dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A Tale of Two Lessons

 You may be surprised to learn that I don't just torture Carmen with bad jokes, I also torture her with lessons!  

I am behind in my recaps because, well, like many, I am just tired. But this blog is to record my progress and I don't want to fall off the writing wagon. 

I have to to say that this year I have been my most consistent in taking lessons. Shanea has a good size of people so she's able to travel her regularly. This has not always been the case and she needs a certain number for it to be worth it. So, even though Carmen and I are her favourites, we haven't always been able to lesson (small joke for my other friends who take lessons. Besides who wouldn't love Ms. Dramatic Mare Crankypants?). With the pandemic heaven know we've not been going far which helps as well. 

This has made for some great consistent schooling and it's paying off in many ways. 

Both lessons were a week apart. In between Lesson 1 & 2 I didn't get much schooling done- the weather and work conspired against me. But that's okay, it's real life and I fret about this much less. 

square halt anyone?

Lesson # 1

The focus of this lesson was on going forward and adjusting her stride. I feel that Carmen is really starting to get it. We had some issues with various parts of the ring but I didn't feed into that cycle, which allowed us to deal with the moment and then carry on. So yay me. 

Carmen is very good at the collected work because of her breeding and conformation. She is absolutely able to lengthen but finds it harder. Honestly part of the problem is me- I tend to shut her down from our history of bolting. The other part is her- she'd prefer to dump her forehand on the bit and go like a snowplow. 

The goal has been for me to be very light in my hands but not give her all the freedom to run around where she wants. This is tricky but it's been a good learning experience. We cantered early in the lesson to get that going and then worked on some canter-walk-canter transitions. They were actually pretty good (for us). Looking back through old videos I can definitely see changes. 

Trot lengthens are really hard for us- she tends to speed up and/or dumps on the forehand. The goal was to have her lift up through the withers and go. Shanea had us trot-halt and then trot off into a big trot.

 At first it was a bit of shitshow. 

okay, looking at this I realize it doesn't look as bad 
as it looks but she was bulging away
and being stiff going towards a very scary rock

But then she began to gather herself and I could feel her lift up and through. We'd lose it after a few strides but then, it was like the penny dropped for both of us and whee. I loved this feeling- it was like riding a wave into shore. 

Here's a video of the last one: 

It felt like a major shift in our work and left me hungry for more. 

Lesson #2

Carmen was not feeling as good as the week before. I shared with Shanea that she had been feeling a bit 'off' all week. Not lame but quite herself. Of course with Carmen that can also be a mental thing. She was definitely more spooky this ride. I am loving that dealing with the spookiness is no longer the entire lesson. We work, she spooks, we deal, we move on. 

The focus on this lesson was getting her to be soft and bending. Like I said, Carmen can do the collected work really easy, except when she get tense and then it all goes to shit. She is easily distracted by what is outside of the ring and it can cause some difficulties. 

We worked on the Turn on Haunches. It's getting better but it's still not good. We start off okay and then she wants to dump on her forehand and snowplow through the aids. Add in her sometimes fixated on a trembling leaf outside the ring and it can become a hot mess. Literally. 

Shanea has been asking me to not drop her so much but support through the movement and correct it as much as I need in the moment. Take our canter work: when we transition down to walk I'm guilty of letting her go so she falls onto the forehand and rushes off. In my effort to provide a clear release of pressure I am teaching her the wrong thing. Now we're working on me asking, fixing, supporting and then providing the release. 

Riding is hard. 

But our upward is much better because I'm doing better at asking her to step under. The down is coming -with Shanea to talk me through it. Here's a video of our left canter - this is one that is much easier for her. 

Riding her properly into the transitions is requiring me to be really aware of my seat and to use it effectively. I feel that I'm getting better and sitting deep and following the movement. 

To the right is much harder for both of us. I'm left handed and I think she is too. I suspect I constribute to this as well but it often feels that she's throwing me to the outside in the canter and staying over top and keeping her straight is hard.  Here's some of the later work and I know it's a longer video than I usually post. Unless you are trying to find a cure to insomnia you can tune in to the first where Shanea gets after me for dumping her and then at the end when we get it. That is where we ended the lesson. 

As always, we are work in progress. I need to look back on previous work so I can see if we've progressed at all. I believe we have but I should check. 

I hope to take advantage of lessons for as long as I can with the weather. 


  1. The lengthenings are coming along nicely!

  2. Gosh every time you poste videos I love seeing the progress you've made with Carmen! :)

  3. Oo lengthenings, I love a good lengthening. Sounds like some good lessons!

  4. aw she really does look so good!! i think the hardest thing about dressage is once you start getting those really REALLY good feelings, the more "meh" moments become.... so much more "meh" feeling lol.... even when the lesser moments are still light years ahead of where they used to be. such a mental game lol

  5. For whatever reason the videos did not show up for me but that picture at the end of lesson 1. Wow. Through, out to the bridle, balanced- looking good!

  6. wow! that last canter transition was soft as butter!!!
    also, tight circles! good for you ..
    and it shows that we dont need a big ring to do great work.

    1. Thank you! I do love my large ring but you’re right - lots of good things can happen in a small ring too.

  7. Every time you ride, you and Carmen improve on another piece of the puzzle. Looking good!

  8. So inspiring to see you're remaining consistent with your lessons through all this. Carmen looks great !! Strong and healthy. Your cantering looks awesome -- you make it look natural and easy. I guess that's the goal!

    1. The consistency is paying off big time. Irish’s canter is like a rocking chair. Carmen’s takes some more getting used to.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I love the feedback.