August 21, 2020

Lesson Wrap-Up: Outwit, Outlast, Outplay

 Last Sunday I hauled out for a lesson with my GP trainer that I think will end up being a pretty important lesson when I look back on it later.


BFF horsey wingman Mary came with!

First of all, it was our first lesson in his new bit, the mouthpiece we discovered he liked last time I was here. Unfortunately, my first two rides in it at home before this lesson had not gone well and he got his tongue over a LOT. 

NS Turtle Tactio Baucher. Proper review to come.

He started out going quite nicely, garnering us a compliment for how much progress I had made on my pulling since last time.


But then he quickly showed his true colors by getting his tongue over once we started to push him for better quality work.

From here, GP trainer gave me a college-style lecture about this charming habit. 

- When does it happen? It may have started with your hands, but it's evolved into his default reaction to being asked to do hard things.

- What makes it possible for him to get it over? Anatomically, he has to put his head up in order to get it over. The bit being fixed between your hands also makes it easier for him to get it over.

- How do we make it stop? We first have to change things up on him, shift his paradigm, and second, he has to learn to trust the contact.

- An observation from her about me: It's made me afraid of the contact feeling good/correct. In my world, he's either heavy in my hands, or he's light in my hands which means he's about to get it over, so the fear of the contact being anything other than heavy is making me avoid pushing the envelope with him.

"Don't want my paradigm shifted, lady."

She started out by telling me that anytime he started fussing with his tongue (a precursor to getting it over) I was to ride him with one rein, the inside rein, and to basically loop the outside rein. I was to use the inside rein to ride him in a small circle until his mouth was quiet, and then immediately move out of the small circle and pick up normal contact again.

She explained that by making half of the bit "soft" rather than fixed between my two hands, it's harder for him to get it over, and by using the small circle, we're telling him "okay, anytime your mouth is fussy, things are going to get hard for you".

This was the furthest thing from pretty, but boy was it effective. He got the message pretty quickly at the walk and trot, where it completely stopped him from getting his tongue over and he quickly softened at the base of his neck. 


Mary's assessment of GP trainer was "I really like her, and I rarely say that about trainers. She has a little cowboy in her, and that surprised me from a Dressage trainer."

At the canter, it was more of a game of Survivor that I was not going to lose. One moment in particular, he was a bit frazzled and spinning around in the small one rein circle, and GP trainer encouraged me to wait it out for far longer than I would have on my own. "He's not listening to you, he's off in Ponyland right now, so keep on with the small circle and make it hard for him until he decides to give and pay attention."

After he finally did give and paid attention, we gave him a break and then moved into the "he has to throw his head up to get his tongue over" thing. For this, she had me work through encouraging him to keep his head down, first at the walk, then at the trot. It wasn't "head down for the sake of head down", but there was a real purpose behind it. There was a lot of "no, wrong answer. no, wrong answer."

Tail game still on point

By the end of that lesson we were both dripping in sweat, but he hadn't got his tongue over since the first five minutes, AND I hadn't resorted to pulling. That ugly but effective lesson would serve as the foundation for a pretty and effective lesson I had later that coming week.


  1. Love it! I love Mary's comment about having a bit of cowboy in there. Not sure many people realize how ugly dressage can be before it comes pretty.

  2. It sounds like a useful lesson.