Early Days

Lesson Debrief

Funny story. With our first eventing trainer, my friend and I would have a “debrief call” during the 30 minute drive home from the barn following our weekly joint riding lessons. We were new to eventing, but to be honest, the reason we needed to debrief was due to our trainer’s evolving communication skills. Frankly, there were times that we were so confused that not even an hour long debrief could help us figure out what the heck was going on! I giggle to think of some of those conversations now.

New halter with fancy nameplate! Love it!

Nowadays its a rare lesson that I don’t immediately understand and process what we’re doing during the ride. My trainer and I are generally on the same page and speak each others’ language, and Hemie is a very willing and clever horse.

But last week’s lessons were atypical. They were frustrating and confusing. Laurie and Bohemian and I were just not on the same page, and it resulted in some ugly moments. Both our dressage and jump lessons were a hot mess.  But after several days of internal processing, I think I kinda have it sorted out.

Issue #1. Bending Right.

As Zoolander would say, Hemie is not an “ambiturner.” He just has a harder time bending right. Most horses have one side stiffer than the other, so on it’s own its not a huge deal. And we have been working on it since…well…forever. With some improvement, sure, but its still a thing.

Issue #2. Popping the right shoulder. 

Not in the cool Michael Jackson Thriller dance kinda way. More like the “I don’t wanna bend right so I’m going to pop my right shoulder out instead” way.

Issue #3. Connection to the outside left rein.

The connection to the outside right rein is steady. The connection to the outside left rein is light as a feather, takes forever to achieve, and is hard to keep for very long.

Potential Issue #4. New bridle. 

The Micklem has a piece similar to a flash. Mouth closed = can’t evade the bit. He didn’t object to this bridle the first few times we used it, so that’s why its only a *potential* component in last week’s issues.

So, what happens when you ask Hemie to bend right, then you block the right shoulder from popping out, while also asking for connection to the outside left rein, in a new bridle that has better bit support?

He feels trapped. And he acts out. And it aint pretty.

Random photo from Sunday’s trail ride to the Reagan Presidential Library

Now that I’ve spelled it out, I feel much better about it. I feel like I have individual things I can work on, rather than just an overall feeling of “ack! issues! tension! help!” With the exception of the bridle, none of these things are new. BUT, we are asking more and more of him with every ride, and sometimes we get the perfect storm.

This week my plan is to address these issues individually, and calmly. Before I get on I’ll think of several different ways to do that, and create a plan. Preparation is the key!

18 comments on “Lesson Debrief

  1. Loved reading this as my horse and I have identical issues. Bending right = evil. lol


  2. I have the exact same problem! Especially with my own contact in the left outside rein. I have found recently that shifting my legs back from the hips, sitting up taller, and looking up for some reason magically helps my left outside rein. It's not a cure all, but it has improved!


  3. haha loved your pop culture references :)


  4. It's not uncommon for a horse to protest when you're finally at a point where the work is hard for them. If he's being dramatic about it, I'd throw Laurie on for a few rides while he gets himself sorted out.

    And you're not alone. :-) Courage gets that way too when I throw a bunch of stuff at him and don't let him take the easy way out.

    The bending/shoulder popping issue does sound like a strength issue with the left hind, maybe? If so, the only way to improve it is to keep working. Hang in there!


  5. I'm going to think of Michael Jackson every time Simon pops a shoulder now.


  6. Lol, ^ I agree, now I'm going to think of MJ while riding. They always throw the biggest fits before they “get” it all. Hopefully you guys will settle in soon.


  7. I hope you can work on the problems and fix them. By the way, I like your new banner.


  8. Riley has the same issues with tracking right as Hemie. He's stiff and it's harder for him and he compensates by swinging his haunches out and popping his shoulder. Once he warms up he's usually fine, but getting him in front of my leg in that direction can be a real battle of will and he'll do this evasive maneuver where he'll start cantering up front and trotting behind because it's “easier”. One of the things my friend has me doing with Riley was planting my inside rein in one spot and kicking him forward, collecting on the short sides and driving him forward down the long and to just keep posting no matter what he did. He had no choice but to eventually work into the outside rein. Not sure if that makes any sense! have you tried a figure 8 on Hemie?


  9. Thank you for that. It feels good to not be alone!!


  10. I'm going to try that pronto! Dare I say I'm happy I'm not the only one with these issues?


  11. Gosh I feel better reading this. Its hard to ask your horse to keep doing something that is hard for him. Laurie has been hopping on whether I wanted it or not, ha! Glad Hemie's distant cyber cousin Courage gets that way too sometimes.


  12. Hehehe, if it brings a smile to your face, it will help you relax and ease tension, and maybe put that shoulder back where it belongs!


  13. That makes me feel better. Hope on the horizon that he'll “get it” soon!


  14. Why, thank you!


  15. Ah yes, the tranter. So lovely. -_-
    I do sometimes employ the planted hand to basically create a side-rein. Great tactic. I have not tried a figure-8 on Hemie – based on my research I thought I'd give the Micklem a try instead.


  16. You know all about the issues I've had with Sydney. Your description of Hemie's resistance to the right is exactly what we're going through. If you'll remember, I used a hallway with doors analogy; I just kept closing the doors until we got to the point where there were no more doors, just a long hallway forward. And even though Sydney found an attic door, it only took a couple of weeks to resolve the rearing. Things aren't perfect, but I am steadily getting more connection with that outside left rein.

    JL likes to tell me that we keep finding my weaknesses, those places I let Sydney escape. The Micklem is probably showing you where Hemie has been getting away from the contact, too.

    Press on. It's a never ending journey. Our task, it seems, is to develop a love FOR the journey and quit worrying about the destination. :0)


  17. Michael Jackson's shoulder poppin' has been reborn into the equine world haha


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