asked me when I was getting a "real" horse. Let me tell you that pony out jumped many a horse. As young as Contender is you have plenty of time to develop a great eventer. Put a picture of Theodore O'Connor in his stall for inspiration. Have fun!

  3. GPG, nice to meet you! Your pony's face there in your Blogger profile pic looks just like one of Contender's half-siblings. I see you're a sucker for a chestnut with a flaxen mane as well! Your pony (Halflinger?) seems to be built very similar to mine, I'm looking forward to reading your blog!

  4. Nicole, I laughed at putting the picture of TOC in Contender's stall! One of two things would happen: either he'd rip it down or I'd even more firmly cement my position as the resident barn oddball. I'd have loved to see some videos of your Arab. I'm not sure if you're the same as I am, but I enjoy riding hotheaded ponies, but when I'm on a hotheaded horse I want to bail as soon as possible.

  5. I wish I had video of Barry and I, but we competed before digital cameras. Maybe I can dig up some pics to put on FB. I am only a little taller than you, so I have been a pony rider for years. I like a bit of heat in the horses I ride, hence 3 arabs,a morgan and now 2 cobs. I leave the big ones to others.

  6. Glad you had a great first lesson and so much positive feedback from your coach! Sounds like you guys will be a force to be reckoned with next show season!

    I ride a pony as well - a large, at 14.1hh, but a pony all the same. :-)