I have a past middle-aged novice student with physical insecurities and a passion for over-reading and over-thinking about her riding. She has been progressing nicely – appropriately — but she recently rode in a clinic where both she and her horse were overfaced and overstressed well beyond their abilities. Roweled spurs, a lot of driving and struggling. Two unhappy campers. What should I do or say?
BILL— First, have someone whose knowledge you trust look at what’s going on with your horse and see if your perceptions are correct. There’s butterfly light, chiffon light, and “light truck” light. There’s heavy cream, heavy rain, and a 747 Heavy. If you’re tentative in your riding or new to dressage, it’s not unusual to err on the side of lightness, often to the point of barely taking a passive contact. In training, “lightness” is an ongoing goal, but you’ll run into instances where it can’t be your primary concern. You never lose the thought of it, but solving another issue short term may take precedence.
Do judges at schooling shows not sign their name on the test so you won’t know who to be mad at? Gwendolyn in Odessa
Do judges really care what you wear in the show ring (within guidelines, of course). Like if one wears a red polo on a black horse in summer…
BILL— Everyone from time to time needs a visit from the Geometry Police. We see circles which are flat sided, ones which go into corners, and ones which begin and end at the wrong place. We draw our students elaborate diagrams of “tangent points” replete with eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. We distribute the Cones of Shame in the arena. Sometimes none of it does any good because they have convinced themselves that their circles are already round enough.
BILL— It can be good or it can be bad pending on a lot of factors, namely what the riders are like and the temperament and level of training of the horse in question. The first thing to resolve is your motivation. Is this to benefit you, the other rider, or the horse?
One of the most memorable rides in my life was in December 1974 when one evening at the Poulins’ I was invited to have a short ride on a Hanoverian mare who had been the reserve horse on the Canadian team at the Munich Olympics. It was all carefully supervised of course, but it did great things for my self esteem as well as giving me a new, very meaningful reference point.
It’s a great gift to be able to bestow on someone if you have a special horse that they can learn from. That said, the most important quality that a rider must possess to be allowed to ride your horse(s) is judgment – knowing what she is capable of and what she should leave alone.
If it’s a question of allowing a person more knowledgeable than yourself to get on your horse, their judgment and your trust in them are still the operant qualities. From my personal viewpoint I feel that anyone who rides with me should-– if I deem it useful– be willing to let me on their horse. I think I know enough at this point in my career not to bite off a lump I can’t chew!
I can think of several examples, however, where a rider did not want a particular clinician climbing on their horse to show off in a way that could be detrimental to his ultimate training. That is a difficult circumstance! On the other hand, If the owner knows the horse has some dangerous behavior that hides under the surface and does not want anyone else getting on, that is understandable.
Ruling out such instances, by and large it is not only valuable to get on other people‘s horses but also to see a more advanced rider working yours. Sometimes a new slant on an old problem works wonders.
At a show recently, I was watching my friend warm up for her first level test 3 class. Her horse, an OTTB, was being very tense and anxious with all the other horses. Her trainer took her to an outside, very quiet arena and told her to ‘just trot big’. She let the horse go very long and low in a pretty big trot doing circles and figure 8s. As the ride time got closer, they gathered and did a couple of trot to canter transitions. They really did not school any test movements. She actually scored high enough for a wild card invite to Nationals.
Should I consider warming up my horse like this?
At what point do you quit trying with your horse? When do you say “Enough! He needs to stay at Second Level forever!”
My friend who is riding Third Level tells me she makes a half halt every stride in the canter. Should I be doing that with my horse?
I ride my guy 6 days a week. Mostly work though maybe a day of long/low walking easy stuff. I make myself wear jeans on the ‘7th’ day to discourage myself from riding that day. I love riding him though he can be a challenge. Would 7 days be too much?