Behavior Replacement

Sweet hair, dude.
Without my Sunday ride (in which I struggled to get Connor's attention) and my Tuesday ride (in which he rotated through a different evasion with every step before giving up and giving me good work for the final 10 minutes) I don't think our flat lesson would have gone so well last night.  Our first Dressage ride after a few consecutive jump lessons is usually a trainwreck.

But as my trainer said, jumping and Dressage are starting to work together for Connor now instead of against each other.  One improves the other now, in both directions, and a month of jump lessons isn't going to kill our Dressage anymore.

My lesson last night was all about behavior replacement - for me.  "Sometimes his neck gets so short that he doesn't have any mobility in his shoulders.  Every time you think you should put any backwards pressure on the reins, counterbend for a couple of strides, then normal bend - DO NOT PULL BACK while doing that."  After a few minutes of that, I had a loose swingy Connor that almost felt like he was melting, he was so soft through his entire body.  (Funny, I get soft and then he gets soft...I know.)  Add some impulsion and we were really cooking.

After he was soft and bendy, the second half of the lesson was sitting trot and 10m circles.  First, we established a good sitting trot.  Then, we went through the following exercise at the sitting trot, which she said could have been done as a serpentine but she wanted to give us more time in each bend to establish good work.  It also could have been done without the poles, but she wanted pinpoint accuracy:

Let me see if I can describe this.  Starting at the top, left rein 10m circle through the (4ft) poles once, then again, but the second time we turned right to go 10m circle right through the middle set of poles, then the second time through  the middle set we turned left, rinse, repeat, all the way down.  We did basically 1.5 10m circles involving one set of poles before turning.

In between, she would sometimes have me come out of the exercise and get a massive "give it all you got!" trot out of him so that he didn't lose that impulsion.  He felt GREAT, which is good, because those two previous rides made me rethink my big Dressage goal for next year (still coming, promise).  We also worked on me relaxing through my lower back with my new leg position, and sitting trot felt really good - which is good, since we probably did it for 20 minutes straight last night.

Now to get that on-demand in the show ring...


  1. There's always so much to think about! And once you "get it" you wonder why you had so much trouble. :) I totally agree it's a different ball game getting good work, on demand, in the show ring.

    1. You're right! You really have to keep the whole journey in perspective. There are so many 'It's' to get.

  2. I love reading about your lessons, they echo so much of what I need to work on with my own pony! Good stuff. LET'S HEAR ABOUT THAT BIG DRESSAGE GOAL, MISSY! ;)

  3. Replies
    1. It's a good one for sure, definitely couldn't have managed it without the right trot, which was sort of the point.

  4. OOOO, I think I've seen that exercise called "string of pearls"! I haven't tried it at sitting trot, yet, but I think I'm going to have to, now!

    BTW, I got your gift(s), and I am so delighted and surprised and ecstatic and just wow. You're the best!! At some point, I'll make the blog post and share pics! Thank you sooooo much!

    1. Haha, I am a not-so-secret santa. I just couldn't stand not helping out a Reynauds sister that couldn't make it to the barn. But that's not part of the secret santa so that I stayed under the dollar amount okay?!

  5. Ooh I can't wait to hear about your big goal! It's so interesting reading about other people's lessons. I won't be having any for a while with Rio, but it does get me thinking about what I can do with him until then to keep him interested. There are so many things I don't really understand at the moment though - what is counterbend?


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