February 4, 2015

Thinking Forward

Sexy neck.

I'm back to flatting in the Micklem/loose ring combination.  You may recall, my trainer asked me to flat in the elevator for a while to help retrain my sense of feel, and because Connor went super awesome in it.  That lasted a while.

Then I started to feel like I wore out my welcome with it.  He wasn't very consistent in the contact, and started tossing his head.  So I got off mid-ride one night and put the reins on the elevator's loose ring ring.

He was heavy, of course, without the leverage to help me.  I looked in the windows as I rode past (they're a passable mirror) and I saw the same thing I always see: even with his head on or in front of the vertical, we just look backwards.  We are going fast, but not thinking forward.

Dressage was good here.  This looks forward.

I have a confession to make: my Dressage has felt stuck for about six months now.  It's been eating at me.  I love Dressage, and I feel like we should be farther than we are at this point, even though there's no reason for that feeling.  Green horse, more or less green rider, of course this is going to be a slow process.  We make steady progress thanks to a great trainer with the ability to train through teaching, but it's never going to be like putting him in full training.

Thinking backward.

All of my major breakthroughs have occurred with 1) positional improvements on my part, 2) being more aware of myself, 3) riding off of my seat.  The only reason we're not moving forward, literally and figuratively, is my inability to internalize this stuff.  Translation: I learn slow.

So I sat there in front of a window, bareback with my elevator-turned-loose-ring, and didn't want to be backwards anymore.  I made a conscious effort to do the following:
- Look up
- Feel more
- Half halt ALL THE TIME
- Feel like I'm pushing the bit forward
- Use my new understanding of how the outside rein should work to improve turns and circles
- Keep both legs on him at all times

I won't pretend like it fixed everything instantly, but it was a very different and very good ride from what I've gotten recently.  The work in the elevator did help both of our feel.  I can now whisper in the loose ring the same way I did in the elevator, and the half halts really kept him from getting heavy - I just had to do them constantly.  He went along in a long, relaxed but energetic outline.  It's a start.


  1. Absolutely on target here, I think. Pretty sure the elevator helped you so much because his heaviness wasn't there to pull your seat off and invert your upper body. If you want to keep that quality with the loose ring (which you are totally capable of, I know!!) you're going to have to insist he stay light. You already have the tools for that, and you talked about some of them here. I'd suggest making that feeling of lightness your first thought. "Oh he is sorta heavy, am I pulling? Did I collapse? Is my seat light?" Fix yourself immediately, and bump him off your hands. Remember your flexions, from seat to hand. And if needed, just completely take away the hand you can't stop pulling with. I have to do that all the time, especially on the heavy horses. For me it's always my inside hand. I just flex my elbow to lift that hand in the air, maybe even thinking "toward his ears" to keep myself honest on whether I'm pulling back or not. That "up" of your hand will ask him to flex, and lighten. But, your seat has to be there to catch him and keep him forward.

    I know you know all this, but sometimes it helps to hear it in a different way, yeah?

  2. I love those little break through/ahha moments. It sounds like you are on the right track and I bet you start to feel like you are moving forward again in no time!

  3. Love this post! So many good thoughts, and Austen as usual has fantastic input in the comments. :)

  4. It's hard to change your riding.

  5. I think the toughest thing about riding is realizing what your body is doing at all times and being conscious and able to fix it! Muscle memory is sooo annoying. Excellent ah-ha moment though :D

  6. I know what you mean about going fast, but not being forward. Bridget and I struggle with a similar feel. These cobs are so naturally athletic with that big trot that they look/feel pretty good even when they're a bit 'stuck', then the next thing you know they're REALLY stuck and you've got problems (can you tell I'm living this right now? ha ha). Love the analysis!

  7. Forward is so key, but for me something that is hard to feel. With jumping at least, I feel like I'm going SO FAST but we're also "going backwards".

  8. Plateaus are expected- sounds like you are off to a good solution.

  9. Dressage. Frustrating riders for over 400 years. I totally feel your pain, since you and I basically ride the same horse. Hang in there, it gets better!

  10. good luck!! i like to tell myself that we don't get stuck... we just move into a phase where the changes become imperceptible (but still there!). that might be wishful thinking... but i think not. in any case, i like your mental shift of looking in the mirror and deciding that change happens now. hopefully it works out!!