Lesson – Steering The Withers

steering the withers in dressage

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

schooling dressage on young horse

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
Special Theme next week! Come back to see what it’s all about!

More Schooling Pictures. Wanna See Them?

horse cantering with poll up

Got a lot of pictures from a ride.

It feels, well, almost fake to post them.  The site is all about showing things as they are – for real.  Honestly – most parts of the riding session is not all this smooth and happy.  (Surprise!  Yeah, no surprise.)

happy riding


Mostly, she’s fuzzy and tweaky like this.

horse unsteady in contact


Posting more good shots next time anyway!    It’s all about small improvements, and she’s trying so much harder than a year ago!horse cantering with poll up

Identifying Your Training Issues – And Comping Up With A Plan!

engaging the inside hind on trot circle

Let’s do this again!

Last training update post in early June, Current Riding Struggles, with many pictures was a hit, so here we go with another one.

The purpose of this post is to highlight some, not all, of the holes in our training.  You can try this on your own too, looking at pictures and identifying some of them, and deciding what to focus on.  It really helps!

But first, check out Gray Mare, finally using her inside hind.  (At least sometimes.)  Cheers for improvement!

engaging the hind leg in canter transition


Today, shots of some of the “fuglies” I’m working on.  It’s one thing to know what’s right, a whole other thing to actually ride it, right..?

Welcome to chime in with anything in comments below.

Sometimes some sassiness.  Because she wants to have an opinion about many things.  Not super often, so this is more of an observation than anything.

bucking into canter


Riding from the outside rein.  Everybody knows this is the key, still, how hard is it to let go of relying on the inside rein!?!  Super hard for me, I forget to think about it as soon as other stuff crops up.  Maybe you’re like me, where one hand wants to do more of the work?

Here, releasing the right is a piece of cake.  The left though, in the other direction, keeps doing too much, and it’s harder to ride her off the outside, right, rein correctly.

riding from the outside rein


Staying centered over the back.  Even when preparing for something else.  Or, seriously, extra well when prepping for something.

Coming in to a loop of counter canter, I’m suddenly leaning in through the corner, “helping?”, I don’t know.  It’s not helping 🙂

leaning in to corners


Not falling apart in the corners.  Here’s where she’s gotten too strong in the canter on the short side, I’m no longer riding from the seat, she’s fallen off the outside rein, and we’re cowboying around from the sneaky left hand.

Excellent way to put the horse on the forehand and give up any chance of staying together like a team across the diagonal.    I put this picture here so I can look back at it one day and say “Hey, this is gone now.”

turning for the inside rein

Training goal:  Establish a truer connection on the right rein.  (Yay for setting a goal!)

Getting it right sometimes.  So much easier for her to do something, anything, coming out of the corner like this!

balanced in canter through corner


Blowing and snorting.  OK, maybe not a real issue, (healthy really.) but when she’s processing something, releasing and letting go, while cantering, this goes on.  And on.

Sometimes she does it so many times I’ll loose all focus and forget what we were working on.  (Her party trick, sneaky way to end canter and walk.)  Somebody asked from another post what I meant, and why I don’t ignore it, so here you go.   Classy seat!

blowing and snorting in canter


Engaging the inside hind more on the circle.  Forever issue for many.  For her, super challenging, she’s gotten away with not really doing it much, and she can get flustered there.  It will be so cool when she’ll mold her self around the inside aid, easily.  One day!

engaging the inside hind on trot circle

Anyone who wants to chime in on Training Issues are welcome!

One Of Those Sick Days

elinor yee

Suddenly couch stuck.

Some cold, or respiratory thing, or some other unnecessary road-block to fun.

Not sure who ordered it.  Sure wasn’t me!  Because I’m stuck at home for a bit, today is another photo bomb.

balancing the canter in the corner

not stepping under in canter

She has both filled out with muscle just a little, and gained some more power on the trot diagonal.  It doesn’t fizz out half way anymore.

increasing tempo in trot on diagonal

gray horse cantering on long side

After babying her for so long with just short periods of sitting trot, it’s time for her to accept working like that too.

Accept is the key word there…  Her go-to move is to immediately resist as long as it doesn’t feel exactly right to her.  If I ever needed a horse teaching a more following seat and hip joint, she’s it.  So, hmmm, thank you?

collecting the trot

Stay well, and have a fun weekend!

elinor yee

Pictures As Promised

cross bred andalusian mare

Here’s where she is in the training.

Or, full disclosure, here’s where she is for 3 seconds in the training!
horse trotting through corner

The canter is really coming along, which is so encouraging!  Right now our problem is to stay within the set tempo.

Earlier, she’d rather not bother to canter much at all.  Now, she’s gotten stronger and rounder over her back, and has decided it should be done with gusto, faster and faster.  Or yeah, not-at-all-thank-you-very-much-I’m-stopping-alltogether-now.

gray dressage horse cantering

Have to regulate it just right.  Last week, that seemed like it would take forever.  She hated it.  Then Friday I tried some (almost) serpentine work just for kicks and she stayed so soft and controlled through the turn on both leads.

Thrilled with her!  Paying NO attention to transitions that time.  Would have been too much…

trotting with young horse

improving trot on diagonal

Trying to leg yield both to, and away from, the rail.  Sometimes it works.

starting leg yield with young horse

Another great thing (but at the same time challenging for now.) is a huge amount of blow/snorting during the canter.  She used to be quiet, never breathing all the way through, not truly releasing and giving the feeling she was working in it.

Several rides she’s done so much relaxing and blowing that we completely fall apart and have to start over.  Very good problem to have!  Just need to figure out how to allow it to happen and carry on, earlier.

Fun times!

cross bred andalusian mare

Gray Mare – Not Giving Anything Away For Free

cantering with new bit

On her own she’d never come up with the idea of offering a big trot.

Or an elastic one.  Or relaxed.  Or a balanced, willing, and ground winning canter.  That’d be way too easy right?  Every ride, it all has to be created from scratch.  Sometimes it feels like it would be really rewarding if she’d just be offering something voluntarily on her own 🙂

Then again, it’s really interesting to be doing this, to see where she can go. So happy to have her, if hundreds of images of the same horse wasn’t a tip-off.

training with a young horse

Living with other horses has really made her happy.  Screaming to them while under saddle is not welcome though.  As it is strictly Verboten, her latest thing is to let out a looong sort of “under-the-breath” squeal while still continuing work.

Feels like riding a female walrus, or let’s make it seal – more flattering – her back vibrating while she’s making code noises to them.  I should get mad, really, but she’s just so silly.

dressage toward second level

OK, so she’s showed well at Intro, and Training, plus the very first test at First Level.  It’s been my goal from start to bring her to Second Level.  Very lofty ideas!

I have a little bit more help now.  So happy about that!

How fun it would be to work on getting a Bronze Medal with this horse!!

Actually, someone is probably not going to let me hunt scores on their “better trained and higher level” horse, so yes, it’s going to have to be her!

cantering with new bit