Aha! moments

Continuing on this trend of having a lot more lessons than we normally do, we hauled out again on Saturday… but this time for a dressage lesson. When was the last time I had a dressage lesson? I don’t even know. Last summer probably? But 1) I wanted Trainer to see Henry in his new bit, to see what she thought, and 2) I’ve been texting her recently about a couple of issues I’ve been having on the flat, and she wanted to get her eyes on it.

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I put the dressage saddle on and Henry was like “ummmmm what the shit is this? I only come here for jompies.”.

As soon as I got on, Henry was pissed off and tense as hell. We were in an arena full of jumps, in his dressage tack, and he was pre-done with this bullshit. He hasn’t felt that awful right out of the box in a long time. When he’s like that he just tightens his back into a board, takes teeny tiny horrid steps, and puts his tail in helicopter mode. All you can really do is push push push him forward, riding him over tempo for a while, and wait until he starts to get more in front of your leg and let go of his back a little. Honestly he used to be like this more often than not, especially in warmup at shows, so I was having flashbacks to Past Henry. Nothing like flashbacks to give you perspective on how far you’ve actually come.

Pretty sure he wants both of us to f off and die.

After about ten minutes he finally started to give up a little, and we were able to begin addressing the issues I’d been having. Turns out they were both connected. Who saw that coming? Literally all of us.

My first issue is that I’d been having a bit of a problem getting him to connect as well in the outside rein when we’re traveling to the left. At home I noticed I was overbending him to the inside, and when I started to think of almost more of a counterbend, it was better, but still not quite there. Trainer immediately said “his haunches are falling out to the right”, and I’m like “wow I’m dumb, DUH!” and we starting working on controlling that hind end, almost riding the haunches slightly left. When I got it, he came into the right rein just fine. When I stopped concentrating on where his haunches were, they snuck right again, immediately evidenced by a lack of connection in the right rein. And so we went, back and forth for a while. This’ll take some work and diligence on my part.

One of his best moments was right after I sloppily fishtailed a change of direction and then finally sat up, pushed his hind end over, and rode him straight and forward. Miracles, y’all. Tiny miracles.

My other problem, that to be honest has plagued me forever, is my rogue left hand. As Henry has moved along in his flatwork and his balance and frame have lifted, so too have my hands. Well… the right one has anyway. The left one likes to wander around doing it’s own thing, taking sporadic vacations somewhere near the withers. I can only keep my hands up and even if I concentrate on them constantly. Otherwise, next thing you know, that left hand is down the street at the corner gas station, drinking a forty wrapped in a brown paper bag.

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stupid left hand needs to get a damn job

But hey, every time Henry’s haunches started sneaking right, guess what my left hand did? Yup, you guessed it. Dammit.

What we have here is a good old fashioned straightness issue.

When we moved on to the canter it was a little more evident to me, especially travelling left (how did what used to be our good direction now become our bad direction?). After about a lap Trainer said “think about bringing your right seat bone a little to the left” and omg. The difference was immediate and obvious. He tricks me a little into shifting my weight a tad to the outside, which exacerbates that crookedness in the hind end. As soon as I thought more about bring my outside seatbone slightly in, everything got so much straighter and I actually had a horse underneath me. Witchcraft, I tell you.

Did you know this little downhill creature can actually lift his withers?

I was kind of glad that Henry decided to show up and be a turd, because it really brought all the “bad” to the surface and made it easier to pinpoint things. Now I have plenty to work on at home. Maybe we shouldn’t go so long between dressage lessons.

Hillary got a few clips that I threw together into one. It’s awesome to be able to go back and hear Trainer’s words again and see what she’s seeing, so thanks Hillary! Usually if I have any video from dressage lessons it’s because I begged Trainer to take it, which kind of interrupts us both. Being able to see and hear it this way is much more helpful as I move forward and try to work on things by myself.

Oh, and the verdict on the Neue Schule bit from literally everyone is that it’s fantastic. I knew it felt like an improvement, but seeing the video, there’s no doubt. It’s a much better fit for the shape of his mouth, and he seems a lot happier to go to it and stay there (when I get him straight and keep track of that delinquent hand, anyway). The chomping is completely gone, and he’s not diving down behind it and then bouncing up off it like he would do in the KK. Seriously need to write up a full review soon, because Trainer wrote down her feedback on it as well, and it’s gold.

