Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Lesson With Tracey

I got to the barn in plenty of time to bring Boo in, clean him up, and get some warm up time before my lesson. I'm not a big fan of starting a lesson without warming up the horse, and I'm also not a big fan of using precious lesson time to do the basic work of warming up. I need the warm up at least as badly as the horse does anyway.

It had started raining about the time I left home to drive out to the barn. The rain was making quite a bit of noise on the metal roof by the time I was in the saddle. Trainer Tracey would have to speak up if I was going to hear anything she had to say. I told her what I had been working on and what my successes were as well as my struggles. We talked about what I had been doing to supple Boo in previous rides. She cautioned me to be careful of just following a formula for suppling. She reminded me that riding is all about communicating with the horse. Getting lost in my own rigid ideas about how to go about that communication was interfering with what I was trying to do. I needed to focus less on getting to the end result and more on the process.

We started just standing in the arena while she had me gently flex Boo from side to side while watching for the flip at the poll that comes each time I changed directions. I had read about this before, and I got pretty excited to see it in action. We started walking in a circle and I flexed Boo to the inside by softly sponging on the inside rein. She had me open the inside rein at the same time. I can't really explain this. I just know that what I was doing was inviting Boo to soften and chew on the inside rein, which he did. All the while I had to ask him to keep moving forward at a rhythmic walk with my legs. In the beginning he would try to ignore my leg and I would lift it off and give him a kick to say "pay attention." Other times I would give him a light tap with the whip. I think the tap with the whip works better, so that is what I intend to use from now on. We eventually went from a walk that felt a bit sticky to one that felt like it was rolling underneath me.

Once we started the trot work keeping him from slowing down on the circle was key, keeping my seat in even contact was key, keeping myself from contorting my body was key, not looking into the circle was key, and trying to stabilize my lower leg was key. There were so many key issues!!! It was very apparent that I was especially weak on my right side. I don't know exactly what I need to do in order to strengthen and open that hip. Maybe some of you can give me advice? Tracey did say I should do more work without stirrups, which I will do. I had a paradigm shift during this lesson. My new goal is not to focus so much on what I want the end result of my riding to be. Instead the goal will be to relax, learn, and let us both enjoy the process.

I have a lot of work to do. Boo has a lot of work to do, but I have more. He is perfectly capable of performing exactly as I want him to as long as I give him a clear understanding of what it is I am asking and get out of his way.


  1. Consider scheduling a session with a chiropractor for yourself. Might help open up your right hip and square you in the saddle. If your musculoskeletal system is "warped" there's no way you can correct your position in the saddle without a little outside help.

    Don't you love to learn to dance with your horse? The smallest breakthroughs bring so much joy.

  2. I have been rding in the arena in the PNW when the rain on the metal roof was sooooo loud, that i had to stop riding!!! My horse was ok with the noise, but I was freaked out! your lesson sounded like a real good one!

  3. Love the photos of you and Boo. :)

  4. Another beautiful photo. Do you take those yourselves on a timer? They all look like they're ready for a magazine cover!

  5. Thinking about the use of leg and the whip, I would be using both. I'd be asking first with my leg followed up by the whip if I didn't get an immediate response from my leg. That way the horse has the opportunity to get lighter. Once he learns the whip will follow if he doesn't go off your leg, he'll have a reason to respond to your leg. That's the theory anyway and it works with most horses.

  6. I completely agree with you that the leg needs to be used first in the normal way a leg would be used. If he can feel a fly on his skin he can feel my leg aid. I shouldn't need to kick the tar out of him. Instead I would ask once and then tap him with the whip. Using the whip without giving the aid at all would be completely unfair. Guess I didn't make myself clear. :)