September 14, 2020

Lesson Wrap-Up: WOW

(For those viewing this on a mobile device, from an RSS reader: the YouTube links aren't showing up this morning. Click through to my actual blog for two short clips of this lesson.)

I dropped Connor off on Monday and patiently waited on an update every day after that, not wanting to be a helicopter parent and ask. On Wednesday I got a good report saying she tried him in a drop noseband and he loved it, and a "I can't wait for you to see him on Friday!" On Thursday, I got a text that she rode him in a bitless bridle and she "learned a ton."

The drop is cuter than I thought it would be on his face

I barely made it to my lesson on Friday, with a work emergency almost preventing me from making it entirely, but I'm so glad it didn't miss it in the end.


It was just...staggering. Normally we can get to this level of relaxation, suppleness, and back lift, but it takes at least 20-30 minutes. Never immediately.

As soon as I got on his back, I noticed his mouth felt alive and responsive. Every tiny movement of the reins was something he took notice of and reacted to even if I didn't mean anything by it.

All of these screenshots so far are from the first moments I trotted him in this ride

The next thing I noticed was that as soon as I activated my core even a little, I got that "circle of energy" feeling, which again normally takes a lot more time and a lot stronger muscle tone from me to achieve. It was like he was waiting for me to activate my core muscles, rather than me "yelling" with them until he finally paid attention.

"Oh yeah, we've been working on learning what a half halt is this week!" she said No kidding, haha, I noticed.

Connor, pay attention to school!

After a brief warmup, she stopped me and talked about what she learned in the bitless bridle experiment. She used what sounds like a Dr. Cook's-style bitless bridle, where it crosses under the jaw and applies pressure to basically every part of the bridle except the browband when activated.

"Basically it squashes the head so if you have a horse that [has bit evasions like Connor does] they won't be comfortable doing their normal thing. They have to eventually figure out that if they soften, the pressure is released, it's a direct 1 for 1, and it takes away all the stuff he does with his mouth, it's like static noise. When I put pressure on the first time, he just had a fit, he was like "Waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!" and shot off, he was not happy about it. But pretty quickly he finally figured out, 'Oh, I can lift my back, elongate in the front of the wither, drape the neck and there's no pressure! Which what he's doing for you right now."

 Um...yes. That is what he is doing. Wow.

This ride ended up being more of an exhibition ride than a lesson, which was a good thing. After we'd warmed up, talked a lot, and I picked my jaw off the floor, she said, "Okay, if you're okay with this, I'd like you to trot and then canter in each direction, and if those are both good, I'd like you to take him on a trail ride. He's worked hard this week and deserves it." 

I joked that a short lesson was good for me too because I hadn't ridden in three weeks at this point and felt like a duck out of water. She said, "That may be true, but in full training he'll become so much easier to ride, you can just get on and ride well even if you're not riding as much." I said that was already true!

The short clip below is from our last canter, and the downward C-T transition is probably our best ever C-T transition, which normally feel like a tumbling pile of bricks to me.

All in all, so far so good - if he feels this good after 3 rides, I can't wait to see what he's like after 40 rides!

And he nickered at me when he heard my voice, before he even saw me, which is what matters most of course <3


  1. Sounds like college is going well for Connor! How exciting!!!

  2. Awww, look at that good, balanced pony! That's so great, I love that feeling when you unlock something magical! Enjoying reading about this awesome opportunity.

  3. So exciting! You two look AMAZING!

  4. I'm so happy for you that this is working out so well! It's nice to see how all the puzzle pieces are fitting together for you: Pilates, new-to-you saddle, another trainer's approach, and then training board. Good for you for embracing what this crazy world throws at us and turning this into a positive time of growth.

  5. I’m so happy for you! What an awesome transformation