November 18, 2019

Lesson Wrap-Up: Falling Off a Cliff

Not one to squander a trip to CGP's, I asked to take a lesson on the same day I hauled in for the Patrick Saddlery fitting.  We don't have any kind of formal "Cob Jockey will take monthly lessons" agreement, but I've made it over there for a lesson once a month for three straight months so that's a thing now.

Noooooo media so have some Hank pics

It wasn't pretty, but goodness it was effective.  We spent much of the lesson progressing through the gaits while living by these rules:

1.  A down transition can happen at any time and the pony must carry himself in such a way that he can do one at any moment
2. The pony must respect the bit and cannot lean over his chest
3. A reinback may or may not follow a down transition and the pony must be ready for that at every single moment
4. The pony is not allowed to race backward in the reinback
5. If the rider isn't in total control of the speed and number of steps of the reinback, the pony is in charge and that's not the way life works anymore
6. The pony needs to obey commands immediately
7. ...which means the rider needs to give more clear signals

The net result of all of that at the walk and trot was that he actually shifted his weight onto his hindquarters.  When we finally started this at the canter, we added an 8th rule:

8. The pony needs to strike off into the canter with conviction from the moment the rider asks.  No trantering!

Being a very pretty bowling ball, NDPC 2017

The most difficult part of the lesson was when she asked me to canter to reinback, knowing it would be a hot mess.  She told me to pretend he was about to canter off a cliff, and I had to stop him and back up away from the cliff - but not in an out-of-control way. "You should decide that he's going to stop at the letter E and he should stop at the letter E.  You need to be more clear with your aids."  We did actually get there with this exercise, and he got so uphill and pushed so hard off his hind end in the upward, I actually got left behind the first time in surprise!

I'm not going to tell you he was the picture of a perfect Dressage pony in this lesson, especially not in the beginning.  CGP said we're going to go through a period of increased tension, that we're sacrificing relaxation in the name of things he needs to learn right now (and should have learned earlier, but hey, this is my journey up the levels), but that we'll come out on the other side.

At the same time she's giving us this very welcomed tough love, she's also murmuring offhanded comments like "You're going to have a nice piaffe someday, little dude" and "Can't talk a walk like that to Grand Prix!"  We haven't sat down and talked about my goals yet, and we all know the odds of Connor making it to Grand Prix are slim to none, but it's pretty cool that she's training us as if we're headed there anyway.

I should also note that this entire lesson was in the flapless, that my GP trainer was more than supportive of it, that she has other students that ride in them, that she personally knows the founder of Eq Saddle Science, and that even though she's sponsored by Patrick, she didn't care at all which one I ended up with, which felt great!


  1. I can vouch for the 'it will get a little ugly before it gets better" phase ... err multiple phases haha.

  2. These are some really good tips- love the canter to the cliff's edge mental picture!

  3. Those super-prompt canter departs are amazing but they are totally my nemesis! A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany about how I get so anxious about getting left behind in that prompt depart that it affects everything else...but we're working on it!

    1. That's so interesting! I'm guessing your anxiety manifests itself into you doing something weird in the transition?

    2. I realized that I am so desperate to not make a mistake (ha, type A, people pleaser much), especially on the super fancy horse I've been riding, that I get all stuck in my head and subconsciously worriy about it, which results in me getting tense. If I relax and stop thinking about it, I end up having beautiful transitions. Realizing this and being aware of it is making a huge difference!

  4. This sounds like a really fantastic (albeit HARD) lesson! Also love that trainer is supportive of either saddle. And lastly, I'm kinda dying to know what you picked, if you've picked yet.