Early Days

Training Update

Our progress over the last week has been up and down. I sure wish horse (and rider) training was linear sometimes!

This post shall be filled with random photos.

Last Sunday I got back-to-back lessons. Part 1: jumping! This was our third jump lesson in a row (who needs dressage anyway, right?) and it went very well. Hemie was forward, really through on both reins including our hard direction, and we had a blast. He even saved me once when I got ahead of him at a tube jump. Good boy. We did an uphill combo of big, solid jumps that walked in 2.5 strides. We did the jumps on angled lines and then did them together, which I was nervous about but turned out fine. Overall it was a great lesson and I was proud of my horse and myself.

Part 2: Trailering! I got a supervised session where I hooked up, drove around the neighborhood, figured out the trailer brakes, and then parked. Laurie will be graciously letting me use her truck and trailer to hopefully take myself out to local trails and shows, but I knew I’d feel more comfortable with her supervising me one or two times before I start practicing by myself. Backing the trailer into a parking spot was the most challenging part, but I just need to practice more.

He had Monday night off, and Tuesday he got his hooves done then we had a fun bareback ride. I”m feeling more and more comfortable cantering him around bareback. It’s nice to have that confidence on him.

Wednesday we did a dressage ride. It started off tense due to some tack malfunction, but then we were both able to relax and settle down to some nice work. At the right-lead canter, Hemie tried out a new behavior of rooting the bit down and forward. He kept his back soft and hind end engaged, so I was a little fearful of trying to get the bit back – I kinda convinced myself that it was a stretchy canter and therefore desirable? Since we have trouble with connecting to the left rein and stretching on it, this was basically him doing that to a very exaggerated degree. We’ll see if it becomes a repeat issue in the future.

I have mixed feelings about Thursday night’s dressage lesson. On the one hand, we established that the key to success with our faux spook (a resistance connecting to left rein when tracking right) is: more inside leg. More. MORE. So. Much. Leg! So that is good.

However, our lesson included a tantrum where Hemie got light up front and then ran backwards. We got it together pretty quick and were able to move forward right away, but it still bothers me that he gets so upset during dressage lessons.

Let me clarify – I’m not mad at him. I don’t think I’ve ever felt mad at my horse (or any horse) when the issue is clearly training. Rather, I feel my frustration directed towards our trainer. I want Hemie to enjoy dressage. I want to enjoy it too. But our trainer is pushing us to this tantrum level with some regularity.

For example, she wants me to make a “solid wall” with my reins and push him into it. This always upsets him, and of course gives me tension knowing its going to upset him.  In fact, this approach is basically opposite from the Denny Emerson approach of using “negotiating aids” that I’ve been using during practice rides.

On the one hand, Hemie is getting over his upsets faster, and not throwing tantrums at things that used to bother him – so that shows improvement. On the other hand, I really hate seeing him so upset. Its dangerous, and its certainly not helping him enjoy his job.

This weekend our trainer was away at a show with another client. Hemie and I hacked around the property. Then we hopped around these 3 fences (cross rail, crossrail over ditch, and green roll-top), plus a skinny brown in another arena. Then he got a super bath since the weather was perfect. Overall, a fabulous relaxing weekend.

10 comments on “Training Update

  1. busy week! all that jumping sounds fantastic – especially how mature he was with an iffy tube jump and difficult combo (and that roll top!! – my nemesis lol). and yay for learning how to trailer on your own! sorry dressage has been so stressful tho :(


  2. I admittedly know very little about your dressage trainer and your relationship with said trainer… but I do know that there are about 292839382 different ways to interpret every little nuance of dressage, and every trainer thinks they have the right way. And in their defense, they should think they're right because who would teach something thinking it was wrong?? My point is, every dressage trainer is going to be extremely different from the next, so if this one isn't working out maybe looking into another option wouldn't be a bad idea? Not even sure if that's available in your area, just throwing in my two cents.


  3. I always love to see people's happy trail ear photos. :)

    I had issues with trainers I took lessons with when they asked me to do the whole, “solid wall” and push into it deal. Spot would get absolutely livid and not be happy. She would get super stiff, get behind the vertical, and charge around. The thing that worked for us though was to focus on our rhythm and forward, maintain a consistent contact with bending elbows, and that the head/frame would come in time. I was always worrying about her head/frame but once I made a conscious effort to forget about that and work on building her overall strength.

    If you check out my Transformation post you can see that Spot has finally got with the “dressage” program now, lol. But, I totally know how you're feeling! Dressage use to seem like a torturous thing but we've gotten to enjoy it now. Good luck! :)


  4. Thanks and yes, busy because I should post more often rather than dumping!


  5. Wise words. I've been thinking about this off and on. I love my trainer for jumping, just not so much on dressage.


  6. Glad to see you made it out the other side! Hemie and I will get there one day – I want us to both enjoy dressage and that isn't happening right now in lessons with our trainer.


  7. Not all trainers are a fit for all horses (and riders) at all times.

    That said, I've had to ride Courage through plenty of ugly things in order to come out on the other side. You say Hemie is improving. Is he better in your solo rides because you've already pushed through the resistance in a lesson? Because you don't push hard enough to get there? These things are so complex.

    He's not my horse and I'm not there. Use your best judgement.


  8. Well lame I wrote a big response and it got deleted, but basically what sprinklerbandit said. I don't really do dressage with my trainer anymore bc she was making him mad. Koford saw the issue and a better way to fix it. Sometimes It's OK to have two trainers! Although sometimes your trainer sees something you don't. That's when you have to just go with your gut!


  9. Really good things for me to meditate on. Thank you.


  10. Thank you – yeah, I need to keep an open mind about changing a situation that I think might not be working for us.


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