Friday, July 15, 2016

handing over the reins (for a day) to a pro

Before Tillie and I had our fall last weekend, I have been thinking of asking Dom to ride her or at least hop on her to get a feel for her. I know from watching my own videos and teaching that it sometimes feels really different than it looks. I also am a big fan of my instructors or trainers getting on my horse so they know what I am dealing with...I think it gives them more insight and tools to help us.

I used to be much more open to handing over the reins and letting anyone get on Tillie...but lately I have been a bit more guarded of her and trying to keep my rides crystal clear for her. Obviously a professional rider I trust and like their riding style is always welcome...but I have also been protective of her because she gets a bit emotional about new profusely sweats it out so I know mentally is a bit thrown.

Ok ok Ill be nice...
But when I spoke to Dom earlier in the week about our event, he suggested he get on her to school her around and I couldnt have been more thrilled. My thought process being that would be awesome for him to ride her and feel out how confident she really is after everything, and he is the perfect rider to help her out if she was lacking some.

Look at the giant booty!

As I tacked her up, I was nervous and excited. Its always a bit unnerving when youre going to hand over the reins to someone else, but also because I was worried about how she would be with it being her first time jumping again. My gut told me she would be fine, but I of course worry and didn't want her to come out being super stressed.

Dom and I made small talk as he hopped on...believe it or not, my stirrup length didn't need to be adjusted for him at all :) I guess I never realized just how close in height we are - I am 5'3. We talked a bit more about what happened with the fall as he looked over Tillie's battle scars as he cooed to her how sorry he was that happened to her. I am so thankful for her professional choice XC boots since both her hinds took a beating, but with the strike guard protected her cannon area...

You can see her left hind boot is almost totally brown
from the brown stain of the fence we well at

He reassured me again it was just a fluke, not to overthink it and gave Tillie a pat and said to press on with our plans. We chatted a bit more about those as I put her snaffle on (yes SNAFFLE!) as he talked about bitting and he was confident Tillie could potentially come back to a snaffle for XC...he wanted to ride her in to feel how string she can be.

With that said, he trotted off to get her going and went allllll the way around and back before cantering her in a section of the field with some smaller logs and started popping her over a few things in there. I watched carefully as he jumped the jumps very close...really making her sit to jump. I noticed he was doing the same thing in her canter - really expecting her to collect and sit causing her to break a few times.

He also had her jump the larger log at an angle a few times explaining he is trying to make her think more about the jump and not get so flat on landing.

Its kind of strange watching someone ride your horse...It makes me feel a bit self conscious and odd because I am usually the one riding! Lol and because its someone else riding what you've produced. But once he did a few jumps there, he let them both catch their breath and walked over to me. He said he was VERY glad he had the opportunity to sit on her because he admitted she was certainly had a stronger feeling under saddle than how it looks. He was quite nice about it and said I have done a nice job handling it and could understand some of my own riding tendencies even  more because of how she goes. So he said the goal for today, get her thinking more and sitting more.

He moved on to the ditches we have seen before:

He mixed in some canter work which shows the breaking gait I mentioned earlier from how much he was getting her to sit:

 Then introduced her to the larger "coffin" complex ditch:

The entire time I could hear him talking to her which was really cool. Her ears were constantly flicking back and forth listening to him. He explained he was going to start this combo to get her thinking quicker and looking for whats next rather than focusing on the immediate jump. He said by doing this it would promote her staying uphill and prepared for the next thing coming.

So he started piecing together the coffin complex. I would have thought for sure he would school just the skinny brush alone before trying it right away, and it did seem to catch Tillie off guard. But with some encouragement and some bloopers, but more encouragement they ended up nailing it:

My first thought watching this series, was oh no...she isnt super confident and that sucks. I can count on one hand the number of times shes refused a jump, and its only ever been one other XC jump. But Dom reassured me after the fact when he let her catch her breath that it was a necessary conversation to have. He said it wasnt the jump itself she wasnt sure about, but a green horse moment of not thinking ahead or fast enough. So he said this complex was tricky and requiring her to think more...

Looking like a real xc horse now!
 He said if we havent had that conversation you wont get the growth needed for these questions...meaning the next time you ride something like this and they arent sure, because of this conversation, they'll have the better answer and confidence when you close your leg to do it. He said not to worry, its part of the schooling process and its a necessary evil so to speak.

All I know is, I am glad it was Dom and not me doing it! He was really cool to watch work her through it...and not all of it is captured on video. But he would walk her to the base and give her some leg...back her up down to the ditch, walk her back to it and do this a few times until her answer to the jump was forward. I told Dom Skinnies have always been the one question shes consistently tensed to on approaches, but usually with leg will do it. He laughed and said he could feel her do that yes, but not to worry too much and the more exposure it would come...especially with this being a prelim question.

get it girl! hello prelim questions!
He was quite pleased with her and said shes super smart but also a bit of a tricky ride and "project" but he liked that about her. He said he preferred this sort of horse to the dopey ones that give you the same ride every time. He also gave me some more kudos to how well we have been going knowing this about her...he said shes brave, careful and has self preserving awareness but wont exactly do it unless you set her up and give her the right ride so part of this complex was helping work out her gaining more independence too.

At this point Dom recapped her down hill on landing issue and the want to keep her really compressed when xc schooling, similar to a show jump canter, to promote that uphill jump that we have gotten in show jumping. He said its so much harder XC when you are going faster since it opens the door for the flatter jump, but he felt her learning!

There is an uphill jump!

So next we moved on to another portion of the field with some tables and roll tops:

Then we finished up at the water where she started to run out of gas:

Dom was really excited with the ride and what he learned saying he had some great ideas for some exercises for us that would get her thinking and help her with the jump he wanted her to get. He said he thinks some of it is lack of strength so it will come with some patience. 

He also said he insists on riding her a few more times sprinkled throughout the rest of the season even in some show jumping. I cant even tell you how grateful I am for the opportunities we have had this year and the ability to work with such awesome professionals. I really attribute everything this year to them.

So with a huge sigh of relief and some excitement, I am so thrilled for Tillie and more proud than words can say. Not only did she bounce back from last weekend, she totally was a rock star for Dom. It makes me really proud of the work we have put in and helps validate some of what I have been feeling under saddle. I am so excited for the rest of the season! 


  1. It's always cool to watch someone else ride your horse

    1. It is!! soo strange in some ways, but really cool for sure

  2. I love giving up the reins to a trusted pro. I always learn so much.

  3. I love all his feedback for her! Sounds like it was a fantastic pro ride :)

  4. That's an awesome pro ride. I'm totally jealous.

  5. Pro rides on your own horse are so fun to watch!