August 24, 2012

Frustrating Remedial Bending Lesson

The best instructors can come in with a game plan, but also have the ability to change that game plan on the fly if they identify a different, more pressing need.  That was the case yesterday, when my trainer came in talking about a canter transition-heavy lesson with jumping at the end, but ended up working us through some bending issues that are very obviously my fault.

One of the things on which Nancy spent a lot of time with me last week was bending.  “Does your left bicep hurt after lessons?”  I answered that it did, and she told me I was just holding him up with that left rein.  To the right, it wasn’t as noticeable, because he’s supposed to be in that rein, but to the left, he’s going back to being hard to turn and not in my outside rein at all.  My trainer thinks that as he’s done that more, I’ve compensated by going harder on the inside (left) rein, and now it’s just an ingrained habit that needs to be unlearned.

So we ended up having a remedial bending lesson last night, in which she nailed me every time I lost feel in the outside rein, had me do lots of changes of direction, and told me that I need to give forward/reconnect instead of take back/release on the left rein.  “His only chance to respond and improve is in the absence of pressure,” she said.  I was told to reach forward and scratch his wither every three strides in an attempt to deprogram that left arm, and to make sure that my left hand didn’t go behind the pommel of my saddle. 

It was such a frustrating lesson because we just had to keep going until I got the feel and he got the message, and I was really struggling in the middle of it.  We almost crashed into the jumps once or twice because I had no outside rein and no steering.  Slowly but surely, we improved – at the expense, sometimes, of having the inside bend, but I was told that it’s more important to get myself right first right now, and I agree.  I’m the pilot and he’s the plane, after all, I need to have control over my own body before I can fly his.  It took longer than I maybe would have given it on my own, and then we lost it again when we took a brief walk break, so that’s something to think about as I go into my weekend homework rides.

Next week I might be put on a mature horse in order to redevelop that feeling on something that isn’t catering to my habit.  It’ll be the first time I’ve ridden anything but Connor in nearly a year, so that should be interesting.


  1. Your picture is adorable!

    It is so hard to ride correctly and learn that feel, particularly if you're training along the way. Good luck!

  2. Jen don't be so hard on yourself. You would not begrudge Connor needing a refresher so don't hold it against youself. When you own your own horse it is not uncommon to find you have made compromises, good or bad to get things accomplished. We have all had those times where the trainer says "Time to break the habit and make a correction." I see it as growth. You are far enough along for her to nit pick and she knows you can do it. Riding another horse can help a lot. Only once did I ever have a trainer to say it was Barry's fault, not mine so you may hear it more in the future :)