Back To Basics – More Swing Over The Back

That’s been the mantra for a couple of weeks.

If you’re lucky ( 🙂 ) like me and ride a really tight horse, who’d rather push back toward you instead of softening and striding forward, it really doesn’t matter how many little figures you do, it’s still not going to be right.

short choppy trot steps in dressage
Hello choppy

So, lately, I’ve been working on really straight lines with Valiosa.  Coming into the contact, confirming more on the outside rein.

Very basic.  Forward.  With as little fussing through the corners as possible.  Thinking quiet, with swing, steady.

straight canter in dressage

She’ll come into a much different breathing this way, rhythmic, harder working, but more relaxed.  All good things.

Where things can get so short and choppy, she can now feel like she’s moving out better toward the end.

And she’s trying so much harder for me.  So grateful for her.  

three beat canter
canter forward straight

In the canter, around the full arena until she’s swinging more, actually using herself.  Forget collecting.  Finding a way to get her moving freely, not fourbeat.  And as much as possible, with both seatbones in the saddle.

Yes, it’s working.  No, we can’t show at first level this way.  Yes, confident I should stick to this for some time.

Spring Schooling Update

Taking full advantage of some more forward!

She’s been fun to ride! Still twisty-and-resisty, but we work together in a whole different way now.

softer trot

It sank in one day that no one’s really going to show up and install any sort of shoulder in button. Or haunches in. Or any other button…

And no one’s going to really say if /when we’re ready for it either…

better hind leg in trot

So, on my own I’ve played with Valiosa a few times with it and she’s responding well. Experimenting – helps if you know how to train the horse to do it.

Well, details. Then back to hind-pushing-straight focus. (It’s hard!)

No pictures of that, but if she wants to go along, maybe another time.

straight in trot
Awesome mare!

Figured out a mistake – trying to introduce quarter turns in canter. She can do them, good actually, but our focus should be on going forward in canter.

crab canter

Love it when she can stay under the seat like this, true on the outside rein, but to be more “real” the canter has to be more forward. With the front hooves coming off the ground a little more 🙂

stronger hind end in canter

Valiosa says – Good luck with that, that’s exhausting, I canter how I canter

We’ll see how that goes this summer!

dressage with gray mare

more forward canter

Few days ago – a lesson for the first time in a month.

That’s all the excitement this time. So many pictures…
Still awake?

dressage with half andalusian mare

You’re Not The Only One With a Tighter Horse In the Outdoor Arena

We’ve been schooling outside a bit – she’s much more upright and distracted out there.

Good stuff!

Mostly, I walk her on the property for conditioning on varying footing. Super helpful for her walk, so much more ground winning than a year ago. But when we’re allowed to go in one of the outdoor arenas it’s worth it with some schooling there!

tense horse in outdoor ring

horse more forward in canter outdoors

Lately she’s been forward in canter, which is not usually her thing, only to become really strong if I get fooled into too much on the inside rein. Like this ⇓ 🙂 Then she just takes off with us both.

downstride in canter

Or she’ll mix it up with a dead-stop fake-spook to keep things interesting. Mostly, I wait for her to take a breath, and then we go again as if nothing happened.

riding through spooking
My horse, a breathing tripod. Ever seen one who can place their hinds this tight? One touch and we’d tip over…

Riding Silverfish takes a lot of patience. All worth it!

dressage outdoors

As soon as it gets baking hot even before 10 am, I know we won’t be out there too much. Taking advantage when we can – show you more of that next week!

Valiosa, Being Awesome

Hi friends,

Looks like these blog posts aren’t going to write themselves…  This morning’s lesson went well.  Latest fun evasion is running through – and out the outside shoulder in canter.  Silly rider, maybe thinking I could just sit there?

We had more good moments than usual – thrilled with Gray Mare!


Here’s the latest photo bomb.

softer hind end steps

Favorite shot below!

