More Leg

Finding small, shining moments where I can!
It's taken me a few days to mull over my rides from this week and sort everything out in my brain. There's been a lot of learning and processing going on here this week.

Dino had the day off on Sunday, it rained on Monday, and I was back in the tack on Tuesday afternoon. We rode with Sully's mom in the back 40 on the farm, doing some basic flatwork while I helped Sully's mom clean up her canter departs a bit. The ride wasn't anything mind-blowing, though I did get Dino to stretch nicely over his topline in the canter by riding it in half seat vs sitting.

Like so! This felt great. 
On Wednesday afternoon we went over to the indoor to school, and a friend of mine came along to take video.


I was so excited to see how awesome we looked now that I am using all these new skillz to get Dino working better than ever on the flat, I was going to play those videos and not even recognize my own pony because he looked like some kind of GP dressage prodigy. The ride itself was not spectacular, but I felt like I was making good progress in moving towards a better, more elastic, more reaching connection.

And then I looked at the media, and I felt disappointed.

In the spirit of honesty... this moment happened.
It appeared that I had mistaken "give the hand forward" to mean "ride with no contact 80% of the time". My position had devolved into some kind of weird chair seat, and while he wasn't ducking behind the bit very much, Dino wasn't exactly round and through, either.

After briefly considering trail riding exclusively for the rest of my life, or taking up underwater basketweaving instead, I continued watching the videos and analyzing the stills.

It really wasn't all bad.

When I DID take the contact, while Dino did fuss a bit with his mouth, he wasn't hiding behind the vertical very often at all, and there were several moments where the picture we painted was very, very pretty. The good stuff was in there.

And the bad stuff was more just me needing to sit up, shorten my reins, kick on, and RIDE than anything else.

Appropriate ratio of leg to hand yields very nice results. But my reins are still too long.
I could see EXACTLY what I needed to fix in those videos - How short my reins needed to be so that even when I softened my hands forward, there would still be contact. How I needed to push Dino into that contact with my leg instead of  doing whatever the heck I was trying to do. I could mentally adjust my ride and see in my mind's eye how it would improve my pony.

So the next day, I tried to fix what I saw needed fixing.

I tried to be cognizant of my position, maintain a reasonable rein length that allowed me to maintain contact, get my pony in front of my leg so that I had some energy to work with, and keep Dino's hind legs pushing him forward throughout the ride.

This trot I can live with. 
It was a great ride in that I noticed a lot of things, and started to understand how I was helping or hindering Dino's performance. Things like:

  • More leg. Always, more leg. When Dino gets above/behind/whatever the bit, my first reaction is to go to my hands and move them around somehow in a flamboyant manner. This is not, at all, productive. ADDING LEG to PUSH him out to the bit where I want him is so, so much more effective. 
  • Pony not bending the way I want or coming off the rail? MORE INSIDE LEG. I need to stop moving my hands. Especially stop moving my inside hand back and across the withers towards the outside. That just makes the pony tuck his nose in and not actually bend. 
  • When I DO use rein aids, I need to think small and subtle. I CAN keep my hands in that little square 'box' in front of the pommel and still get my message across - especially when Dino is settled nicely into the contact, it doesn't take much to get him to react. I have a responsibility to make my hands quiet when he stays where I want him, and that's REALLY HARD. I noticed during this ride that I am YELLING with my reins quite a lot, causing Dino to over-respond, and I need to quiet that down a lot. 
  • Having a giving hand doesn't mean having floppy reins. You would think after 20 years of riding, I would have figured this out sooner.
  • Leg first. Always. Adding leg before doing something with my hands fixed so many of my problems. Like, all of them. 
  • Using my thigh as an overall brake and to slow down the front end also helped a TON when Dino started running off the rails and getting behind the bridle. I didn't even need to do anything with the reins! 
  • Adding to the motion of Dino's back with my seat instead of aggressively riding against it is far more effective, and keeps him much more relaxed. I had to check myself several times when I realized I was driving against him instead of contributing to the swing. 
Now we're freeeeeeeeeeee! Free walkinnnnnn!
The difficult thing about being Dino's person is that he's always changing, and I need to learn new tools to be able to ride him well from month to month. The awesome thing about being Dino's person is that he's always changing. I'm looking forward to whatever he has to teach me this coming week! 



  1. I learned so much from this! I was just thinking about how I feel Monty being terrible in the canter and instead of pulling I should just try adding leg. I am also guilty of long reins! You and dino are such great inspiration

  2. I find that getting to watch video of myself helps so much. Also I'm pretty sure more leg is always the answer for me :)

  3. Lots of lovely moments in there! I am definitely guilty of riding with no contact a lot of the time. I'm going to give your half seat rather than sitting the canter a try with Apollo... hope he will stretch down more too haha

  4. I hate when I take one thing (soften your hand is usually the thing for me, but there are other things too) and waaaaay overdo it and then I'm like "oh great, there was zero contact the entire time, dreaaaaaaaamy." But being able to recognize it is awesome! And seeing the change after is even moar awesome.

    1. Also I had to start replying to this post four times because the puppy I am sitting closed the window three times!!!

  5. I also feel like watching video of myself helps so much. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing more than what my instructor is asking for but then I see what it actually looks like and I'm barely doing anything haha. When I see that I'm able to push myself enough to actually get to the point that I'm supposed to.

  6. Moar media always. It ain't always pretty (ask me how I know) but it's usually super helpful!

  7. More leg is always the answer I feel like hahaha

  8. More leg is pretty much like 'more cowbell' you can never have too much!

  9. Just wanted to let you know that I'm hosting an equestrian blogger contest and you've been nominated!

    Here's the post with the details:

    Let me know if you accept the nomination, I hope you do!! (Please e-mail me at to accept!)

    Don't forget to spread the word about it and nominate some blogs of your own! :)

    Aryelle Stafford


Post a Comment

Popular Posts