January 1, 2021

Boot Camp Week: Thursday

To recap, on Tuesday I learned to put my left shoulder forward and to use subtler aids. On Wednesday, I learned just how important the way I sit is to my "new" horse.

On Thursday, she really drove home the key concepts that will make or break us over the next couple of months without her, which are 1. my hands and 2. his neck.

The two things are related. She says more than most horses, Connor is uses his neck as a weapon against me. He'll put his head up just slightly too high (to where the casual observer would still think he was in a nice "frame"), stick his underneck out, lock onto one or both reins, and drop his "breastplate." When he does that, I lose the ability to half halt, he pulls me slightly out of the saddle, and the whole picture, while not unpleasant, just looks dull.

To counteract that, she has me focus on keeping his poll lower than I think it should be, keeping the top of his neck longer than the bottom, and has me regularly check whether I'm able to flex him left and right in any movement, at any time. If I can't, I have to fix it by asking him to release on the stuck rein while using the leg on the same side.

In trying to fix that yesterday, I observed that I always feel like he's stuck on the left rein. CGP said she always feels like he's stuck on the right rein. I said she's probably right and it's probably a perception issue for me: my left shoulder and hand being behind the right probably makes it feel to me like he's stiff on the left when in reality that's not the case.

So she had me hold the reins like driving reins:

"How does that feel different from what you were doing before?" (Mary Wanless instructors have this sentence tattooed on their eyeballs, I swear, lol)

"I can't not follow his mouth, and my left shoulder is naturally in the right place. Also my left hand is cramping..."

So it turns out that I so thoroughly don't close my hand on the left rein that the muscles in my left hand cramped when the driving rein position, which forces you to actually hold the rein.

"GREAT. This is your homework, to ride like this." 

Once all that was sorted, the rest of the lesson we worked on simple changes (still with the driving rein). These are still hard for us. If he gets me even a little bit tipped forward, they don't happen, especially on the left lead. 

Pictured: not happening

We had worked ourselves into a point where he had my number, and I had to get his number back or else the canter walks weren't going to happen (specifically on the left lead - fewer things have to be exactly perfect for the right to happen). She had me stop and reinback until he lifted his breastplate, then walk forward only if he didn't change his balance.

2/3rds of the way through this GIF, I ask him to walk off after a reinback and he immediately shoved his chest down, so I stopped him and asked for another reinback. Note that my hands are going to look busy here, we're trying to break my pulling in the reinback habit by changing the aid to bump bumps upward .

One of the hardest things for me going forward is going to be recognizing when he has my number like this, when the balance changes. There are times when I'll watch her ride him, and she'll stop him dead in the middle of a movement and be like "No sir, you do not get to lean on my hands like that," and I, the observer, couldn't tell at all that his balance had shifted. I have to be more proactive about identifying good and bad balance and fixing it before it festers into a dull ride, just like his neck (again, related).

Canter walks on the right lead are much easier, as long as I'm sitting correctly. This one happened before the balance shift coming-to-Jesus.

Canter walks on the left lead are incredibly difficult, even for CGP, and require everything to be perfect - my position, his balance, my aids, my timing. But, when all of that comes together, they're good.

Then I packed up a ton of tack and blankets and started the journey home <3


  1. OMG. SAME. Gavin and I have the walk to canter right lead pretty locked down, but to the left it's a bit of a mess. Cassandra also struggles with him that way.

    1. Haha! Hey at least it's not just us, right? Also, GIRL YOU NEED TO BLOG!! I want to know what you're up to!

    2. Your wish is my command! ;)

  2. Roscoe and I have to work on lowering his neck because lifting up slightly is his evasion. And the left is the pits. I am horrible about pulling the dang left rein. Roscoe is not sure he wants to be a Second level pony if it requires him to do things correctly.