December 6, 2014

Lesson Wrap-Up: Bend, Counterbend, Leg Yield = Straight

This not-having-a-saddle thing is great.  You know what's really hard to do without a saddle?  Brace against your stirrups and make your horse crooked.  You know what my worst habits are?  Bracing against my stirrups and making my horse crooked.

I'm just going to break up this wall of text with pictures of Connor being cute, don't mind me...

My trainer asked how things were going at my lesson last night, and I said, "I'm sore, but he's straighter than ever!"  She, as usual, magically knew how to reinforce that straightness further, and had me bend-counterbend on a square in the middle of the ring without pulling on the reins until he was really listening to my seat, first at the walk and then at the trot.

When I'm bareback, either seatbone is on either side of his spine, and asking for bend feels like moving one seatbone and the top of my thigh closer to his spine than usual.  Her voice in my head from last summer: "Reins do not create the bend, the seat creates the bend!"

She also had me focus on aiming his chest straight at each wall once his shoulders were unlocked, which we differed in opinion on - he wanted to throw himself sideways down the short side and move straight on the long sides, but I said no (and almost came off once when we continued to "discuss" that right up to the wall, and he decided we were going one way while I wanted his shoulders in a different direction).

We moved on to bend-counterbend at the canter (picking up the canter has been the hardest without a saddle. I think my aids feel different to him, but I'm not sure how yet).  The last thing we did was a great exercise, which was:

- Trot down centerline, leg yield to wall at the opposite corner of the ring
- Pick up canter when you get to the wall
- Shallow loop down long side

The first time I did it, I made my loop too deep and Connor broke.  "That was...a bit too ambitious." But it got progressively better as I let go of the reins and focused on straightening him with my seat.  Toward the end, it felt like he was jumping into the canter in almost a leg yield in the second half of the shallow loop, and it was a really cool feeling.

4 CrossFit workouts and riding bareback all week...whew!


  1. I've been considering throwing a bareback ride into every week of riding so I've been looking at bareback pads. What do you use and do you recommend it?

    1. I have the Toklat Plaid Bareback Pad in pony. I paid $40 for it from Mary's Tack and Feed, they don't appear to carry it anymore though. Here it is from another store:

      I like it, though it's nothing special. I think the girth buckle catches his skin a little when he's clipped so I'm super careful with it. My trainer recommended that I get one with a hand hold loop on the front of it so that I could pull myself into the "saddle" at the canter. That's probably my only recommendation - it's nice to use it to straighten the pad up too.

      My barnmate has the Thinline one and really likes it. I've never tried it though.

    2. Ah my Trainer has the Thinline one too and can't recommend it enough. I'm just wavering because of how expensive it is :(. Thanks!

    3. You're welcome! I felt the same, which is why I ended up with the $40 Toklat. Basically all we need it to do is keep our breeches from getting disgusting, right?

    4. I have the Thinline bareback pad. It's a well made, good girth. Stays put on his back, and I stay put too... very secure. I highly recommend it!

    5. *It's well made with a good girth*
      dyslexia ;D

  2. That last photo of him is just so cute!!!

    1. My mom took that one at Jump Start! I love it!

  3. sounds like a workout! i am also 100% guilty of bracing on my stirrups... tough habits... anyways, interesting points about your seat on either side of his spine, and how that creates the bend. food for thought