Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Just do it (and questions about stretching)

I have found that whenever I go a certain period without riding, I actually require a lot of motivation to get back on and get back to work. I come up with every excuse in the book to prolong the inevitable. 

When I think about it, its so strange I do this because I miss it incredibly when I can't ride. So why all the angst? Finally it hit me...I am an amateur holding my riding with such high expectations and ambitions to that of a professional. This means I am constantly letting myself down. So I prolong getting back on the horse and experiencing the let down of what happens when your horse hasn't been in work so they forget the last 5 things you worked on. 

Luckily for me, I have the best barn friend, Merideth, who not only rode Tillie for me while I was away, but also to kick me in the butt and remind me of what a great horse I have and just do it. 

Eager and ready to work as always.
So I turned on my favorite Pandora station and turned off my anxieties and then I got on my horse for the first time in over a week. It was a bit eerie because no one was around with it being close to 8pm, but I breathed out a huge sigh of relief as we walked around on a loose rein for a few laps. 

I decided to approach the ride with a KISS mentality of just keeping things simple to prevent me having that "let down" feeling. I also decided to worship the fact I had a quiet and willing horse that wasn't so anxious or protesting any little cue from me like I have had in the past. There was a time not so long ago that walking around on a loose rein would not have boded well for my well being. 

So happy to see my girl after being away.
The next thought I had after starting to put her together was just how grateful I am to Merideth because I had a horse that felt like butter in all three gaits. She knew we were working and, like an old pro, quietly and willingly answered all my questions with crystal clear, definitive responses. Even if they were not exactly correct, she was doing them willingly and genuinely trying. 

I decided within 10 minutes of riding Tillie that I need to somehow convince Meri to school Tillie more for a few reasons:
  1. Merideth doesnt have the same baggage I do when it comes to Tillie so she has a fresh perspective on what Tillie feels like. There is no "Normal" or what Tillie usually does, but rather this is how it needs to feel in the universal sense. 
  2. Merideth doesnt coddle Tillie like I do and gets after her when she starts to evade, therefore problems get nipped right away before they become problems.
  3. Having another rider other then me makes Tillie more educated and versatile so she is more accepting of the aids. 
These late night rides are exhausting

Her canter transitions were on point...relaxed into it, yet sitting and really pushing into the canter without all the extraneous "weeee we go fast now". We did a bit of schooling of the canter to trot transitions as she wanted to fall behind my leg and tense into it (it felt like she would coil and do a itty bitty canter before breaking into an unbalanced trot) rather then seek the contact and step into it.

After one time establishing this isnt how its done, she was much better keeping her spine more relaxed...relaxed for Tillie anyway. 

 I did ride with my reins incorrectly how my last trainer suggested and I must admit, it was kinda nice. I couldn't hang on Tillie even if I wanted to. Holding them that way made me use my reins when needed and leave them alone when not as well as carry my hands. 

I also pulled my stirrups for the last 20 minutes in the name of No Stirrup November and tried to use this opportunity to get Tillie to stretch more into contact and take a longer, lower frame (this is something Merideth started working on in her lesson with her and apparently Tillie was quite rude about jerking down). 

I know she can stretch!! Now how to do it under saddle?!
Trying the new:

Tillie quite happily trotted along not really doing basically did NOT understand what I wanted at all without giving me any answers really at all. Hey at least we had a rhythm down right? So as my legs are screaming at me I keep trying to apply my leg and take it off so I dont nag with it on constantly. I think she thought I just wanted to stay "Here" and that was that.

So I tried getting different answers from her by asking for smaller steps without losing the energy, then, when that didnt work, bigger steps without speeding up. I tried staying on a 20m circle then spiraling larger and smaller to see if she had a preference...Nope. Nothing. 

Tillie's version of long and low has only happened while galloping at warp speed.
I could tell she was getting a bit confused so did some lateral movements shes really good at to build her confidence again and then tried again. 

Damn mare holds her neck righhhht where it meets the withers and just wont stretch at the trot. At the walk, got it. Ask for it at the trot and its like she doesnt trust her own balance. I mmmayyybe started getting a litttttle longer by the end but it was only a few steps here or there and more so tracking right then left. 

This picture is extremely dark, BUT it is one of her from the first few months I had her where she is
 stretching and showing she is capable of seeking contact. 

She just doesnt follow the contact like she should. Eventually as I slowly slip the rein, she will but at a certain point there is nothing and she eventually seems to either get bored or just isnt sure and she comes above the contact again. 

I stayed patient and changed my approach to just asking for any iota of a response, right or wrong, rather then her going around doing nothing. Eventually I did get small responses so I guess that is good right? **sigh** Something I'll need to ask about in a follow up lesson later this week. I also am toying with setting up my mullen bridle again and riding her in that for this purpose to get her seeking the contact again - the trick being not letting her lean or fall on the forehand. 


  1. The Mental game of riding is so tough! I commiserate with you.

  2. I struggle with comparing myself to professionals too, I've never been an amateur (and am not currently one, but I'm certainly not working full time as a trainer). It's easy to start comparing ourselves, but I try to just remember that riding is supposed to be fun!

    Re: the stretch circle, it takes a lot longer to develop than a lot of people realize since it really works different muscles. Patience is key. I'm only now getting my guy (after nearly a year of riding him, although granted we didn't work on this until maybe six months ago) to get his poll level with his withers- we have a long way to go. I can firmly say that his connection is not a problem, he stretches and steps willingly into the bridle, it's just that he struggles to go down all the way because it's hard. Just because it's hard doesn't mean he's incorrect, he's just still learning. Try not to jump to conclusions about incorrect connection, those will just make you feel bad! She's still just figuring it all out :)

  3. What Megan said! The stretchy circle is going to be the worst for me. Mine likes head up neck retracted. I get excited when I get him to drop his poll even with his withers.

  4. just gotta keep riding!!! everything is easier when it's routine

  5. Sometimes driving all the way out to the barn is hard. I can totally relate to lack of riding motivation.