Equitation Evolution

In the spirit of making myself feel a little less like a failure, let's talk about how my equitation has morphed over the years.

One thing I've always been able to do is look pretty in the saddle. Granted, this isn't always effective, but for better or for worse my early riding education cemented "Heels down, sit up straight, arch your back" into my juvenile brain. I love equitation classes. My default riding style is the Hunter Princess Perch, and when nervous or in doubt, I revert back to the patented Hover Above The Tack and Dive Up The Neck method. The first time I rode in a dressage saddle it blew my mind.

But over the last few years I've developed a different, more effective style of riding, and especially in the last year since learning to ride cross-country, my equitation has evolved considerably.

Let's take a walk down memory lane and see how things have changed since my hunter days!

There are just SO many gems from my college-era hunter/equitation riding life. So many. Let's begin with a couple extremely flattering flatwork photos from that time period:

The first shot is REALLY blurry, but you can really appreciate all of the stiffness and posing going on there. This was taken during a lesson with my wonderful and longsuffering NJ trainer when I was home on winter break one year. The horse is Lucy, an elderly TB mare that I learned SO much from. You can see how I am really putting forth a lot of effort to hold myself together, and am doing essentially nothing for my poor horse's way of going.

In the second photo, I'm riding a friend's sale pony. I got this job a lot, because I'm short. Note the severely arched back, stiff arms, and GUYS HOW SWEET IS THAT BLUE PLASTIC SCHOOLING HELMET?! Man. I was classy. But both photos speak to the rider-centric way that I learned to ride, with not a whole lot of ability to influence my horse.

Moving on, let's look at the over-fences portion of my college riding experience!

I like to call this my Jumping Ahead Period. Man. I was really good at jumping ahead of the horse. My crotch is so consistently over or in front of the pommel in these photos, it's scary. There are a couple years in between the photos of me jumping Lucy and the one of me jumping Dino during my senior year, but not much has changed! I just became a more stylish jumper-aheader. I think it's fun to see how someone could have pegged Dino as a potential hunter pony, though!

And here we have a great example of my post-college Jumper Period! My style is pretty similar, but this horse, Shady, was a total SOB who taught me how to ride with finesse. I loved him. What you can't see in this picture is how much softer he helped me become, and how much more tactful. There's really not too much to dislike about this photo!

My flatwork equitation, however, GREATLY improved during college, thanks to lots of dressage classes. Look, I sit effectively now! A very gracious friend of mine allowed me to ride her very fancy WB dressage horse for a while, and that giant, heavy sucker helped me learn to use my core!

We've now arrived where this blog began: taking ownership of the best dang pony in the entire world! My mind was still set on the jumpers, and my butt was still floating around in the stratosphere above my saddle. Laying on the neck is, apparently, quite comfortable. I seem to do it a lot. So, again, we've got a slightly-more-stylish but still mostly ineffective and insecure jumping position.

The flatwork, however, is still pretty good:

My upper back might be a little rounded, but my lower back is FLAT and EFFECTIVE, my arms are doing things they're supposed to do, and you can tell because my pony is using himself!

Fast forward to the present day... I've been eventing for a year now, and generally working my butt off, and my jumping position is pretty freakin' awesome:

I've managed to evolve into a rider who can keep her butt somewhere in the vicinity of the saddle, who can jump without the supporting her chest on the pony's neck, who stays WITH and not AHEAD of the motion, and who is softer and more effective instead of just posed.

How has YOUR equitation evolved through the years? I want to see how you've grown!


  1. LOVE this trip down memory lane! You can definitely see how your position has changed over the years, and your eq is now awesome and effective!!

    We are one in the same: jumping the jump for the horse and laying on their neck was my jam for many a year, and I have only recently (recently like last week) become cured of this evil. Great job with the progression!!

    And, is it me, or has Dino gotten cuter? :)

  2. Good for you for taking ownership of how well you've improved over the years! Nice to see that kind of confidence in the blogosphere!

  3. This is a great series of pictures. I might have to steal your idea and do something similar. Lots of improvement here :)

  4. Love the progress! I was thinking of doing something similar, haha. You can definitely see the changes and the fact that you can talk through it shows how much you've learned/grown/changed. That's awesome!

  5. Lauren & Aimee, you guys should definitely do similar posts! It can be an unofficial hop.

  6. great post!! it's so useful to look back and see where you came from to better see your current successes!! i'm definitely still struggling in the 'leaning on the neck jumping way too far forward' phase, but maybe it's just something we all go through?

  7. Love those last few pictures! You look so secure. I should do one of these, too, since I'm lacking in interesting content lately.

  8. This is completely awesome and super valuable that you have pics to watch your timeline. You are SO effective today - just wow. You should be very very proud of your equitation!

  9. What a great post!! Look how awesome you look and how effective and refined your position is! Go girl!!!

    But my fav quote: and my butt was still floating around in the stratosphere above my saddle.


    I will have to jump on the unofficial hop! Now to find old pics! Lol

  10. Loving those last photos, you both look totally together, and coordinated!

  11. I just found you through some other bloggers that posted their equitation evolution! Your pony is SO CUTE! Can't wait to follow your adventures together. You have come a long way since being a perchy hunter princess!



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