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Last night, we had our first Dressage lesson in a while. In all honesty, the purpose of this lesson was two-fold, I felt like May had kind of been blowing through me a lot lately, and I wanted to see if the magnawave/massage session had any effect on the flat, where it would be easier to assess than over fences.

When it comes to the blowing off thing, it’s not (usually) a blatant throwing of the head and running off with me. Although, it can be. It’s more that she sort of gives me something, I ask for a little more, and she… doesn’t give me any more. Or I make a correction, and she goes “Nah, I got this.” The correct response is typically to ask more firmly (Ask, Tell, Demand sequence).


However, I have a tendency to back off and blame myself. Oh she must not be moving off my leg because I am sitting wrong, or blocking her, or whatever. So by myself, I might back down. This hasn’t been an issue for the last 4 years because we were securely in the position of “things I know.”

I am fairly comfortable in my ability to get a horse to bend, move through its body, connect into the bridle, etc etc etc. At least through a training level frame. When it comes to First Level stuff, I have gotten enough training to generally know how to put those most of those moves on a horse.

Now though, I am asking for more. I am asking for better leg yields, true shoulder in, and the beginnings of real counter canter work. And truly, I don’t really know what I am doing.

Case and point: Last night, my trainer asked me to do a 20M circle at the trot. Cool. Simple. Got it. We played around with my lack of geometry a bit (oops), and then she asked me to do a shoulder in along the circle. Our shoulder ins down the long side are solid enough that we should be able to do this exercise, and it is a great way to add flexibility through the rib cage (one of our issues) and encourage the hind end to come under the horse (another issue).

May Walk

I tried for about half a circle before doing a walk transition and walking over to Mandy, “yeah, what am I supposed to be doing?”

I realized that I was trying to pull her around the circle with my inside rein (not helpful), while trying to shove her haunches out with my inside leg (also… not helpful). A shoulder-in can originally be guided with the inside aids, but it really is an outside aid exercise. So… I knew I was doing it wrong, but I Could Not wrap my head around what I SHOULD be doing. If I was riding by myself, I would drop the exercise and go back to something I definitely know how to do.

Mandy, bless her, did not miss a beat. She started drawing diagrams in the sand about the 20 cm circle, the angle I was looking for and what May’s body should be doing. I nodded along, that all made sense. Then, she broke down the aids for me. Showing me the “extreme” versions of what my aids should be doing and then connecting that back to how that will influence May’s body to engage in the shoulder-in move.


A few more nods, and I headed back out to my 20M circle.  This time? It only took me about 1/4 of the circle to get it. At that point, Mandy starts yelling at me about what I should be feeling, “Feel her coming off that inside rein? Feel the inside hind coming under her body more?” These little tidbits of feel become my way of checking in when I do this on my own. My aids are doing X, so am I getting Y?

(off topic, but I found this after my lessons, and I thought it was pretty helpful: Random French Dude’s Advice on Shoulder-In)

Going in the other direction (tracking right), the exercise was substantially more difficult for us, so when we got a couple of good steps, I let May move forward into a straighter contact. However, this time, I was able to more effectively tackle the more difficult side because I had gotten the “Feel” cues from my trainer already.

To me, these are the building blocks of good instruction. My trainer has given me the tools to continue my horse’s training beyond my lessons. As for the magnawave, I am not sure I really felt any change in May’s way of going after it. It clearly felt good, but I don’t think the right shoulder issue is a pain thing, as much as it is a training thing. As a result, a pain management tool didn’t fix our training. Oh well. 😉

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  1. martidoll123

    Sorry the magnawave wasn’t a magic wand. And I am horrible at geometry so imagine me trying to do that exercise HA. also is that first photo May with an actual mane? LOVE IT!! Glad you had a good lesson overall! Even if there were no jumps in it! And I love to hear ET/NT/Mandy yell at you next time get audio 🙂 HA

    1. Emily

      Well, in my defense, the court we have set up is just SLIGHTLY off from ideal hahaha. But honestly, I just was like “this is a fine size”, and it wasnt lol.

  2. T

    Anything with bending and then increasing the difficulty by moving a shoulder or hind leg messes my mind 🙂 I feel like my horses have learned shoulder and haunches in on the circle despite me, not because of me 🙂

    1. Emily

      Hahah I always feel like I have a good grasp of things… until I start to really think about them.. then I am like… wait? what am I doing here? And May totally throws me under the bus like “THIS LADY DOESN’T KNOW WHAT SHE’s DOING”. The joys of mares 😉

  3. Karen Taylor

    Hampton doesn’t really “respond’ to magnawave until 2-3 days after. Maybe May is the same?

    1. Emily

      Thanks! She was done on Sunday, so Tuesday would be two days. I’ll see if I see a bigger effect on Thursday. ?

  4. Stacie Seidman

    Yes! This is why we take lessons! Having a trainer that can actually teach us, and not just think FOR us is absolutely the best thing for learning. Sounds like a fab lesson!

    1. Emily

      It was a really good one! And definitely one that was needed.

  5. eventerinprogress

    Shoulder in is the devil.

    Most useful exercise ever.

    But the devil.

    1. Emily

      Definitely the devil. I am not sure why, but it is so easy to get it all scrambled in my head… ugh Dressage lol

  6. KC Scott

    I’ve tried magnawave, as my friends own a business doing it, but eventually I had to scrap it because while obviously it feels good, I’ve never felt anything different afterwards and it’s quite costly. Glad you have an awesome trainer who can explain this stuff like a real person!

    1. Emily

      Yeah… I mean she liked it, so as a random treat, I guess it was nice. However, I didn’t notice really any difference in her way of going. Again though, not a bad “check in” to see how things are feeling once in a while.

      Yes! I am very lucky that I found a trainer that speaks the same language haha

  7. L. Williams

    Bookmarking random french dudes advice since shoulder-in is what I’m working on a lot with Dante right now.

    1. Emily

      Hahah glad you found it helpful! It really is a good read/review/explanation.

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