December 31, 2020

Boot Camp Week: Wednesday

After getting home at 8pm the previous night, I was up bright and early at 6:30am to hustle back to Cincy for a 10am lesson on Wednesday.

I had two sound bites in my mind from the day before - subtler aids and left shoulder forward. In this lesson, I started out struggling with downward transitions - to the point that I asked her to explain the aids for the downward to me like I was stupid, because I was sure I was asking wrong. Either I couldn't keep the energy through them, or I couldn't get him to slow down at all.

She had an idea. She grabbed her piaffe pole and said, "Okay, you're going to ride a piaffe so you can feel how much activity and power and collection you need. Once you understand this feeling you won't forget it." And we did that, with her walking next to us. Then she said, "Okay, I'm turning you loose and I want you to trot forward with the piaffe feeling."

Something clicked in that moment: I could not trot with the piaffe feeling unless I thought "shopping bag elbows", which for me is a key phrase that describes a feeling of weight in my elbows, elasticity in my hands, and drops my pelvis into place. The moment I got that feeling and kept my calves on, he became a beach ball underneath me, big, bouncy and seemingly full of air and positive tension. The moment I lost that feeling, he splatted flat and I was back in that spot of not being able to ask for downward transitions. 

So I HAVE TO be sitting correctly to ride him. Just one more lesson in why biomechanics matters SO much in Dressage.

Sadly the Pivo focused on everything but me in this ride, including 30 straight minutes of a wall, sigh.

That wasn't the only massive lightbulb moment in this lesson though.

I have long lamented that something about my canter mechanic shuts Connor down and makes him nod his head. Watching other educated riders ride him over the years, I can immediately see a difference, but I never knew what I was doing to cause it.


Then in yesterday's lesson, CGP told me to put my shoulders forward and my butt back "out behind me".

And I swear to you.

What you're about to see felt, to me, like I was sticking my butt out over the cantle and leaning over to touch my nose to his mane, no lie.

But uh, that's not what it looked like. Our brains are such liars.

I have never seen a video of myself so with the horse in the canter. And it felt that way too. I kept looking in the mirror, first because I could not believe "sticking my butt out" fixed such a huge problem, and second because I couldn't believe what I was seeing, because it didn't match the way I felt at all.

No head nod. No driving him down onto his forehand. Just a good canter.

I'm beginning to think I can learn to ride my "new" horse!


  1. I love living vicariously through you! Thanks for the updates

  2. I love shopping bag elbows so much! Such an excellent example of how meaningless phrases can be very meaningful.

    And that canter!

  3. Nice work. It’s exciting tose3 the changes in both of you.

  4. Wow! Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.