July 4, 2018

Asking for First Toolkit Instructions in My Lesson

I had my first lesson in a month last night.  While I was gone, my trainer rode Connor for an entire week, and then parts of the next two weeks.

Reunited and it feels so good!

All photos in this post courtesy of the Pixio.

I could definitely tell a difference in him when I got on.  He was responsive to my leg in ways he wasn't before.  She also had had good success in teaching him to keep his front end elevated and hind end engaged, and even said she got a couple of good canter-walk transitions while I was gone.

Of course, her doing it and her teaching me to do it are two totally different things.

Starting to get a tiny bit more uphill...

Since Megan and Kate's Mary Wanless experience, I've thought a lot about trainer teaching styles and how I can be a better student - to recognize when my trainer is giving me a second toolkit instruction when I really need first toolkit.

With Megan's "Amnesia of Expertise" post from yesterday fresh in my head, when my trainer said something yesterday to the effect of "ride him up through your body into the contact" (second toolkit, at least for me), I replied with "I don't know what you mean by that, what do I need to do with my body to do that?" (Translation: Give me first toolkit plz)

It took her a second to put into words what she would naturally do with her body.  She had me stop while she explained it visually, with her body, and also physically, with my body.

She also picked up my leg and put it where it needed to be AND showed me just how much pressure is the right amount of leg pressure by slipping her hand under my leg and asking me to use it - and we both discovered that's pretty difficult right now due to HOW FAT THIS HORSE IS!  But that's for another post.

Asking me to use my leg the way I normally use it so she can feel how much pressure I'm using and where it's hitting him.

After that, she walked next to me and paid attention to what my body was doing.  That was so much more effective for this type of position overhaul than standing in the middle would've been:

Side note: this rein length feels SO SHORT, but I'm glad I recorded this lesson because that length actually looks great.

It ended up being a really effective lesson, but if I hadn't stopped her and made her give me a first toolkit instruction, it might not have been.  I might have tried to achieve the same thing by pulling, not understanding how to do what she asked me to do.

It's not a condemnation of her teaching style either - there are some students I think she could use second toolkit instructions with here and they'd get it.  I'm not that student.  But recognizing that and asking her to translate what she meant into my language turned the entire lesson around.

You can see his big belly pushing my right leg out here.  Forget the muzzle, he's been drylotted for the past two weeks.
I've started even asking for first toolkit clarification for things I think I know, that she definitely thinks I know, like halt, and shoulder in.  It's good for us to take a step back and doublecheck that we're actually understanding each other.


  1. Good for you for asking and great for you that your trainer is willing and able to delve into "first toolkit" if you ask. I don't agree with any and all of MW's biomechanics explanations/conclusions/directives but her explanations of the toolkits, how riders/horses learn, the psychology of riders, and various alternative learning tools besides actually riding, have really opened my eyes to a new world of improving my skills. Good luck and C looks great in the pictures!

  2. Sounds like an awesome step in a good direction.

  3. Well Conner looks great even with his extra summer pony pounds! :)

  4. This is awesome! I love that she immediately started trying to explain it better vs just writing you off. I am still getting used to being able to ask trainers to break things down for me, this definitely inspired me to ask more questions at my next lesson. I didn't realize I was kind of nervous about doing that until now.

    1. I totally get the nervousness. On the one hand, your trainer could interpret it as "I suck at explaining things to people and that's my job," and get offended, and on the other hand, it takes a lot of humility on my part to say "I don't understand what you said," especially if it's for something simple that I "should know". But I think I've definitely learned it's worth it and important to do. Otherwise I'm throwing lesson money away!

  5. I've loved reading about this first vs second toolkit because I think it's a really good reminder right before event camp next week to really take advantage and ask for what I need, rather than just hope I'm getting it sortof right.

  6. I LOVE this. The instructor/trainer I bought Promise from taught like this -- she was a HUGE Mary Wanless fan and had me reading all of her books at 12, lol -- but she would walk beside you and adjust your position as you rode, or bring you to the middle and show you what she meant first with her own body and then by manipulating your body on the horse...it worked so well, and I totally miss that style of teaching!

    1. Yeah, it's not naturally what my trainer does, but she will do it when I ask, which is all I want!

    2. So great that she will adapt her style like that, and hopefully, the more you ask, the more she will start to do it with you without you asking!