October 27, 2020

Lesson Wrap-Up: Time to Buckle Down

On Sunday, I had another lesson at GP trainer's, and the moral of the story is that I need to ride better, and quickly. Not only am I not getting the quality that GP trainer is, but my riding is beginning to frustrate Connor more than ever now that he's used to, you know, someone who knows what they're doing on his back. The Pivo missed all these moments, but trust me when I say he only headshakes angrily and plays with his tongue for me now, which is both depressing and motivating.

We started out with the usual checking in with him to make sure that the bit is mine, and that he's supple. She was quick to reiterate that this is not seesawing or playing with the bit, this is making sure that he's aware that wherever the bit goes, his mouth and body follows, and softly.

The middle of the lesson was lots of transitions on 10m and 20m circles and more checking in with him. The canter wasn't the train wreck it was when I rode him on my own last week, but it wasn't nearly as put together as I've felt in past lessons.  But, at least he wasn't head nodding for me, which is a big improvement that shows I'm following better with my hands and elbows.

Toward the end of the lesson, we did a progressive exercise where we did a transition at every letter when we were doing W/T, and then every other letter when we were doing T/C. It was a good mental exercise for me, because I had to focus on precision (she really nails me on transitions being right at the letter and geometry all the time, even though I don't write about that much on the blog), on all of the things I needed to keep track of in my own body, and on managing him. 

Finally, our last exercise was leg yielding from the centerline to the rail and doing W/T transitions throughout it. This is the first time she's ever asked me to do lateral work. I can feel a definite difference in how easily he moves laterally, which is nice. 

Me cooling out and trying to get my exhausted legs working again while Jen's groom holds onto an Actual Haflinger (tm)

I realize this post was a whole lot of whining with no payoff, so what am I going to do about it? The central problem is still what it's always been: my core is the first thing to go when the work gets harder, and then he pulls me forward onto the forehand, and I respond by pulling, because pulling keeps me stable in the saddle when my core isn't doing it. Only now that Connor is used to being ridden by someone with soft hands and a literal core of steel, he's not putting up with it from me anymore.

So this is my plan right now:

1. Pilates. More Pilates. Better quality effort in Pilates. I started taking a Pilates for Equestrians series that not only teaches you movements that benefits riders specifically, but also talks about how riders should approach their Pilates practice in general in order to reap the biggest benefits in the saddle, and it's changing the way I approach everything.

2. Spending a week at CGP's in November and maybe one in December too, and lessoning every day. Yeah, this is a risk what with COVID, and I'm going to do everything I can to mitigate that risk, but I feel like doing it is non-negotiable. Once a week lessons are not cutting it right now.

3. Riding Aeres more. Aeres has taken a backseat to life these past two weeks, but with as big as that horse moves compares to Connor, if I can learn to control my core on her, I can definitely do it on Connor. 

Two more months, time to buckle down!


  1. Catching up on your blog and I just want to say that it's amazing how far both horses have come! I understand being frustrated about being the part holding back further progress- I feel like that has been me as well lately, I'm not the rider I used to be/want to be, but sounds like you have a good plan to keep working on it!

    1. Thank you! You're kind of in the same boat I am, Q seems like he has a lot to teach you!

  2. You must tell me about this pilates for equestrian series you found!

    1. It's a 7 video series on PilatesAnytime.com, which is paid, but you can use code "BLACK" to get 30 free days (Not affiliated, just common knowledge, lol). 5 of the 7 videos use accessible equipment for someone at home (mats, exercise balls etc) so you should still get a lot of out it, although full disclosure, I've only done the Reformer one so far.

  3. I think you look pretty good. So don't forget to celebrate your successes. In the riding clinic I held this summer with the Level 2 CR instructor she said that a lot of riders work on their lower core but it's actually the upper core that keeps us stable. Which was interesting to me and seems to make sense. the upper core are the muscles you use in sweeping the barn (or that's how I think of them).

  4. You are definitely working hard and internalizing the info well. Thank you for sharing.

    What kind of Pilates are you doing? Is it Stott Pilates? That's the type of Pilates that I did that really helped me engage my core properly for riding. And just a plug for Ares...riding different horses can really help to change ingrained riding habits. The feedback you get from one can also provide insight into issues with the other.