Let It Go

Plz to have this level of awesome 100% of the time...
Alternate title: Goldilocks and the Three Canters

Last night I had a cross country lesson with the sainted Trainer S and another eventing buddy of mine at the horse park, and let's just say it was not the ride where I put together all my recent insights for the good of all and had beautiful, flawless courses.

There was quite a bit of stopping, and crashing, and crying. Not my finest moment.

BUT - I feel that ultimately it was a night of major progress on my part, and I was able to pinpoint some really important ideas as well as let go of some fears and defensive habits. The things we did well, we did REALLY well, and I did conquer the one bogey fence that was really freaking me out by the end of the ride.

For my own sanity, I won't get into the specifics of the lesson and dwell on the things that went wrong, but I will recap the important things I learned, and things we did well:

  • Ride strongly into the water - there is no reason to keep babying Dino at the water at this point, especially in places he's schooled a million times. He expects me to back off at the water's edge, but he's educated enough at this point where I can keep the rhythm coming into the water without slowing down. 
  • Speaking of water - one thing we did very well was ride through the water and up over a ramp 2-3 strides out with a downhill landing. We had the PERFECT gallop coming through this question - forward, in front of the leg, with elevated shoulders. When I have this canter, all I need to do is sit lightly, steer, and keep a supporting leg on, and everything is peaches & cream.
  • Speaking of steering, commitment is key. If I say "go" and point him at the center of the fence, Dino goes. He is an incredibly honest and good pony, who is just a little too tuned into my hesitation. If I commit to getting to the other side, he will do it every time. 
  • When things go sideways, I can now pinpoint exactly WHY they go sideways. Bad Things happen for one of two reasons: We are going Way Too Slow, or we are going Way Too Fast & Flat. Way Too Slow is definitely more my comfort zone, and invites the slow-mo stop that's come to be my trademark move. Way Too Fast & Flat is a little less common, but results in Dino LAUNCHING over things from a stride away and me landing in a heap and unable to set up for the next obstacle. We did this over the in fence to the roller coaster, and the result was not pretty! 
  • This lesson was a turning point in being able to recognize the Perfect Gallop, and obtain it quickly when I didn't have it. Several times, I was able to assess whether or not Dino was in front of the leg and up in his shoulders, fix it, and then get a great jump as a result. 
  • Letting go of my compulsive need to find the perfect distance is something I still need to work on. We had several chippy distances that made my inner hunter princess cringe, but I did a good job of staying out of the way and just keeping my leg on instead of succumbing to the temptation to meddle with the canter. When I gave in to looking for that perfect distance, and it wasn't there, I shut down and dropped Dino instead of keeping my leg on and taking whatever came up. Bad things happened.
  • Micro-managing is not ever good on XC - this isn't the hunter ring, I can't ride like it is. 
  • A strong, effective half-halt is essential for rebalancing from Fast & Flat to the Perfect Gallop. 
  • I need to practice lightening up my seat - a heavy, driving seat has become my security blanket, but sometimes it works against me and shuts down Dino's impulsion. If I need that strong seat, I can use it for a brief period, but then I need to lighten back up. 
  • Speaking of a light seat - when Dino is in front of my leg and his shoulders are up in that Perfect Gallop, I CAN find a distance out of a light seat. It's like magic. 
  • No matter what, I need to keep coming to the fences. 
  • Some big improvements I noticed during this lesson were that Dino was easy to get out in front of my leg when I actually noticed that he was behind the leg to begin with, and he was a champ at taking breaks and then going back to work without complaint. I didn't once feel the need to keep him walking & working while waiting our turn to jump. I've also stopped actively pulling to the base of the fences - I may come at them too slowly, but I'm not pulling to the chip. 
  • The fences that weird me out never, ever jump as badly as I think they will in my imagination. It always works out fine. I need to Let It Go and just do it! 
This lesson was tough, and I made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned a ton. We're going to do another one next week, and in the mean time I'm going to be working hard on my light seat, the Perfect Gallop, and riding the awesome parts of our lesson over and over again in my mind. I have an incredible partner in my Wonder Pony, and a fabulous trainer who believes in us to encourage us towards success. 

And it's a damn good thing I don't understand how to quit. 


  1. I'm gonna go ahead and speak for everyone in saying that as soon as I read the title, I immediately heard Elsa from Frozen singing Let it Go.

    I digress.

    Even though the lesson was tough, it sounds like you made some awesome breakthroughs and found success! Riding isn't rainbows and bunny rabbits all the time, and the tough lessons are usually the most helpful in achieving our goals. Good for you!! :)

  2. Ugh yeah if we were quitters, we definitely wouldn't be here. Horses are hard. Glad you have some solid takeaways. Hope next time is more fun!

  3. Pace, man. It's hard!! Sounds like a really tough, but really good lesson too <3

  4. I cried at my lesson last night too - struggling with very similar issues! Those are some really great tips, glad you had a good lesson :)

  5. ugh those tough lessons tho.... ugh. solidarity, girlfriend. i love your takeaways and attitude tho! you guys got this!

  6. I also have learned to love your trademarked move. It is just a comfortable place for me to be, but I need to stop using at as my crutch!


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