Today is supposed to be one of the coldest of the winter so far, so we might put the dressage to rest until tomorrow or the next day. I feel re-invigorated about it though, ready to take what we learned and chip away at it at home. Our scores have been decent enough since we moved up, ranging from 30 to 34 (with an error), but I know this horse has a really solid test in him, if I can do my part to unlock it. That is my mission. Along with everything else, of course, like trying to get him around 1.10m well, and gallop and jump all the Prelim stuff which is literally big enough for a family of hobbits to live in and technical enough to short-circuit my brain. Ya know… no big deal.

Who’s idea was it to take 3 hard sports and combine them into one?

22 thoughts on “Aha! moments

  1. Ahhh yes… The good ol’ drunk hand. I too suffer from this affliction, and my horse’s straightness suffers from the abuse. Why, oh why can’t these bad apples of appendages find Jesus and get straight?? Honestly, probably because I keep dragging that sucker back down into hell… Sigh.

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  2. Ah the Left Hand of Glory. Mine likes to wander down when it should be up, and goes up my nose when it should be low. And Frankie magically straightens out and connects when it can hold itself together. You’d think that would be enough of a reward to cut that shit out, but you’d apparently be wrong.

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  3. I would really love to read your review on the new bit.
    Currently wondering how many of you with a rogue left are right-handed and if the issue is somehow connected to that…

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    1. Sorry to blow your hypothesis out of the water, but I am right handed and my rogue hand is the right 🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️ The damn thing wants to hang out way down and outside my hip bone, and even when I try to hold it up (like when trainer is screaming “hold it up!”, it still wants to be lower than the left. I think I am beyond help.

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  4. To get an hang of the wandering left hand, use 2 large elastics looped together. Each wrist goes in a loop. That way, you will feel it when your left hand starts wandering to the liquor store, but you can intercept it before it makes it through the front door.

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  5. isnt it funny how hands do that shit. I always end up crossing my hand and (WHEN I WAS RIDING) the instructor would say look down where your hand is i would be amazed. LOL too funny….

    Henry looks great. This cold is not great. Freezing my ass off here in TN! Stay warm!!

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  6. a fun side effect of riding inside all winter is that i can see in the mirrors exactly how extremely my horse has been traveling haunches in. not that i’ve managed to do anything about it yet…. but hey, at least knowing is half the battle?

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    1. I would kill for some mirrors. But for that I would need a rideable arena. Or at least an actual flat space. We do what I like to call “redneck hillside dressage”. No wonder I’m crooked.

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  7. If you ever have spare time (I know, like that’s a possibility) and want an interesting read, look into the Ride With Your Mind books by Mary Wanless. These books of course lead down the rabbit hole, but I find them highly fascinating and they helped my ridding in countless ways. Most of what she talks about is rider biomechanics and how it then influences the horse. It is geared mostly towards Dressage but I have been able to transfer some great information and ideas towards jumping.
    And if you don’t feel like falling down the rabbit hole that is perfectly ok as well.

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  8. TBs do great dressage all the time. Henry definitely has it in him to do it. But you know what? My Hanoverian does exactly the same thing he does—she sneakily finds a way to shift me into a position that’s more comfortable for her. Never mind how much more crooked it makes her!

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  9. Henry is NOT subtle about his feedback is he? HAHAHA! It’s super nice to get footage of your ride with commentary so you can review and work on stuff! I want to hear more about your feelings on that bit, I’ve heard super good things about them!

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  10. dressage lessons are such a weird combination of dumb waste of money and amazingly helpful. I hate/love when I struggle with an issue for weeks, my trainer says “oh bring your inside shoulder back 3 inches” and our progress catapults forward. Can’t I just keep track of my own damn bodyparts??

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  11. How very fortunate to have footage with the feedback! It’s crazy what the tiniest body position changes create! I’m learning I have a rogue right hand all of the sudden and I really hope I can put it to bed before it becomes the death of all of my progress.

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    1. That’s what I was riding Henry in before. It’s pretty night and day for him between the KK and the NS. I think the shape of it is the key. It lays so well in his mouth.

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  12. I recently discovered that I also have a rogue left hand. I was cantering Eros in a half seat with my reins too long, as one does, and I found lefty somewhere below the whither being particularly annoying. Poor Eros. I had no idea. Now I know, but lefty keeps trying to see if I’m paying attention.
    I rode a horse in college that really made me get that feeling of riding the hind end up to the front to fix straightness issues (and you know… cause it’s correct). So whenever I’m feeling like things aren’t working I tell myself to remember that feeling on Sprout of riding the back end first.
    Why are these things so basic, but so easy to forget?!
    You guys are looking fantastic, and it’s so incredible that just a few little tweaks can really make Henry shine. (If he wants to, of course.)

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