Current Riding Struggles. Plenty To Go Around

Hey!  We’ve got some ongoing issues.

Maybe you do too?

Today, posting some of the stuff we’re struggling with right now.

Because dressage is a strange, luscious, struggle for perfection, which most of us will never fully master.  Viewed the right way, it’s demanding, fun, and forever challenging.  An enigma.  Viewed the wrong way – it’s stuffy, incomprehensible, and impossible.

Pick your way!

First off, there’s the leg yield off the long side to X.  (Here from K.)  To pull it off, there has to be just about two steps of counter flex right after the corner.

setting up for leg yield off the long side

Great start.  But then there’s the dreaded “petering out”, as we go toward X…

leg yield to centerline

Another struggle is the smooth transition from leg yield right to X – to leg yield left back to the long side.  She gets over ambitious, a bit rambling, and then, after laboring too much, you guessed it – irritated…

too much angle in the leg yield

Focus issues – retaining composure and concentration when herding-dogs start, um, herding.  I’m not serious enough for it.  Extra credit for just having fun though.  You are having fun, right?

riding dressage with border collie in the arena
Upper body position  –  still that dreaded little collapsing of the inner ribcage on the circle in canter. We all have our riding position struggles. I’ve got some big ones, and this tinier vice is not going to go away until I actually focus on it. Got some other, larger, stuff to obsess over…
rider collapsing inside ribs on circle

The serious Let’s-Get-Ugly-Right-At-C-By-The-Judges-Box-Mare issue.  Full disclosure:  this is ongoing, at any time in the arena, but mostly on the short side , where you really want to have a smooth, “Hey this is easy, look at how this just flows effortlessly!” sort of look.

She’ll push back, shorten, resist the aids, and life in general.  I try to ignore, push the hands forward, creating space and not restricting her, but we keep riding in a “hiccup” mode like this.

horse pushing back

And then it’s over…

pushing the hands forward in trot

I’m hoping the dental earlier this week will help just a bit with this.  She had her teeth done  not even 6 months ago but the vet already pointed out a few sharp edges.

We’re good to go now, and hopefully comfortable for another 9 months.  To be honest, I don’t think it will make much of a difference in her contact, but there’s always hope.  Things can always evolve and get better.

On to the next struggle – sticking point for many at the lower levels:  The perfect stretchy trot.

on the forehand in stretchy trot
Death by stretchy circle.

Nothing else to say.  Other than this movement can be lovely, and sometimes she can get it just right! ⇓

stretching down and out in trot

Next up; random twisting and wringing.  At any time!  Yeah.  Exhaustive and humbling, this is still happening.  No comment.

horse twisting the neck

When she’s good, she’s just so much fun!..

riding happy in dressage

Feel free to vent about your biggest current riding issue!

22 thoughts on “Current Riding Struggles. Plenty To Go Around

  1. Oh man you are so reminding me of my dressage days! I 100% empathize with your struggles! Before Rio got attacked by a spider, I was getting frustrated on the regular with his tendency to drop behind the bit even when I’m not touching his face. He does it when he gets tired, but it’s so frustrating because I looks like I’m too heavy handed and he’s evading me, when that’s really not the case at all 😣

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  2. Wow how beautiful. Not really a rider (in my younger days I did go to ranches to ride) but love the beauty involved. Recent grandson’s birthday was at a horse ranch and the kids loved it…

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  3. I have all of those same issues. And I have all the solutions to them too. They just don’t seem to work with my horse😂. Oh wait, there’s a rider involved in this mess too??

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  4. I got some good, relatable laughs out of your post 🙂
    My added struggle is when my mare ceases to pay attention completely, often after a great moment for both of us, and nearly falls on her face. I know we can never event – self preservation clearly an issue…

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  5. Yes to all… oh the joys of a young mare… I can add random spook and refusing to relax the back in canter to the list. We have our first test coming up in a few weeks so more strange issues to report soon. Loving every minute of it though! Keep going, you guys are looking great! 🍀

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    1. Ah, the random spook… we’ve all been there right?… I’m getting spoiled with this mare, since there’s not much spooking going on. But yep, relaxing the back is a challenge too.
      Good luck in the test!!!!🙌

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  6. I don’t speak Dressage (was Hunter-Jumper now Trail Rider), but there is an allure to it, because of the grace and harmony it presents when it all runs smoothly. Takes ALOT patience. The two of you together look beautiful!

    I am an animal communicator, and sometimes message come to me without asking. Here are the two message I got while reading this post. When she was ‘rambling, irritated’, etc. She didn’t understand what you were asking of her. The communication is not always clear to her. 2nd message: ‘Random twisting and wringing’……something with the bit is not agreeing with her. Hope that helps.

