Monday, September 14, 2015

Recent Rides: Outside Aids and Straightness

I was in the midst of a riding hiatus in late July/ early August, but thankfully for my sanity I'm back in the groove now and Maggie had been quite good.

Good girl
Since I last posted about riding, I've had two lessons with two different trainers which for the most part worked on the same thing: turning from the outside aids in order to maintain straightness and then achieve correct bend.

The first lesson was with the jumping trainer - she was nice enough to offer to come out to Maggie's barn while I was truck-less. I didn't have any jumps currently set up in our arena and I was crunched for time to groom and tack up after work never mind set jumps, so we did a flat lesson instead of jumping. Plus, I figured it would be good to see how a dressage lesson with this person compared to one with the dressage trainer next door. (Turns out they're nicely on the same page!)

The trainer wanted to see me get Maggie going on a circle with her haunches a little to the inside in order to connect her inside hind to her outside shoulder. We wanted her inside hind leg to step under herself, so my understanding is that I was essentially to ride a right shoulder-fore while tracking left (Readers, feel free to correct me on that if I'm wrong!) I promptly struggled with this, so we worked on this concept at the walk for much of the lesson. Bear with me here, because it helps me process inside and outside when I have right vs left to go off of:
  • Keep contact on the outside (right) rein.
  • Slight flexion with the inside (left) rein, but NO PULLING.
  • Inside (left) leg at the girth encourages impulsion of the inside (left) hind towards the outside (right) shoulder.
  • Outside (right) leg behind the girth keeps the haunches from being pushed out
Text break/ coffee break
It took a while for me to get Maggie to do anything except attempt to leg yield, but we made some progress by the end of the lesson and Maggie was much more understanding of the aids when tracking right rather than tracking left. 

A couple more random interesting takeaways for the lesson with this trainer:
  • As someone who has skied, this was a good metaphor for me: Think of the outside shoulder as the edge of your skis when you're trying to turn. If you lose control of the edge of your skis, you're not going to turn and you're probably going to fall. If you lose control of your horse's outside shoulder then you're not going to turn properly and you'll be falling to the outside.
  • When we ride, there's no direct connection to the horse's hind end - so it's hard to control! The closest we can get is to move the horse's hind end through communication with the horse's ribcage, so that's what we have to do: use the ribcage to influence where the horse places their hind feet.
Over the next week or two I thought I was doing alright on my own and making a little progress with getting Maggie to listen to these new aids that were trying to control her haunches, but then when I went to ride with the dressage trainer next door I could not for the life of me keep her from drifting onto the track. It was like her side was magnetized to the rail. So that set the stage for the lesson: we would work on counter bend and it complemented my previous lesson nicely in that it involved turning from the outside aids. For this lesson I was to ride with the following aids to get a counter-bend to the right while tracking left:

  • Shift more weight to the outside (right) seat bone.
  • Outside (right) leg behind the girth, inside (left) leg at the girth.
  • Outside (right) had maintains contact and asks for flexion.
  • Remember to to NOT PULL the inside (left) rein. I have a real tendency to keep tugging that rein in order to encourage her to turn in that direction, but instead it's counterproductive to getting her bent to the outside.
We made some really good progress during this lesson and definitely achieved better balance on a circle. At the end of the lesson we were able to get some really, really upward canter transitions as a result of being well-balanced.

Still from a video (circling before a jump). Much more balanced than a few months ago!
Throughout the last couple weeks I've kept working on this whole turning from the outside concept and also trying to incorporate it as I jump too when I come off the trail to turn to a fence. This week I'm prepping for our last event of the season (which is sadly only our second event of the season) on Sunday. I have a dressage lesson scheduled for Monday and then I was supposed to have an XC lesson on Tuesday, but it looks like that may not happen anymore because I'm missing a part to get the trailer brakes hooked up to my new truck. Hopefully I can reschedule that lesson for later in the week because the last time we've gone XC was at in June at our last event!


  1. aw she's so cute drinking from the straw! very cool that the two different trainers sync up so well - that's always reassuring! good luck getting out for some xc practice before your event!!!

  2. So cute. Hope schooling goes well.

  3. These little things, while tedious, will help you SO MUCH!