Ride With The Traffic

Good Pony = Slobber Mouth
While riding the other day, this little ditty popped into my head:

"Ride with the traffic, not against it!"

In elementary school there was an annual Bike Rodeo to promote bike-riding safety among children, and included educational videos about riding bikes, as well as bike obstacle courses and relay races.

One of the safety videos included this little gem of an earworm, and over twenty years later I still can't get it out of my head.

It came to mind as I was noticing myself sitting way behind the motion and riding against Dino's back instead of "riding with the traffic" so to speak. I like to let my reins get nice and long, rock back on my pockets, and drive with my seat like my life depends on it. The result is that even though I feel like I'm driving Dino's hind legs forward, I'm really just blocking his back with my seat. He gets heavier on the front end because I'm not giving his back space to come up, and it's generally counter-productive.

So, how do we "ride with the traffic"?

I like to imagine my body like a tuning fork:

I'm not really sure why this image resonates with me - I'm not a musician and I don't use these things often, if ever, but thinking about a tuning fork helps me sit "with the traffic" of Dino's back. I concentrate on sitting on my seatbones towards the front of the saddle with my legs hanging straight down, riding right up front with the motion instead of setting myself back against it.

The result? My seatbones stop digging into my pony's back, my improved position gives his back somewhere to GO, I'm not setting my upper body against the reins, we're both more balanced, and I can go with him instead of riding against the motion.

It's almost magical!

After a weekend off, I hopped on EuroPony on Monday after work. It was the first really cold (35!) and windy day we've had yet this season, so I was expecting him to be a little up. Thankfully he's not one to get too stupid because of the weather, and I didn't feel the need to change my plans for a dressage ride in the big bottom field. I did, however, leave Mr. Whippy in the barn. No one needs a dressage whip flailing around to exacerbate any spooking that may occur!

Apparently he wanted a couple days off, because Dino felt fantastic! He was really light in the bridle and easy to move around, and getting him round and straight wasn't a long discussion - he was just there. He wasn't 100% focused - there were birds and deer and woodchucks and probably foxes and he was pretty sure some bow hunters in the woods, so he needed to keep ears on them at all times. Or so he told me. But despite that, Dino answered every request I made, was giving me light and fluffy canter departs on BOTH leads (eee!) and because he was so good, I was able to stay in my tuning-fork position without feeling the need to sit back and push. This just kept the circle of balance and impulsion going, and we were able to accomplish some really great work.

Love my buddy!
I was also careful to not move onto the next thing until the thing before that was going really well - I didn't trot for long periods until Dino was walking 100% reliably in self-carriage, and then I made sure that he was giving me soft, round trot for a few strides at a time. Same thing going from trot to canter - I started with a very slow, balanced trot with the maximum amount of collection we're capable of at this point, and THEN asked for the canter from there. Good, good things happened. Starting from the bottom and working up in this way during each ride has always had such a good result - I need to be more mindful doing this EVERY day and not getting greedy or rushed in pushing my own agenda for the day. I rounded out the ride with some haunches-in both ways and a little trot/halt/trot before heading back up to the barn, because I hadn't dressed well and I was fairly sure that freezing to death was a distinct possibility.

It's amazing how quickly one can get done at the barn when the fear of hypothermia is a motivating factor.


  1. I've been working on just that position change, too. What is it about back-seat riding that is so comfy?!

  2. I have been working on being more mindful in every ride too. It can be so easy to just want to get on and cruise around and forget to be productive. Sounds like you had a lovely ride in the wind.

  3. I always work faster when Im cold

  4. aw what a good boy Dino :) i also love the idea of not moving on from a thing until what you're doing is going well - dan is a big stalwart about that, but i rarely have the discipline to stick to in while schooling


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