    Off topic but……..I am wondering who is the kind soul that takes all these pictures for you and is so available that you can continue to post so many of them. 🙂

    I am working with my 7 yr. old Arab mare, to be a Trail Horse, who is barn sour, and has seperation anxiety. She is very sassy, defiant, and continually stretches the boundaries. There is no question she was put into the wrong hands before me, and she got away with EVERYTHING, probably because they were afraid of her. A beginner with a young horse, I have no doubt. Bad combination. So, I am working the kinks out of her, and it is a HUGE challenge! More than I bargained for. But I keep going! Parelli trainer coming out tomorrow. :-).
    In Trail Riding language…..she just needs the patience, boundaries, and lots and lots of miles on her. 🙂

    Best of luck to you and your girl! 🙂

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    1. Diana, yes to both.
      She wants to do well, and aids are not always clear and quick enough for her, to where she scrambles. I’ll ALWAYS go with a “rider problem”. It usually is.

      The second – bit problem a possibility, or mouth problem. Vet did teeth last week, and I’m counting on Monday being Morse stable in contact.
      Can always hope 🙂

      Pictures are almost exclusively from my two young boys. They come out several times per year for me for a “celebrity” visit. Love them for that!
      The rest, non riding, I take myself.
      occasionally from blurry video captures from where I can do it my self, which is not very often:)

      Best of luck with your mare!!! Going out on trail alone can be a big one for horses. Hang in there!

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      1. 🙂 Hanging in there with my mare. What a challenge she is. Barn sour is her main problem. Fear based. Called in my Parelli trainer to come out on a regular basis now. It is such S-L-O-W progress. I think the hardest part is me being patience with how slow it goes. 🙂

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        1. It’s always helpful to have regular help from a trainer. Sometimes we just don’t expose them often enough, and they never seem to move ahead. Don’t give up just yet. (Sure you’re not, but sometimes we just need someone to cheer us on a little.)

          Then again, sure makes you appreciate just the right mindset and personality on some horses. It’s such a relief not to have to struggle. (Although they ALWAYS have something we’re not all that happy with, which is the main reason I’m sticking with my mare. She’s a good girl, and her positives way outweigh her negatives at this point.)
          Keep trying!

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          1. Thanks for the support and encouragement. Nice to connect with another horse person on my blog. :-).
            So true! There is always something that is in need of work or improvement.
            I was hoping for less struggle, and got more then I bargained for. Yes, so true again! It makes me appreciate my gelding all that more. Although he is not perfect either, but was SO much easier then my mare. OTTB, rescue horse, turned trail horse. Piece of cake to train and desensitize for trail riding.

            As I get to know my mare know, I fall in love with her more, and laugh more at her imperfections, and offer more patience. I see her personality more and more. 🙂

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          2. Have a feeling we share a lot in common there Diana. Started out wanting LESS struggle, only to find myself much deeper than I though – only to find out I’m sort of enjoying the difficulty in it all. Mostly just because it will be SO rewarding when things finally work out 🙂 Like riding straight. Or bending correctly. Elementary but challenging. Less than 2 weeks to a show, hoping for good feedback then.

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  7. Ah dressage, where we struggle, flail, figure it out and then— ON TO THE NEXT STRUGGLE!
    But addictive. My position struggle is to not tip my pelvis forward when she tenses. It just leads to more tension and much mare anger.

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    1. Haha, mare anger! I know it so well 😎
      Not perching in the saddle is a big one… I tend to want to lean back. Have been working for years not to.
      We should switch you and I!


  8. Ah, Elinor, believe me!!! You are certainly NOT alone!!! It seems like the minute you have something worked out and everything is going alright, something else HAS to come up!!!!! I love how you don’t give up, and while you do, as do the rest of us, get discouraged, you don’t give up!!!! Keep pressing on, and I’m with you through it all!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ I've got my fingers and toes crossed for you!!!!

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  9. Ah yes the short side. My coach Belinda Trussell tells me this is the chance to create “the beautiful picture” for the judge especially the short side at A. Easy for her to say. I am too busy thinking about what comes next and how do I need to ride the corner to get it right. As for the stretchy circle. Hated that. Don’t worry you won’t have to do it after a few more levels. There is light at the end of that tunnel.

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    1. Haha, I think I’ll be flailing too, as soon as there is something a bit more complicated after the corner. Eh, can’t wait 😉

      Hilda Gurney said in a clinic out here yesterday that 2nd level test 1 is awful. What, how can it be!!!? I thought she’d say 4th level, but nope, she thought that test had a tweaked flow to it.
      Strangely suddenly happy not to be there yet 😉

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