dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Soft and Steady

 Last week I had an opportunity to have a lesson with Jane and I totally jumped on it. I've spoken about her before (I had a lesson on Steele and I've talked about taking advantage of her wisdom at shows). 

Jane has such a strong understanding of learning theory and she uses it in her teaching. I have not had a lesson with her on Carmen but she has seen us at shows and at a clinic. I warmed Carmen up on the ground and was just feeling like I had her attention and could get on when Jane arrived. I explained about how I stop and reward Carmen for solid tries or improvements and that she is not a horse that tolerates drills. 

no photos from the lesson so recycling an old one

Right away Jane picked up on my over use of the inside hand and little contact on the outside. Her goal was to have equal contact in both reins. This was difficult- Carmen is so used to going hollow on the outside and I want to use the inside to pull her head around to the inside and, funnily enough, that does not improve things. But as we progressed it got better and Carmen became much more solid underneath of me. 

We also worked on slowing Carmen down. What Jane saw is that she makes her front legs go faster and drags her hind end behind. The goal is to slow the front to let the hind do more carrying (I am probably explaining it poorly).  The other person who always tried to get us slower was Johanna (classical dressage instructor from Spain) so clearly they were on to something. I know intellectually that there's a difference between speed and impulsion but it's so easy to lose track of it and let the rhythm settle into itself. 

We also worked on my corrections/aids. I was trying too hard and making them too abrupt and pissing Carmen off. So have slow I was to use my core and gently (if needed) use the tiniest of pressure on the reins with the movement. And OMG, that worked so well. It allowed me to rate her pace without disrupting the rhythm. At least when I got it right.  I needed to use my shoulders more to help move her into shoulder in and, it turns out, I am straight and upright but not flexible that way. So that was work but I could feel how it helped. 

Random photo of Bear River winery- boasting
the first grape vines planted in North America. 

We tried some walk-trot transitions in shoulder in. Carmen found these quite difficult and wanted to straighten out first (Carmen: you're doing it wrong, just a second I'll fix it) and then when we kept working on it the transition was quite delayed but Jane said to not worry- she's trying to figure out how it works. We did some leg yields on a circle- Jane wanted me to use a slightly opening rein to the inside and leg yield out. For some reason I could not wrap my mind around that at all. It was weird but I felt like this impossible to get my body parts in the right place to do this. Which I admitted and we worked with what I could do (I've been practicing this since). 

Some other wisdoms: 

  • don't worry about mistakes that is where the learning happens
  • there is no 'set it and forget it', it's all about ask, relax, ask, relax
  • never throw away contact
  • Carmen needs to be engaged in the work otherwise she starts to become creative (and that rarely works to my advantage)
  • Carmen (and me) really like to get things right- that leads to us anticipating and getting off-balance. 
  • Oh my god, just slow down (that was me, Jane never had that exasperated tone even when I deserved it)
  • weight adjustments in my seat need to be soft and subtle but they do make a huge difference
  • keep her neck straighter coming out of her shoulders. 
It was  a lesson that left me feeling inspired and eager to take things on. I found a lot of parallels to other lessons (especially with Karen and Johanna) but it is helpful to hear them in a different way. I was excited to practice my homework. 

It's been hot so hiding in the woods is a good idea
Irish is heading into the light. :) 


  1. What a great lesson with such important takeaways! Sometimes a different instructor telling us basically the same thing but in different words can make such a difference.

    1. It really does. Especially when they do it in a positive and understanding way.

  2. It does sound like you really got a lot out of that lesson. It's good to have different trainers with different points of view or maybe doing things slightly different than you're both used to. Good work! It's hot here too and a walk in the woods sounds like a great idea.

    1. It was really helpful. And I do love the woods.

  3. Great lessons are priceless! ❤️

  4. what a cool experience -- so glad you got to ride with her and that it went so well! love your bulleted list of takeaways

  5. I like to get feedback from several sources, too. Sometimes one will say it in just the right way to clarify the others. Those are some good takeaways, especially #1.


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