Rethinking riding

Lately things just had not been working with Fling. She was getting more resistant and it seemed all we did during our warm-up was a tug of war. I had switched her snaffle bit to a baucher to try and get her to quit pulling, and it worked somewhat, but made her more resistant and she just wasn’t as supple and through as i knew she could be.

I started trying to analyze what had gone wrong. At one point in our ‘relationship,’ she was super off my seat and responsive. Now it seems she just blows through even my biggest aids and ignores my more subtle aids, so I end up pulling on the reins a lot more than I like or it seems like I should need to.

I finally realized it seems I am bracing my seat and also bracing against my stirrups,mostly at the canter. Really it’s the canter that is always the issue. So, for the past few rides I’ve made it a point to ride without stirrups most of the time. What I discovered was that a longer leg, with my calf lower on her sides, gave me more contact with her sides and gave more ‘leverage’ to my leg aids. In addition, when she chose to ignore my leg, it put my spur in a much better position to enforce my leg aid. As a result, she got much quicker off my aids. Also, I realized with no stirrups I could not brace and also realize I was tensing my butt and thigh muscles, which probably served to just push her onto her forehand, making it much more difficult for her to ‘come back’ from my aids. That is always the issue – her ‘coming back’ – especially at the canter. Fling is a powerful package in a small horse – Marie often comments on how strong she is in the canter pirouettes – but that strength also is used against me. She starts out good at the canter, but the longer we canter the less she obeys my ‘come back’ aids.And we end up in a tug of war.

She also was not straight enough, which was making it even more difficult to get her through and listening to my aids. She had developed a bad habit of swinging her haunches out to avoid taking weight on her inside hind. With my longer, stronger leg, accompanied by the spur when necessary, I worked on breaking that bad habit. Once she was straight, it was amazing how much better the canter was and just how much more responsive to my aids she was.

After riding with no stirrups for awhile, when I picked them back up, they seemed too short, so I lengthened my stirrups and put her back in the snaffle. What a change. I am feeling a throughness in her canter that’s been missing for quite a while. Hopefully next time we wander ‘off the path,’ it won’t take this long to find it again!

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