October 17, 2019

Lesson Recap: GP Trainer Lays Down the Law

I hauled out a day early for the Mary Wanless clinic so that I could take my second lesson with CGP.  In my last lesson, she rocked my world.  In this lesson, she rocked Connor’s world.

Connor: “...she’s going to do WHAT?!”

Right off the bat, she commented on my hands.  “They are SO much better than last month, big change!”  All month, I continued to use those loops off and on to remind my brain that my hands and elbows need to move.  That change has STUCK, and it was great to get that confirmation from her.

The TL;DR for the bulk of the lesson was “He’s no longer allowed to lean forward over his chest and he has to respect the bit every step he takes for the rest of his life, end of story.”  Also we made HUGE improvements in the c-w!!!

From the moment he walked off from the halt, she pushed us to be better.  He leaned over his chest to walk off, and she had me issue a series of short, sharp, fast, upward half halts on the reins to get his attention and get him off his forehand.  They were given alternating as each foreleg was in the air, with care taken to not make it a see-saw motion.  “You need to be fast with your aids,” she said a lot.

Cooling out on their 1/4 mile gallop track.  I constantly see people riding out here, which is impressive for a Dressage barn!

At the same time, we also slowed the walk down and brought his mass over his hind end.  “Like we want him to be rectangle-shaped instead of rhombus-shaped?” I asked, and she said “Yeeessss,” in a mildly skeptical way that I read as “Where did you learn that...” #bloggerpower #sorrymegancantfigureouthowtolinkpostsonbloggeripad

For the entire lesson, Connor never got the easy way out.  He was never - even for a second - allowed to lean on me.  Those annoying half halts happened if he did.  He was never allowed to tune the bit out, I was to communicate with whisper quiet aids and wake him up if he didn’t pay attention.  He wasn’t allowed to rein back at hyperspeed with his weight on his forehand.  And he wasn’t allowed to barrel over his chest like a bowling ball running downhill.  “This horse needs to live in a world where a down transition could happen at any moment.”

Cares more about snacks than down transitions

And I don’t mean to say she was unfair to him.  It’s just that I let him get away with all this, consciously or otherwise, and I have to stop that if we’re going to progress.  So she helped me lay down the law, but was equally good at helping me release and praise at the right moments to release some steam.  At one point, she actually walked alongside us with a whip and tapped his chest if he rolled forward through me - and you know Connor hated that - but even still she knew just when to back off.

Then we cantered.  And guys.  This is where the power of laying down the law became clear.  When I’ve gotten a c-w transition in the past, it’s usually on accident, and even when he does it, his front end slams hard into the ground.  But today, we got FOUR crystal clear, delicate, soft, butter smooth, easy canter-walk transitions, out of a canter that was one of the most uphill I’d ever ridden.  And a bunch more transitions that were “almost” there in one form or another, but still WAY better than my usual.
Taken 0.5 seconds before he dropped out from under me in a huge cat crouch spook because...fall?  IDK

We’d pick it up out of a self-carried walk with his mass over his hind end, and at first, I asked for it with a bunch of those annoying upward half halts.  She explained it as: “He’s ignoring you, and those half halts make it annoying for him to ignore you and to continue cantering.  We want to give him a reason to pay attention and avoid you being annoying.”

It was amazing how quickly Connor figured it out, and I was able to decrease the annoyingness of my aids accordingly.  You listen, I’m less annoying, that’s the deal.

I have a feeling we just learned a really important lesson.  Hopefully this one sticks as well as the last one!  Mary tomorrow!


  1. What a great lesson. ‘You listen, I’m less annoying ‘. Love it.

  2. That sounds like a fantastic lesson and the minute i read the rectangle/rhombus line I started laughing out loud. I love blogging and how we kind of infect each other with ideas lol

  3. What an amazing feeling those canter-walks must have been :-D

  4. In my crazy imagination, all of these GP trainers have a secret club where they meet and are now going 'wait, how did riders all across the country start saying the same thing about their horse at the same time?'. Because my trainer also got a 'not rhombus shaped?' comment. Meghan has infected us all.

  5. Ohhh, I love that feeling where they sit a little and just lightly step into a walk from canter. So cool! I kind of love what you're working on right now...all that hard work over the years just getting refined a little for some huge results <3

  6. Sounds like such a productive lesson! I love the line "you listen, I'm less annoying".

  7. Yes!! Sometimes you just have to rattle their cage. I am loving this instructor and her coaching!

  8. So exciting! You're learning a lot in just two lessons! Can't wait to see some media!

  9. This sounds like an amazing lesson. I love your description of the trainer's response when you asked about him not being shaped like a rhombus

  10. What an amazing lesson! (Sorry, Connor lol)

  11. Yessssssssss!!! Sounds very familiar...Connor can always call Crumble if he needs to commiserate with a fellow pony-shaped friend!