June 22, 2020

CGP Bootcamp: Coming to Jesus

My lesson two weekends ago reframed my pulling problem in my mind and left me wanting more - so we scheduled more, immediately, for this past weekend, only this time I made it a two day/two lesson affair.

No friends = no media this time, womp womp

Where do I start? I rode a piaffe for the first time - "a real one and a good one" according to CGP, which if I didn't believe her (I do), we thankfully did it right in front of the mirror where I could see it. (She was holding the reins and the whip and I was really just along for the ride, but it was still cool to feel).

Check it out, I get to create the "piaffe" tag in Blogger for the first time

But even cooler - I finally learned what the connection SHOULD feel like. I learned what happens when the rider really isn't pulling and the horse is really reaching for the contact without being a rhombus. I have had some great rides and made a lot of progress in connection, but I've never understood it that clearly before.

I looked in the mirror when we finally got it on Sunday and joked, "We're finally a First Level pair," but it really wasn't a joke. Yes, I have my Bronze Scores at First, but we were just faking it til we made it when we earned those. What I saw in the mirror this weekend was a true First Level pair.

May 2017, faking it til we made it, PC: Paul Wood Photography

But let's start at the beginning. Saturday's lesson was one long coming-to-Jesus moment, an hour and fifteen minute long battle of wills that I was not going to lose. We weren't unfair or mean to him, but it was still a chess match I was determined to win, with CGP backing me up every step of the way.

Saturday was Connor waving our signed pact in the air - "But you promised to always hold me and I promised to always pull and then I never had to do anything hard! Why are you being like this!" - and me saying "Sorry, I tore that contract up and we have to write a new one. When I move my hand, the bit follows, and your jaw follows that, because the bit is mine to decide what to do with."

Post-Coming to Jesus lesson

We started by asking him to turn his head and follow the bit when I used an opening rein, without me dropping the contact and without him throwing his head up. First at the halt - slowly shortening one rein to ask him to bring his nose around without throwing his head up in the area while slowly lengthening/allowing with the other. Then we did that at the walk. Then when that was good, the trot.

She helped me explore the relationship between him wanting to throw his head up and me pulling, and this was also when we tried a new bit. She said since she rode him the weekend before she couldn't get past how dead his mouth felt in the straight bar Bombers (which is less a reflection of that bit than it is my hands), and she felt like he needed to change it up. Enter the Neue Schule Tutle Tactio Universal:

The little bit of (not Dressage legal) leverage got his attention. Between that and between me not letting him get away with ignoring the bit anymore, he got a little "emotional", CGP called it, "It's always the ponies that get emotional." But by the end, he was soft, pliable, and his neck was really coming up and out of his chest, with the base of it soft. When I move my hand, the bit follows, because the bit is mine and not yours.

We ended in a REALLY good place on Saturday. To be continued!


  1. Eee so exciting!!! Can't wait to hear more!

  2. Those come to jesus rides are important. I love the conversation about tearing up the contract. His photo says that he's getting in touch with his lawyers....

  3. Ponies for sure are more emotional than horses. FOR SURE.

  4. It's so funny how horses react differently to bits - my horse went well in that bit for two rides and then he just was not rideable anymore. It's hard to know when a CTJ moment is right or not but it sounds like this one was right!

  5. I just switched Cisco to the turtle top baucher. Not sure if he like it better than the other NS baucher yet. We're going to need a CTJ ride about connection pretty soon as well I think.
    Was the piaffe on Connor?