Too cute for his own good
I've had an interesting couple of rides since our XC school on Monday, and comparing them has been quite educational.

On Tuesday afternoon I was feeling tired. I seriously considered staying home and napping instead of going to the barn, and wasn't terribly motivated to ride. There wasn't anything I was particularly focused on working on, and I figured that I'd just get Dino out and walk/trot/canter for half an hour or so and then go home, since I wasn't in the mood for an intense schooling session.

I didn't really make a plan before I got on, I didn't get in a thoughtful, mindful, focused frame of mind, and I didn't take my time creating a good walk, before a good trot, before a good canter.

And you know what? My pony went like CRAP. For the first half hour of the ride he was resistant, behind the leg, heavy in my hands, tense, and short-strided. I was getting annoyed. "DO THE THING!" I yelled at him. "YOU AREN'T LISTENING!" he yelled back.

I wasn't listening. At all.

So, 30 minutes in, I finally took the hint from Dino that MAYBE I wasn't giving him the best of my focus and understanding. I slowed it way down. I made a good walk. I listened to what Dino was telling me about how he was feeling and what he needed from me in order to do what I was asking. While I didn't achieve the magical sunshine and rainbows that was last week's dressage rides, things got better and I was able to quit on a better note than where we started.

And then I read Aimee's post and it really hit home - my crappy attitude gave me a crappy ride, simple as that.

Happy pony = rider smiling so hard she gives herself more chins
On Wednesday, I decided that things would be different. I paid careful attention to my attitude, and made the effort to be mindful of Dino and what he needed from me. That shift in focus resulted in a night-and-day difference in how this ride went!

When I actually paid attention to the way that my pony was responding to my aids and adjusted accordingly, instead of just strong-arming him around, he stretched over his back sooner. He softened to the bit better. I didn't have to argue with him about anything, because I was listening to what he was saying and having a civilized conversation instead of overwhelming him with my selfish emotional state. I didn't demand that he go perfectly round and through before he was fully warmed up, and we had some of the best stretchy trot that we've had in a long time.

Things really got awesome when I dropped my stirrups. Like Carly, lately I'm having trouble riding dressage as well with stirrups as I do without. I don't know what my deal is. [help?] In any case, I played around with some shoulder-in and haunches-in to get Dino straighter since his hind end was kind of freewheeling it around wherever, and once I got those back legs under control the power and throughness in the trot was fabulous! He also really wanted me to hold him up with my left rein at times, but being mindful and tactful with my inside spur [one quick jab instead of endless, dull nagging] resulted in the wonderful response of Dino standing up more on that inside hind leg and getting off my hands.

Good riding, amiright?!

I worked a bunch on the canter, eventually achieving the round left lead departs that have been eluding us lately. Dino is starting to step up into the bridle more often than flinging his head and THEN dropping into the contact, which is very exciting! He was a little tight and stuck in the left lead canter overall, but we had some really lovely moments of throughness on the right lead. I am trying hard to sit straight and balanced [DQ position] with my hands still like we worked on in our last lesson, and just let Dino carry us, but it is HARD! I can find the position easily, but not nagging or getting crazy with the inside rein is really tough.

The moral of this story is: get on your pony with good intentions and a mindful heart, or don't get on at all.


  1. It's amazing what a difference your(/my) emotional state makes to the creatures. :-)

    And if you're riding in a jump saddle, the balance point with the stirrup bars is all wrong for dressage, so as your position improves, your ability to dressage in jump tack decreases.

    1. So you're saying I need to buy a dressage saddle and my days of minimalist eventing are over?

  2. I concur with the stirrup bars on a jump saddle, I can't use my thigh in a jump saddle if my feet are in the stirrups. I almost always either drop stirrups or make them outrageously long (and then complain to whoever is making me ride in a jump saddle). I give major props to jumping riders who do good dressage in their saddles, I just can't!

    Yay for a good ride on Wednesday. It's so hard to admit to ourselves that our attitude is what is causing problems, so much easier to blame the horses. I loved Aimee's post too, such a great reminder of how much influence we have over our horses.

  3. Can totally relate. Also dressaging in a jump saddle is my least favorite thing... Once I had a dressage saddle I was ruined... Eventually I may get another one.

  4. lately my most intense flat work has been done in the jump saddle (a function of lessons that mix dressage and jumping) so i'm actually pretty comfortable flatting in those conditions. except my position definitely leave a lot to be desired, ugh...

    anyway tho, to the point - i've definitely tried to be more mindful lately. makes a big difference for my mare too

  5. Great post! (I secretly thought a reference to Aimee's post yesterday would appear here ;) )

    I always try to keep that last line in mind when heading to the barn: like you said, it does neither of you any good to ride your horse while balancing 2 carry-on bags of emotional crap.

  6. Oh man, so I dressaged in my super forward flap XC saddle for like, years, because I didn't have a dressage saddle. When I finally got one, it was like this whole new level of riding opened up! I could sit up! I could use my legs! My horses went in a frame instead of like deranged llamas! Magical. Now I am getting fussy about dressage saddles (which is why I have a nice saddle from work on an..."extended trial"...)

    Good for you for acknowledging the need to be mindful! It's hard to do sometimes.

  7. Since I'm never buying a dressage saddle a lot of time for lateral work I drop my irons to get the correct feel, at least initially. Then I can go back to irons on and asking and he gets it.

  8. In our lives there is so much going on, that it can be difficult to tune it out and focus entirely on your horse and your ride. But riding is at least 75% mental (IMHO), and therefore having a clear mind is SO important.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts