February 13, 2015

Lesson Wrap Up: Mostly Dressage in the New Saddle

It's brutally cold here right now, a low of 8 last night, and I spent all of yesterday thinking "Please don't cancel my lesson.  Please don't cancel my lesson," because it was my first lesson and first time jumping in the new saddle.  So when I got to the dark, quiet barn, I thought "Crap..." and texted my trainer to ask what was going on.

"We're still on, I canceled everyone's lesson but yours.  I figured you wanted to try out your new saddle. :)"

Teaching in 15 degree temps so I can try out my new saddle?  She is the best!  And I told her so.

"You want me to do what right now?"

It was supposed to be a jump lesson, but it quickly became a Dressage butt-kicking, which we needed so badly.  She's very good at adjusting on the fly when she sees something she doesn't like.  So, we spent the first few minutes insisting that he not go around with his nose in the air.  Next, we worked on a 20m circle, changing directions through the center of it, so we turned into the center at 3, 6, 9 and 12 on the clock, creating an X in the middle.

We had to do that for a while before he really settled in and got to work, but once he did, it was fantastic.  Once I had him on my aids, we got off that circle and started working on keeping him honest at whatever speed I set him at.

Still very surreal...

She had me use my leg to get him into a working trot, and then take the leg off, and to make sure that was a BIG difference in feel for him.  If he slowed down, apply leg until he was back where I wanted him.  She wants him to feel like he is free to move underneath me when he is maintaining the speed that I set him at - that he doesn't feel trapped by my leg.

We used that to establish our '3' trot, and then she called out which trot she wanted on a scale of 1-5, 1 being almost trotting in place (and we did get there for a stride or two multiple times!) and 5 being that deliciously massive Welsh Cob trot.  She said eventually he'll have a 1-10 trot.

It felt SO GOOD.  He was so on my aids, so consistent in the bridle even in the jump bit.  He was also more focused on me than he has been in a long time.  That level of focus - where he is so tuned in to me he ignores the whole outside world - goes hand-in-hand with being on my aids.  She said I need to give him a reason to focus on me with changes like the 1-5 trot, and not demand his focus.  I definitely need to change up my training rides.

This is on-my-aids-ultra-focused Connor.  Warming up literally right next to tent stabling, with 20 horses warming up around us, and he tunes the whole world out.  I need this mindset to be able to put in a good Dressage test.

Then we finished by popping a vertical a few times, a reward for the pony and a test for my saddle which was amazing but this post is long enough so that's going to have to wait.

Keeping warm


  1. what an awesome lesson - i also like that 20m circle exercise with turns up the center at 3,6,9,12... also super glad you love the saddle!!!

  2. 8 degrees? I would probably die. Your trainer also sounds awesome.

  3. Sounds like a great lesson, major commitment points for you and your trainer with those cold temps!!!

  4. Your trainer sounds great. Also how happy was your butt in the CWD?