April 12, 2021

An Adjustability Lesson with Mary

On Saturday, Mary came down without Annie for once, so we spent a long, relaxing afternoon playing with multiple ponies. Up first was me on Connor. Mary asked what I was working on in Dressage, and I said "straightness and collection." 

She got to work building a line of two jumps that we ended up leaving as piles of poles the entire time, because it was just as productive that way. Once I was warmed up, she told me to come at them in a medium canter, and to count out loud, and I got it in an easy 5.

My Pivo is currently on a private beta firmware they shared with me and only me since they're finally taking me up on my offer to help them troubleshoot the S21 Ultra problem. It did good for the most part! I think I should've set it up a little further from the jumps and moved it down to "fast" from "frenzy", but I cannot complain about having Pivo media for the first time since January.

Pretty quickly, she started asking me to do it in 6.

Which was hard, but not impossible. Mary didn't like the way he was tipping his wither coming into the turn and bulging through my right leg though, which are his two cardinal sins in both jumping and Dressage, so she set up cones at both ends and told me I had to make the turn square.

 This was hard.

Vroom, I'm a motorcycle

As I've learned in my lessons with CGP, everything is harder when he's the type of "straight" that I formerly thought of as straight, and now know is banana shaped. If you aren't able to see the tipping and bulging in the GIFs, look at where we end up over the poles - we're not over the middle (white) part on the second set, we're over the green.

Very hard to ride correct related distances if your horse is not traveling straight.

As if the 6 wasn't hard enough, after we got it reasonably well, she told me to ride it in 7.

We're such a good team, when we're wrong about a distance, at least we're always on the same page about being wrong about that distance, lol

I laughed out loud. Was that for real, 7 strides in a line that ride as a 5 stride in a working canter? Yes, she was for real and thought we could actually do that. I was skeptical.

Tipping round the corner we go...

At first, I tried to make the 7 happen with my hands, because that's my default answer for everything. But this is why I love canter poles: I can kinda fake Second Level collected canter with too much hand on the flat, but I absolutely cannot do that over canter poles or jumps. I have to use my seat, my torso position, my thighs and my calves, because I just don't have enough control if I'm riding from my hands. And as CGP said to me in my lesson this week, "You can't just let him take you, you have to be in control of your own body in the collected work."

His wither is finally tipping less on this attempt, but you can clearly see I'm still trying to make it happen from my hand too much.

Finally, I put a lot of effort into controlling my body and stopped pulling, and we NAILED IT:

I am working so hard in this GIF it's not even funny

I mean, helloooooo, look at this boy go:

Can has this canter all the time please?

You can see in the last GIF that he almost looks taller, that he's not diving down with his chest, and that my hands really are following. It was an absolutely fantastic lesson that translated directly into what I'm working on in Dressage right now, and I am so lucky to have a BFF and wingman that can coach me through this!

Good pony


  1. I love these! It's great to see the Pivo footage, you can really watch him start to sort things out.

    Years ago, I watched a clinic/demo with David O'Connor and Lauren Kieffer. He would point her at a line - I think it was 4 strides - and on the approach to the first jump he would call out the number of strides he wanted her to put in between them. I think she got into the double digits. Then he took away her bridle and made her do it again. It was meant to be a demo of the kind of finesse you should be able to achieve. It definitely made an impression!

  2. Amazing!!!! This is one of my favorite exercises to do jumping, although my whoa is much better than my go. Always something to work on :)

  3. We've been doing this a lot in our lessons too! Eros is probably the most adjustable animal I've ever sat on... but only on the flat. Once there are poles or jumps involved he turns into a torpedo and it's HARD! Legit a total body workout. I definitely understand what it took to get that seven done! Nice work!

  4. This exercise is the bane of my existence but absolutely necessary

  5. I looooove torturing my jumping kids with this exercise! My favourite is to then add a second line, canter pole to canter pole or jump to jump, on a large turn after the first line (so normally I have one line on each long side of my arena). I set both lines to 5 strides, and ask the kids to first ride both in 5, then both in 6, then both in 4, and finally to adjust the canter on the turn - so ride the first line in 6 and the second line in 4 or vice versa.

    1. That's a great idea to add onto it later!