Saturday, February 18, 2017


In the month since my last riding recap post, I've had one lesson and had BM put one training ride on Bobby instead of a lesson. We also cancelled two: one because BM was dying from the flu, and the other last week because I was feeling sick myself, it was brutally cold, and I was still acutely feeling the affects of another concussion. Not sure I'm ever going to see straight again in my life after this one, but who needs vision anyway? It's fine. Everything is fine.

My lesson was over fences--really, itty bitty, tiny fences.

i'm glad my horse just ignores me leaning off the side of him over fences.
not from our lesson, but jump size to scale.

The exercise of the day was a long one stride where the goal was to get Bobby to open up his stride without running and to take off from not underneath the fence. BM set out jump blocks (you know, the little rail raiser things) instead of a pole for our ground line so that if Bobby ignored the take off line, he wouldn't step on the pole and roll/die into the jump. BM threatened that if he ignored those, she was going to build a fire in front of the jump instead to get him to jump out instead of up.

i don't know where she gets this idea that bobby jumps from underneath the fence

Bobby was getting a little heavy picking up the canter and wanting to go down instead of up on the depart, so BM told me to think of opening my fingers and letting him lift up into my hand and into the open area that created. Obviously I wasn't suddenly going around with loose, floppy, wide open fingers, but it was an excellent visual to soften my grip and not block him as I asked for the transition. I've used this a lot in rides since then, and it's made those first couple of steps much lighter.

On his right lead, he tends to lose his shoulder and compensates by swapping behind on the circle or sometimes in a corner. I need to think of squaring off my turns and pushing for a deeper bend.

Speaking of turns, I'm still completely useless at short turns to jumps. I can't find a distance to save my life and I either chase him onto his forehand and past the distance, or I sit there like a useless lump and hope he gets us over in some way, shape, or form. I was having a hard time getting the one stride off the shorter approach (left lead), but finally got in mostly normal and had to ride like we were being chased by wolves to cover the distance. Who knew hunter courses and their sweeping turns were so appealing?

One of the reasons I think I've gotten so comfortable out of a forward pace again is that Bobby has become so adjustable. He's very responsive to the voice as well, and BM constantly reminds me that a simple spoken "whoa" will get him to slow down. He also likes it better because I'm not getting fussy with my reins and making him think that I'm panicking or that he's doing something wrong.

after three days off, we stuck with just a few tiny jumps

For Bobby's training ride, my specific request was that BM work with him on the SI. He was feeling so stuck just plain old bending that I wanted her read on that, too (I'd already scheduled the massage, but wanted her input on where she was feeling any blockage in his body).

Her first note was that overall he felt like a much stronger horse than the last time she'd been on him. He was very even in both reins and he was much quicker to lighten in the contact than he was before. She said his jaw felt looser and she was happy to see him moving the bit around instead of clamping his jaw down and locking up.

I directly contribute this to returning to the Micklem for all work--not just jumping. I know the Micklem isn't the most flattering bridle, and it's not magic for every horse, but for Bobby it's a night and day difference when he's in it. I love the dressage bridle I got him, but we had so many issues with him tensing his jaw, refusing to work the bit around, and even putting his tongue over the bit which he'd never done before. This was BM's first flat-only ride in it, and I wasn't surprised she also noticed how much happier he is with it.

She also complimented how well he stretches on his own now. Stretchy trot and even a good free walk were something we never thought he'd really grasp the concept of, but he's embraced it wholeheartedly now.  I'm not in love with his free walk yet--he's not super consistent with it unless it's at the end of a forty five minute collection-heavy dressage school--but it is in there.

obvi the most awkwardly timed shot ever, but check out that spit rope.
i swear he builds those up until they're huge before letting them fly

Anyway, on to the crux of the problem: the shoulder-in.

BM's advice was:

  • If he goes to four tracks, give up and send him straight. It's not easy shoving him back onto the three tracks, and it's just going to make his overly sensitive brain even bitchier than it already is.
  • The outside leg should be nothing more than a brush against his side to keep the haunches from drifting over. Everything needs to be a suggestion with Bobby. You have to make him think you're offering something up and that it's only because he's a generous creature that you've transitioned into the movement. You can't command him to do anything or he tries to turn it into a fight. 
  • I was working on an inch too much angle.
  • I tend to lean towards the slave driver side of dressage riding. I want to do two SI, and then right away do a SI to HI to medium trot to something else and so on and so on...then he can have a stretchy break. BM knows I'm hyper focused and really intense, so to make that work for me, she said to work the stretchy trot break into the bam-bam-bam rapid fire of directions. One or two SI, then stretchy trot break, then SI to HI, then some working trot, then SI, then stretchy trot, and so on. If I only offer it after I've drilled him into the ground and gotten him tense, I'm not actually giving him a very good reward.

carrot snowman in the pasture

She had me get on at the end of the ride and aside from being light as a butterfly--something he always is after she gets on him, damn trainers and their magical powers--he was also a lot bendier. So the moral of the story was that his SI issues were three parts: one part Bobby being a delicate bitch flower that gets offended by everything, one part me being a Nazi, and one part body soreness.

I've embraced the breaks worked into the harder work and we haven't had a meltdown since then. Now if only my saddle would hurry up and sell and/or March 10th would get here faster so that I could buy a new dressage saddle and start working through tests again!


  1. Sounds like some great notes for the SI! March 10th isn't too far away at least :) I love the pic with the carrot snowman <3

  2. Hope March the 10th comes fast for you guys!!

  3. Personally I would be extremely inclined to watch Bobby jump a ground line of fire.

    1. Yeah, honestly I didn't think that was a very good threat. More like #challengeaccepted

  4. I've been bouncing back and forth between bridle/bit combos and have decided my boy likes the micklem best too. Its a simple, clean, one piece design and while it hasn't alleviated the obsessive head scratching like I'd hoped it would, it is still the best option for us. Good luck on your saddle hunt!!

  5. Are you surprised Bobby would prefer the less attractive bridle?
    Kidding aside, whatever works is what you should stick with.

    I think I get stuck in that work work work mentality also, and forget to reward with something more fun or easy. Good reminder from Trainer! Sounds like your off to a great start this year (excluding the concussion).

  6. Those are really great points to think about! I think maybe working those stretchy circles in more often could be really useful for my guy too since his hamsters get to spinning a little too fast quite often. I love/hate when a solution is that simple. Your BM sounds super horse smart.


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