All heart eyes

Henry and I had a lesson last night and it was a great lesson, but it has been interesting to also think on some of the things that have come into my head as a result of the lesson.

Recently I have been reflecting on how far we have com and the changes that are apparent week to week. It astounds me where Henry and I are in our training and how far we keep going. We are constantly working on the same things i.e. straightness, getting him in front of the leg, turning, self-carriage and even though each ride is pretty normal, the work we do shows up in each lesson. My coach last night even said Henry and I are the poster team who show what good training is all about. Compliment and a half I know!

Each lesson I have focuses on the same concepts that we have done from the beginning but continuously building and asking harder questions within those same concepts. It seems really simple but breaking training down in this way makes things seem so much more attainable. It helps me look forward and plan our goals in a realistic and achievable way.

Last night’s lesson started off with a simple observation from Bec ‘keep your hands steady and your heels deeper’. Which resulted in a conversation about why I can’t keep my hands still when I have my jumping tack on. It’s something I am well aware of and had put it down to my position not being as strong when compared to being in my dressage saddle. Bec had me look at the bigger picture though, what do the saddles change? Well my position obviously, jumping tack puts you in a more forward position and you need a lighter seat for jumping whereas in dressage we sit deeper and allows for a real driving seat. The driving seat turned out to be the key as the reason for my hands moving so much? Henry was behind my leg and I was trying to create energy with my body. Being in a more forward seat means that it’s not as clear when horses don’t have enough energy as it is when you have a deeper dressage seat.

Once I got Henry in front of my leg my position stabilised and things clicked back into place. Bec had me ride with the idea I had pins on the seat of my saddle, keep it light and up, get the leg burn going. It was useful to get the feel of this position as while I know I need to jump with this lighter seat I tend to sit a bit too heavy which I think probably comes about from having a young green horse, and before him a really hot horse who didn’t accept the aides.

During the lesson we had another really interesting conversation after I observed that the leg pressure I need on Henry is so much great than that I used on coolie. Bec had me demonstrate what I meant by placing her hand under my leg. Basically I didn’t have my leg on when I jumped Coolie but I have the correct leg pressure when jumping Henry. Coolie is an incredibly hot, forward horse jumping and he rushes to jumps. We always worked really hard on slowing him down but he trained me to take my leg off. Now, I know that as a rider the solution is always add more leg. Horse running? Add leg. Horse too slow? Add leg. Always add leg, even when all you want to do it pull. Henry is often pretty fresh when we first start our rides but I always put my leg on and he instantly settles. I told this to Bec and she asked me why this happens. My answer? Because I am telling him what to do and in doing so he knows what is expected and settles because he understands. So simple and obvious. It was really eye opening for me even though it makes so much sense. I feel like my journey in horse training right now is all about these little observations and what they actually mean rather than just changing how I ride because it works. I find it fascinating and love making all those connections.

Our lesson consisted of us compressing Henrys stride to 10ft and setting up a waiting canter. The waiting canter had to be in front of the leg though, and he had to be straight and on the aides. We did the exercise to the right first, an upright jump with a placing pole on either side. It was really hard to get everything as it should be to the right, Henry is really now straight and finding self-carriage this was hard. Once we got the jump coming up nicely and a good waiting canter we went the other way. The left was so easy and we only needed a couple of repetitions before we nailed it and had a walk break.

Next up we added in a third pole on a 7 stride bending line. The left was easy and when I got him nice and straight it all happened by itself, and we maintained the correct canter lead through the exercise. Again the right was so hard to get, I really had to use my outside aides to stop Henry getting crooked. It worked out when I set Henry up really early and maintained the outside aides rather than falling into the trap of pulling on the right rein and letting Henry twist through his body. We nailed it a few times before doing a course. Interestingly when Henry was straight he always landed on the correct lead, even when he got a dodgy spot to the fence. He really dobs on me when I’m not doing my job right!

We started the course on the right rein, jumping our upright with placing poles and cantering our pole on the ground in a waiting canter, then turning the volume of the canter up just a little to move up to a three stride line of an upright and an oxer. The trick was to increase the canter before the second upright but not too much. Amazingly we got it first go, and although Henry swapped leads over the pole we maintained the rhythm and straightness through the related line and got some really nice jumps. We repeated it and got it spot on so we had another little break before changing things up again.

At this point Bec was like wow, we really don’t need to do much more because that was just so good! And I went all heart eyes for my pony. We finished up the lesson cantering our upright with placing poles on the left, increasing the canter to an oxer, changing rein and coming back up the related line. The first time to the oxer I didn’t change the canter enough so we repeated it and got everything pretty good. I lost the canter a bit to the related line and came in quiet but I saw the striding and made a decision and it worked out great.

Bec and I had a chat about things after the lesson and basically we have some pretty exciting goals for next year now. It just amazes me how far this horse has come in such a short space of time. He’s not quite 6 yet has completely blown away all my expectations and we just keep ticking things off. It also amazes me how much I have changed as a rider, I don’t even recognise myself any more. I am stronger and more confident than ever and I am really starting to understand the more finessed areas of training horses. I am making connections where I never did and I understand so much more. I can see why things work and apply them to my own training and I am getting so much joy from this process. It has been a huge learning year and it excites me so much to think about what the future holds. I think the best part is, I no longer have any anxiety when it comes to Henry we are such a team now. I could never have predicted that we would be where we are today and it is really amazing!


  1. You guys look so good!

  2. what an awesome lesson! i need to practice with more ground poles like that, i think, except maybe at the 12' distance to help keep me honest lol


Post a Comment

Popular Posts