Reaching under with inside hind, soft open neck, relaxed mouth, good eye, no inside rein (small miracle!), relaxed tail, back is up.

trotting with tail relaxed

Who knew she could ever get to that, so happy!

azteca mare trotting

trotting without tilting nose to the side

Picture overload, I know. Just didn’t have the heart to erase them all.
posting trot longer stirrups

tracking under in trot

Today is Favorite Tuesday, track day, if you’re lucky enough to have tendons that still let you fling around at the track at slower-and-slower paces each year.  I still do, some weeks, so will be there – after inhaling a second cup of coffee.  Wonder what’ll get injured this time 🙂

Lesson – Steering The Withers

One week ago, finally an opportunity to work with my trainer.

When there’s not going to be a lot of instruction opportunities, you know you better hang on to every word!  (And thank you Alexis for driving all the way out to us!)

The October show was great.  Still don’ feel I have “unlocked” the possibilities with this horse.  She moves tight, and takes every opportunity to lock up, resist, slow down, wiggle the shoulders, tilt her head.  Or all of the above.

Goal for this month:  work, every ride, on riding her in a new way.  Getting the basics down, all over again, with her moving more free, preferably without much influence of the hand at all.  Starting almost from scratch all over again 🙂

Forget about fiddling with a better leg yield or small voltes for now.  Writing it here will help make me accountable.  Fingers crossed I can do this!!  So far so good…

trying to ride more forward
Today’s pics from back in July at the breeding and training farm. Better than this now..?

We spent a full hour on simply being more in tune of the leg, balancing the bit quietly in front of her, offering opportunity to lengthen the neck with the hand softening forward more often.  (Now, a week later after the session, it’s getting more difficult…)

And steering the withers.

The last one ended up being the key.

steering the withers in dressage
Check out tall Banana Man there behind, he’s catching up to big brother.

It’s tempting to want to soften her body, and bend her around the inside leg.  You do that too?  With her, just overdoing it an inch makes her outside shoulder pop out on the circle and she’ll instantly lose all forward.

So, she has to be really on the outside aids, leg and rein.  Steering just for them.  Like a bus.  Because the sort of horse she is, and because that’s where she’s at in the training again right now…

Positioning the poll to the inside more an afterthought, later, when she stays reliably in the tempo.  This is hard, because through the ride, she gets more excited, and wants to curl just one inch, letting go of the bit.  And then we wiggle, feeling lost, and it starts to feel like I can’t even ride her straight.

New mantra, steer like a bus.

Sure, this has come up before.  Of course.

But that’s how it works with dressage –  riders can’t take in the instruction until they’re actually ready.  Or, until they’re convinced  there’s absolutely no way they can continue what they’re doing now.  And that lightbulb went on for me at the last show Ω

Fingers crossed we hold on to this type of riding all on our own until next month!

dressage lesson
If you’ve got a tweak you’re working on – feel free to share it! We can’t be the only ones…?

Hating On The Short Stirrups But Still A Great Ride

Here we go! – A whole slew of pictures.

Back from vacation.  Hers:  in pasture.  Mine:  in the cool mountains.  Now back for more long weeks of hot summer.

Definitely didn’t expect her to go as well as where we left off (in the shots below.)  But she was even better!

Go Gray Mare!  Usually, rides after some time off are awkward and sort of “rusty.”  This time – happiest horse to date.

schooling dressage

young horse schooling dressage

schooling dressage on young horse

Still working on riding, and straightening her, from the right outside rein when tracking left.  It’s getting a bit better.

canter through corner


The less overbent to the inside, the better!  It’s been hard to decide just the right amount, but we’re getting there.  Her specialty is to immediately shut down if she feels “clamped down on” in any way – I’m working hard on resetting my own riding to be more open, or however you’d describe it.

trotting with young horse


Something as easy as a canter diagonal has been a struggle.  Although not a hot horse at all, she can get rushy and flailing there, and like many young horses just flop on her forehand.

So happy with her here, staying balanced and with me!

schooling canter diagonal

staying balanced in canter on diagonal

That’s all from this crew today!

dressage with young horse
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