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Our first lesson since December, and as usual, it came with a few stupid epiphanies. I would even say it was riddled with stupid epiphanies. They started AS SOON as May and I started walking. That’s right. I couldn’t walk right.

Over the winter, we have worked a lot of May’s connection in the bridle being more steady. (aka – less head wagging, looking up to see what’s going on outside the arena, and truly engaging the hind end) All of this was actually very much improved and my trainer was impressed (yay!). What she was not impressed with was my new found love of pushing May past her point of balance.

May is not a big, fancy, expressive mover. She moves correctly, especially when fully engaged, but she’s not a horse that is ever going to have a massive walk stride. My solution? Just keep pushing… all the way past her balance. As a result, she get a forward but oddly stumbly and uneven walk. Literally my trainers words were, the bottom of the pyramid is rhythm, and you don’t have it. Well damn. So I sat in the saddle, quieted my hands and legs, and we immediately found a better walk. Alright, I got that.

Then we were asked to halt, and May’s head came up, she braced against me, and she stopped. So we proceeded to work on the walk/halt transitions. I would ask May to halt, and if she came off the contact, I would send her forward again… for about 10 minutes. Below is some of it. I was reminded that it might take 700 tries, but that on the 700th try, it would be great.

​[wpvideo jZPD9qc5]​

We finally got a halfway decent walk, so we moved into the trot. In an effort to keep May on the contact, I was keeping her too keep in the contact, and she was falling behind the vertical. Luckily, May is, surprisingly, not a horse that loves being behind the vertical, so this was as easy as engaging my seat and lifting my hands. We did a few W/T/W transitions, but those were significantly better than the W/H/W transitions, so we didn’t dwell on them. We made some tweaks to how much bend I was asking for, but most of the trot work was just fine tuning, which was nice. We kept the tempo and energy slow to make our adjustments, so it’s definitely not the nicest looking trot May can muster, but it’s a great one for building strength and fine tuning our connection, rhythm, and balance.

​[wpvideo DSjkGihs]​
Then we went to canter. Before we cantered, I was told to sit the trot… We ended up cantering one circle, and sitting the trot for 15 minutes. I will fully admit that I do not sit the trot often. I am not great at it, and I am not light enough to be bouncing all over my horses back. However, my trainer had a good point. My horse does have a strong back, I need to have a sit-trot in my arsenal for training, and it won’t get better by ignoring it.

​[wpvideo sd3Thctj]​
I do what I believe most people do at the sit trot: I sit fine until I get unbalanced, then I try to correct with strength. The result is, I get stiffer and the sit trot get worse. The solution? For me, it’s to just keep moving my hips. Sometimes I am with the motion, and it works. Other times, I am not with the motion, but it is still better than being stiff. My trainer talked about how our bodies have the ability to rotate our hips in basically any direction except straight up and straight down, which is when we bounce. I am sure you see her in the video moving her hips around, attempting to inspire me. She is definitely the kind of trainer that rides “with” you!

Overall, it was a really good lesson. My new trainer (NT) teaches in a vastly different manner than my old one (OT). It’s almost the difference between having a task-based job, and an project-based job. In the former, you are assigned specific, short-term tasks with deadlines and a good deal of oversight. In a latter, however, you are given the overarching goal and are responsible for setting up your own tasks and deadlines to complete the project. Does that make any sense, whatsoever?

Basically The Best Pony Ever

Basically, if May started losing her rhythm with my OT, I would get very specific instruction on the timing of lifting this rein and applying this leg and changing my seat here. With my NT, she points out that we are losing our rhythm. It’s not that she doesn’t help me correct things more specifically, but she forces me to think about how I can solve a problem, rather than me simply following a set of directions to get a specific result. It is mentally exhausting, but I can already see the impact it is having on our rides outside of lesson.

Which do you prefer? Trainers that walk you through every step of your ride, or trainers that force you to come up with your solutions.


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  1. Alex

    I’m such a control freak that I hate when people micromanage me. I NEED to be the one making the decisions on what is happening to achieve whatever goal I am working towards. But I also need someone who can help break down a movement or who will tell me when I’m doing something wrong or inefficiently.

    1. Emily

      Yeah. There seems to be a real difference between dictating what I should be doing and guiding me through a new concept or to correct an old concept.

  2. Centered in the Saddle

    I generally like trainers that let me work it through with an overarching instruction. If I’m having trouble or ask, “how do I do that?” then I like them to be able to get very specific to teach me what I need to know for the future. Basically, I like a flexible trainer who doesn’t babysit my every move but can get specific when needed.

    1. Emily

      It is such a fine balance! and one that I think is always changing as we progress as riders. Glad to hear I am not the only one that needs both sides!

  3. Emma

    Sounds like a great lesson back!! As for my preferred training method… That’s hard to answer haha. My dressage trainer has a very “stream of consciousness” style that I think would be categorized as “task based” using your metaphor. And I luff her haha. But I also learn by doing and by feeling, and she has a way of speaking that is easily remembered and repeated later on so that I can still apply the “tasks” as other situations arise. Conversely, I also really appreciate thinking more big-picture about what we are doing and why, and how it fits in with my horse’s overall training. Often tho I seem to get that type instruction more thru lecture vs in-the-moment instruction.

    1. Emily

      Interesting! I am hoping to audit some clinics this summer and fall, to try and get some more of those big picture guidelines!

  4. T

    I absolutely love my coach because she points out a problem, and if you struggle to fix it, she’ll switch up the lesson with various exercises and visuals to give you at least a couple of different tools to fix it on your own next time. Mentally exhausting at times, but I love how confident it’s making me. I think I relate a lot better to riding by how things feel vs being given step by step detail and instruction.

    1. Emily

      Totally! It really is making me a “thinking” rider versus a “reactive” rider.

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