Friday, January 17, 2014


I drive about twenty-five minutes from home to work and then back again every day. Most days I use a hands-free device on my phone and spend that time talking with my mom. However, mom is in town because we are going to the AFC Championship game this weekend and so instead of talking to her last night, I called N. That conversation illuminated some riding stuff I hadn't consciously recognized.

Here it is, since N thought it was significant.

Riding English and specifically dressage is very different from the riding I did as a kid. One, I am riding in a saddle vs riding bareback. Two, I had no idea what a frame was or why you would want to ride in it when I was younger. Three, the riding styles are very different. As a kid, my priority was to be able to stay on, steer my horse and go at whatever gait I required. Now I am focused on creating a relationship and conversation with Ashke that goes beyond pointing him in the direction I want him to go.

So, to the epiphany. Or what N referred to as a breakthrough moment.

On Wednesday night, when cuing the canter, I really focused on keeping my back straight and not leaning forward. I recognized while talking to N, how important it was that I maintain my posture and keep my weight steady and balanced in the saddle, because otherwise I am sending conflicting messages to my horse.

What I have been doing is leaning forward, dropping all contact with his mouth and asking him to canter, then throwing my weight back and jerking on his mouth as I pick contact up again, fighting with him to move at a canter rather than a gallop. This has been our pattern on the trail, when he's galloped and it causes him to throw his head up and fight against the pressure. It's been my pattern of riding in the arena. It's a horrible behavior of mine that has caused him to be worse. He can't be happy with me, since I am the one that is simultaneously asking him to move faster and to stop at the same time. It explains why he is so hesitant in the arena when I am asking for the canter, because he is anticipating that I will also jerk on his mouth and ask him to stop.

Poor baby. Stupid human.

On Wednesday, I was able to maintain contact, thus alleviating the jerk on his mouth, I was able to encourage him verbally and with my leg, while asking him to bring his head down in the same way I ask at the walk and trot, thus I was able to be consistent in my ask. Additionally, I kept my weight in the same position on his back, keeping my arms and hands in the same position, helped him be balanced in the canter. When he got ragged to the right, I was able to continue asking him to give to the inside rein and lift him with my inside heel and he lifted himself into the canter. Finally, keeping my back straight and not shifting forward allowed me to relax for the first time, moving with him instead of bracing against my back pain. . . . . and IT DIDN'T HURT!!

I could feel both of us relax at the same time at the lack of pain on my part. Between the BOT back brace and my improved core strength, I was able to let go of my internal tension at the expected pain. (I hate that I do that. The pain should be nothing. But I still do.) We finally moved in unison, without fear, without pain, at a sweet canter.

Still have stuff to work on, but I think we found our key on Wednesday night. I will see if we still have it tonight when I go to ride. J and Mom will both be there, so I am hoping for both pics and video.


  1. Thats great! I love those ah-ha moments!

  2. I'm finally in front of a proper keyboard so I can comment on this post! First: it's AWESOME to hear of someone else that talks to her mom every time she's in the car driving to/from work. I've mentioned to some people that I do that, and most of the time I get weird looks! My mom is my best friend.

    Second, this is a wonderful epiphany. I'm so happy you had it, and so happy that when you were able to do everything correctly, it didn't hurt!

    I find myself recommending this book to everyone lately, but reading it marked a true turning point for me in my riding, and it seems like a lot of people around me are at that moment where I was about 2 years ago: knowing that my horse could do what I wanted, but knowing at the same time that I was the one preventing her from doing it. And not knowing how to fix it.

    The book is Riding With Your Mind: An Illustrated Masterclass in Right Brain Riding, by Mary Wanless.

    My dressage trainer in FL shoved it in my hand and told me to read it. It was one "ah-ha!" moment after another while reading it. Wanless uses what is called imagery to show you how your body affects your horse's balance and movement, and how doing certain things with your body can allow your horse to do pretty much anything, or completely block the horse from being able to do anything at all. It is basically what all good trainers tell us to do, but sometimes you need someone to explain it in a different way to really "get" it. To really understand it. This book is written with that purpose. It took me a long time to get through the book because I had to read it, think about it, apply it to my riding, then go back and continue reading.

    I had always had problems with riding in a chair seat regardless of saddle as a result of my h/j days. One day I showed up for my lesson on Lily, and as I asked Lily to trot, I suddenly felt like I was on a different horse. My trainer exclaimed about the difference in us, and I was grinning from ear to ear. Everything that I'd been learning in my lessons and while reading suddenly fell into place. I didn't have to think about it anymore; all those weeks of reading, thinking, and slowly applying suddenly clicked together into a whole. My heels were in perfect alignment with my hips and shoulders, and thus I could balance on Lily as if I were standing on the floor. Shoulder-in? Here. Haunches in? Voila. Canter without falling into the circle? Piece of cake. I thought what I wanted, moved my body the way I had re-learned to do it, and Lily was able to do anything I wanted. It wasn't that Lily had changed; it was that *I* had changed the way I rode. We were a centaur. It was magic.

    Get the book. I think it will help you get through to the next step in your riding, as it did me! :) My copy got lost in the move and I just re-ordered it so I can review it. It's one of those books that you will come back to later on as well.

    YAAAAY for epiphanies!!

    1. I looked up the book on Amazon and added it to my wish list. I would have ordered it if it was available on Kindle.

      Currently, I am reading the dressage book by Tellington-Jones. I'll let you know how it is.

      I'm sure I would discuss this at length if I wasn't so darn tired. We have had a heavily packed week which was topped off by an emotionally exhausting game. (I am a big football fan and we watched the Broncos from the stadium.) Hopefully, tomorrow I will have the mental energy to put my thoughts and feelings into words.

    2. Yes, let me know how you like the Tellington-Jones book! Hope you were able to recover from your busy week. It sounds like you had a wonderful time with your mom!

  3. Epiphanies are great. I'm so excited for you!


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