November 29, 2021

Lesson Wrap-Up: Unrecognizable

At the time of my lesson on Black Friday, I hadn't had a lesson in over three weeks. Between her schedule and my slightly-less-flexible new job, it's been harder this year to get lessons in than it was last year.

But you know what? I actually think that's been a good thing. I had back-to-back lessons on Friday/Saturday last weekend, and they both left me with my jaw on the floor in the best of ways. He feels a lot more confirmed to her way of riding than he ever has before, which means it's easier for me to get on and feel the right way to do things.

Not me, but wow I've never seen this out of him before!

On Friday, she asked to get on him first and show me what she'd been working on. Even from the ground I could see that his balance was different and there was an intensity (but not tension, unless she was actively pushing his buttons to get a point across) to his work that hadn't been there before. 

You'll notice I was forced to clip him between Friday's ride (when he took two hours to cool out, yes I just clipped him five weeks ago) and Saturday's ride. I did an entire (shitty) full clip in 30 minutes before my lesson, desperately wanting to get the hair off to avoid a repeat of the day before, and then had to clean him up after!


I could see very clearly the building blocks of flying changes that she was laying. For example, in the upward canter transition, his default is to initiate the movement with the front legs and leave the hind legs as an afterthought for a stride or two later.

His default:

Slow off the ground and slow to the aid

What needs to become his default:

I picked this effort because he did it a little bit "extra" so you can really see the difference. Those two canter transitions above occurred just a couple of minutes apart!

Regardless of what the transition looks like, the canter quality is just incredible, especially for the horse that started his riding career as the "King of the Tranter". I overheard CGP telling a student that was watching my lessons that he continually surprises her by how well he's able to sit. She keeps asking for more sit, and he keeps delivering.

She is also working on the changes from time to time, and says "They're there, and they're easy for him," but that at this point they will come and go until the canter quality is more consistent. I expect it will be a long while before I actually ride one, and I'm totally okay with that.


When I got on after her, the difference I felt were enormous, the biggest ride-to-ride change I'd felt on him since that first week I dropped him off in 2020. He follows the bit with no hesitation and no blockages anywhere in his neck. The top of his neck is longer than the bottom - no more underneck leverage! And I felt him reach for my lats in a way that immediately taught me what correct contact should be like and could have just died right there. My horse knows more than me!

We had one moment when the canter got a bit splatty, and she told me just to find my lats and not give my elbows away, AND HE SAT AND COLLECTED THE CANTER RIGHT THERE. Normally once the canter gets crappy, it's just crappy until I bring him back down, so that felt like a miracle.


The other big change I noticed is that when I close my legs now, he gets quicker behind rather than just speeding up and splatting forward. There was actually a moment where I was heading into my second trot half pass (ever, I've never done it before) on Friday and I recognized I needed more impulsion but not more speed, and I closed my legs in the corner and I felt him step under and get quicker with the hind feet. IT. WAS. AMAZING.

The right amount of impulsion feels borderline too much at all times, like there's a ton of potential energy there. It doesn't feel polite and slow, it feels energetic and barely contained even when it doesn't look like he's moving fast.

It's not like he's suddenly easy to ride though. The contact thing in particular, I have a lot of work to do to internalize that solid-but-alive feeling that's there now, and that's the thing I most have to not break. 

Me: determined to pull on the inside rein 4eva

So it's interesting, because last weekend was the first time that Third Level ever felt possible at all. In the context of a First/Second Level balance and way of going, half pass and flying changes and all that sound like unattainable rocket science. But the balance I felt, the control, the reaction to my half halts, the on-demand quickness from behind, NOW Third really feels possible.

But at the same time, it feels further away than ever, because now that I've felt it, I know that all of that has to be our confirmed, default way of going before we're ready to show it. And I LOVE that. I was grinning like a little kid in my lessons, feeling things I'd never felt before. That moment when I closed my legs and got more impulsion for the first time ever meant more to me than a Bronze Medal ever could. So I'm stoked to continue this journey no matter how long it takes to actually get into the show ring again.

The actual best boy <3 So proud of you.


  1. That trot photo is jaw dropping, how awesome!!!

  2. That is SO exciting! I've never had the opportunity to ship a horse off to boot camp so I can only imagine, but I'm thrilled for you. Your coach sounds amazing! And, of course, our horses always are. 😊

  3. This is so freaking cool and exciting for you and Connor!!!

    Also found a great note in here for myself - to turn on my lats BEFORE I resort to grabby hands when things get disorganized or the connection gets fragile. Patrick sometimes pushes back at me and then uses the space he created to speed up and get disorganized. I need to remember to go to my lats first so a) that's more my instinct and b) he has a solid place to come back to in the connection I'm trying to maintain!

  4. You two just look so fantastic. Inspiring as always!

  5. this is so inspiring- I love how you guys look these days.

  6. He looks absolutely incredible!

  7. This is all so exciting! You both look fantastic!

  8. Look at that fancy boy!! I know exactly what you mean about the right amount of power feeling a little chaotic at times. It can be a bit daunting to deal with!

  9. Holy cow!!! He looks incredible!!