Friday, November 2, 2012

Long Overdue Lesson

I had a lesson last night! First time with a new trainer, JB. The BO was planning on having her out to work with her horse because she can't ride due to surgery on her foot, and one other boarder was planning on taking a lesson so I joined in.

First lessons for me are never the best. I get super nervous for no reason. I don't have a whole lot of show nerves, which makes it funny that I have nerves for working with a new person. After the lesson I was kinda torn between really liking this trainer and just feeling kind of "meh" about it. I have a really hard time with trainers - I had two perfect ones back home but now I'm trying to find trainers I like at school where it's more expensive. I'm very independent and I'm cheap. I want it to be worth my while at the same time as not spending a fortune. Here's the overview:

My lesson was at 4:30 so of course I was all worried about getting there on time - I have class until 3:30 and it takes me a half hour to get to the barn. I got there a little after 4pm and there was still another horse in the arena so I quickly changed, groomed Jetta and tacked up. I had actually forgotten about my lesson until late the night before, so I was all bummed that I hadn't had time to clean my boots which had sweat stains and dirt on them. I try to be nicely turned out for my lessons, especially with a new trainer, so at least I remembered my boots and my breeches, I had my polo shirt tucked in and a belt as well as my gloves. By the time I was done getting ready it was 4:30pm. The lady in the arena was getting her saddle adjusted with pads so I thought they were just about done. Turns out they were just getting started.

I was fine to watch and it turned out to be an interesting horse. An arabian cross that was a rescue. He has lordosis (very swayed back, thus the saddle and pad adjustments) and the lady would like to show him in arabian sporthorse classes and get into doing dressage. Her horse does not like contact and roots on her. JB did some bending exercises first at a halt to get him to give to pressure and stay there until he got released. Also showed the rider her version of an emergency stop. Basically taking the rein all the way to the middle of the back to bend the horse around, thereby saying "I said stop". Interesting. She had her ride around just with the inside rein, asking for a little bit of bend and flexion at the poll. This way, with only one rein he couldn't get upset or worried about feeling confined by the contact. His other problem was that his shoulders didn't follow his head so turning was interesting. JB had her do serpentines where she'd change direction every time his shoulder fell out, thus making him really think about having to follow his head.

I made the mistake of holding my already tacked up Jetta while we watched the lesson. She stood pretty still and besides trying to knock the hose holder off the wall, eat my stool and chewing on my whip, she was rather well behaved, though I would have been much better off sticking her back in her stall. She does not do well just standing around. When it was my turn I got on and started to warm up. JB immediately picked up on my rounded shoulders (sigh...) and had my put my shoulders back and down and engage my core. She obviously knew her stuff because whenever I forgot, she'd remind me and immediately pick up on when I re-engaged my core. We got barely any warm-up time which was a pity because Jetta was very heavy in my hand and wanted to rush. None of the floatiness we got the day before and I know it was because of my nerves, so I was kind of disappointed in not being able to show off our best side. First we worked on slowing her down and making her engage her core as well, doing half halts in the trot and transitions between the walk and the trot, making her use her hiney, but at the same time staying slow. We moved to the canter and worked on the upward transition.

This is where it got tricky. I had a bit of a hard time visualizing what she was going for. She wanted me to open my inside rein instead of using it indirectly towards Jetta's withers so that I didn't shut down her hind end and ask her to "enlarge the circle" two steps out, then ask for the canter transition without doing Jetta's signature "leap!" into the canter. What she was going for (I think) was to weight the outside hind leg and get her to step under with her inside leg into the canter. The reality was that I lost her hindquarters completely. We struggled for that a little while until I modified it to more of a haunches in and it finally clicked and we had a great transition. Aaand then to the other direction it just wasn't there.

So lots to work on and I'm definitely still mulling over our ride and looking forward to going back out to the barn to ride Jetta and do some little modifications to what JB was teaching us.

Overall, I really liked JB as a person - she was talkative and hung around while I cooled Jetta out and untacked her, she loved on Tux and told me about her horses (she's training a Gypsy pony that's only 12 hands! How adorable, a mini-me of Tux!) I'm not quite sure of her training methods, she had some difficulty relaying her ideas to me and when she had me slow Jetta (way) down, I felt like we lost our impulsion and I was hanging on Jetta's mouth, yet she didn't correct me. I like to have improvements after lessons and there wasn't any of that after this lesson, however I think if we work on it, there will be improvement in the future. Our next lesson is November 14th - there may be some jumping in this one!


  1. It's really hard to give up that indirect inside rein, but she's right--it's totally ineffective. Sounds like a good lesson.

  2. Yeah, and I definitely *know* that so I don't use it for certain things, it just tends to creep in unnoticed :) It will definitely help having someone on the ground to correct all these bad habits I've developed working with baby horses!