Lighten Up: A Lesson Recap

The 'tude is strong with this one
Two lessons in two weeks! What luxury!

I went into this lesson quite honestly not feelin' it. I even texted Emma as I was getting ready to leave that a nap was sounding like a great alternative to going out in the cold and wet to load up the pony for a lesson. But load him up I did, even though it was cold and wet and windy and muddy and I had definitely NOT worn enough layers!

I was also already weary at the idea of having to battle it out with Dino to get anything accomplished. While I know that lessons are always valuable, and sometimes even more valuable when ponies are naughty, the thought of having to work through yet another major meltdown was unappealing and exhausting.

Even though we arrived early enough to warm up a bit before things got started, the lesson before mine had ended a little early, so by the time Trainer S was ready for us we had only walked a bit on a loose rein. I felt unprepared to start working, to say the least!

But Trainer S seems to have a good read on Dino's pony brain, and didn't push for any kind of strenuous flatwork. We worked mainly on the way that I was riding, adjusting my ride to get the most forward out of Dino with the least amount of effort and arguing. Riding large around the arena, I was to focus on the rhythm of my post and the lightness of my seat, decisively setting the pace with my body instead of falling into Dino's preferred western pleasure-style speed. I had to keep my seat as light as possible with thighs away from the saddle and calves on lightly, but not nagging. Add to that remembering to use an opening inside shoulder and thigh around each corner, and I had about a million things to think about. Posting the trot took so much more concentration than I've given it in a long, long time!

And while he didn't instantly get totally forward and round and in front of my leg, Dino responded really well to the light seat and there was MUCH less 'tude to be had compared to when I use my preferred method of driving with my seat like there's no tomorrow. We also worked a bit on straightness on the quarterline and using my outside aids to keep Dino on a specific path without the wall to hold him up. It was there that he started really reaching into the bridle - probably because I was actually using my outside rein. Duh.

We continued our trot work by riding a 3-loop serpentine, changing direction through two sets of trot poles on the centerline. The poles were set for a good working trot, and really helped to create & maintain a good rhythm when I focused on the kind of trot I needed to ride them well. The pole work was also super helpful in getting my rusty eye back in gear as far as choosing a track and riding straight for the center.


Then Trainer S asked us to pick up the canter to the left after riding through the poles.

Ha. Hahahahahaha. Good one.

Dino, while going better at this point in the lesson, still did not feel ready to canter. I knew this. He knew this. Here comes the pony'tude.

I asked for the canter and got a balky ears-back-tail-swish. Trainer S saw him reacting this way not so much because he didn't want to canter (he didn't) but in response to my digging, driving seat. (ouch) So she had me pretty much just get into two-point, grab mane, and kick him with my outside leg until he cantered, the idea being to show him that the canter depart didn't have to be uncomfortable because of my stupid seat.

It was super awkward, and took a while, but it worked to get the canter! It was SO hard for me to not ask with my seat. So hard. I kept wanting to sit, or post, or do something involving my butt touching the saddle. I needed to really reach back in time to my H/J days and find my half seat skills!

The right lead canter then came MUCH easier, and I was able to canter around the ring several times in a nice forward pace, and transition up and down from the trot, in half seat of course. Dino was ready for the jumping!

Or so I thought. The first jumping exercise we did involved two big crossrails with placing poles where the trot poles had been on the centerline, jumping each one individually on a circle, and then incorporating both fences onto a circle in each direction. The first couple times to the first fence Dino either barely trotted over, or was so cranky about being forward through the turn that he broke to a walk and I made him step over/through the jump.

Pure excitement.

Yeah, we totally run BN. Yep. I think I might need to provide Trainer S with some video of what we can actually do...

But eventually we got in the groove and were soon cantering both fences on a circle and getting good distances, and I started re-tuning my eye and body to get in sync with Dino's jump.

Then we switched it up with a bending line exercise over 2' verticals with tight turns at each end of the ring.

The blobs are barrels. Trust me. Bending line was ridden around the barrel blobs.

This one was tough at first, and Dino wasn't yet convinced that this was a fun and exciting activity. We trotted a lot of the jumps the first couple times through, and I found myself totally abandoning the reins and flapping around doing weird things in an effort to get him to go forward. But soon I "found my fight" and adopted a git 'er done attitude, and we were flying through the bending lines (at a canter!) and riding the rollbacks handily. We added in two barrel jumps to our pattern, which we nailed each time. Dino has historically been a bit spooky about the barrels in this ring, so I was pretty pumped that we got it done well on the first try! It helped that I remembered to ride straight and forward with wide hands to funnel him in.

We finished on a figure-8 over two of the fences, which we rode several times until we really nailed the pace and I could ride the rollbacks without Dino puttering out on me.

At the end of the lesson, I felt good about the work we were able to get done. There are so, so many things to work on, but I was happy to be jumping around some little courses and getting my sea legs back over fences. Dino also really perked up by the end, and was taking me to the jumps instead of having to be coerced over them. Next time we plan on doing some gridwork to help get Dino jumping a bit better - he's lost a lot of his 'sit & push' muscles this winter, so we need some targeted exercises to build those back up!


  1. Ah, that pony face and 'tude! I love it! Sounds like a tricky but very successful lesson.

  2. woooooo diagrams!! luvs it haha. seriously tho, i like how this trainer is approaching Dino's 'tude. seems like she's got some ideas!!

  3. Very good point that the seat can be used for evil and not just good! That's something I definitely need to look out for.

  4. Lovely photo of you two, even if it has 'tude lol

  5. I just had the same issue with my driving seat in the canter transition!


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