June 15, 2020

Lesson Wrap-Up Part 1: CGP Rides Connor

On Friday, my company gave the entire company a mental health day, so Connor and I went back to my GP trainer for the first time since December - and I ended up with what may end up being one of the most impactful lightbulb moments I've ever had. I'm actually going to break this up into two posts - one about GP trainer riding him, and one about me riding him.

"Ah yes, my other kingdom"

We rode in the outdoor for the first time ever, and Connor was being a total pill for me warming up. He wanted to pay attention to everything except me, so his solution was to rush forward, get over his chest, pull me out of the saddle to make me less effective, and lock his jaw to keep me there.

Connor  here: "HA HA! I GOT YOU!"

CGP was like "Do you mind if I get on him?" after trying to get me through it with no success. Me, paraphrased: "PLEASE AND THANK YOU, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD"

The first thing she did, briefly, was work on turning and foreleg control. She would ask him to take a step with the inside foreleg, he would interpret that as "walk forward", she would tell him, "Wrong answer, try again" and repeat the question until he got it.

Gerbils starting to get corralled

She said he was very straight when he turned, and he starts the (left) turn by swinging his head in (to the left), which made his haunches swing out (right). On the hollow (left) side, he tries to initiate the turn with the outside front foot, when he needs to be initiating it with the inside front foot. This is why I get that feeling that he initiates turns by leaning inside from the inside shoulder.

(Also, spoiler alert, you'll find out whenever I write the next post that I am the cause of this left turn nonsense by pretty much always pulling on the left rein.)

Next, she did a lot of backing with him. Not just gratuitously, but with a goal in mind of getting him to lighten his front end. She said even though his head is up a lot (partially I think because of where his neck is set onto his body), he's pushing down with his chest, which makes it hard to stop him. He turns his body into a parallelogram, when we want it to be a rectangle, we want the top half of his body to slide back over the bottom half:

Left: the way Connor wants to travel (if you're looking at him from the side and he was facing left here). Right: the way we want Connor to travel

During the backing, she sat patiently and waited until he was really balanced and light in her hands, until the parallelogram became a rectangle. At first, this took a while, like, they'd back 3/4 of the way down the diagonal of a very large outdoor. As soon as he gave her the right answer though, she'd halt and praise him, so it quickly didn't take as long before he was keeping his rectangle and they moved onto trying to maintain that shape as they walked forward.

When they started walking forward, she said she was "catching him as he tries immediately to become a paralleogram, and make his steps shorter". He got this pretty quickly, and she joked, "I feel like I could piaffe this horse now!"

Look at how much sit he's giving her!

It's not piaffe, but she did get several (7 or 8?) little baby half steps in a row! When she halted him and praised him profusely he turned to look at the spectators/camera like "...did you see me do that?!"

I feel like he's wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket here and doing the Fonzie

After this point is where things really started to click for him. In the beginning, she had to accept a shorter neck and more tension while she worked on shifted his balance. But after she had the balance, she was able to start allowing a longer neck.

And once she had better balance, the longer neck and less negative tension, she was able to push for more power.

This was my first time seeing her ride my horse, and I was thrilled with the way she rode him. She REALLY brought the pressure in a way that would have been too much for him, except she has a knack for releasing at just the right moment, praising him and giving him a wither scratch with the inside hand. She called him "very willing", and I said, "Yep, no matter how badly I screw this horse up, when I ask for the right thing he still gives it to me."

And then I got on.


  1. Awesome recap - Gav definitely is full parallelogram! Connor looks like a total stud in his "piaffe" pics.

  2. Connor: Yes, I am all that and a bag of chips!

    What a great session, I'm so glad she was able to pop on him for a bit!

  3. That sounds like such a great lesson and learning experience for Connor (well the both of you but also Connor a lot!)

  4. This is awesome and rang some major bells for me! Fergus is weirdly hard to stop, and when you said "pushes down on his chest, which makes it hard to stop him" I was like AHA. Very excited to play with that this week!

  5. The more I read your posts, the more I think the Welsh part of Shiny is actually cob. She uses the same evasion techniques, like... exactly.
    It's amazing what your trainer got accomplished in just one quick ride. Can't wait to read about your part!

  6. Very cool! You have a great way of explaining what you guys are working on for us non-dressage types, btw!