"I'm a robot when I ride" and other big breakthroughs - what's yours?

EchoInterrupted

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What is a big realization or breakthrough you've had that you feel will really push your riding forward (or already has, depending on when the realization happened), however silly?


I'll start!

Apologies in advance that it is such a stupidly obvious realization :oops:

The thing I've been struggling with recently is that I'm a relatively competent rider, but I wouldn't have labeled myself as someone who will necessarily "improve" a horse. I've just moved city and had to give up my first part-loan after having started riding again last year (8 years out of the saddle, unfortunately!), so started at a new riding school to keep me ticking over. I opted for private lessons, and in the second lesson had a big, if slightly stupid, realization. I'm a bit of a robot when I ride. I just sort of shut off my brain and rely on the instructor to suggest what exercises to do. I do the same thing when I ride on my own, except instead of relying on my instructor I rely on whatever plan I made before hand. The instructor in my lesson kept asking questions about what I feel in the horses rhythm, suppleness, straightness, and I realized I had been picking up on all of these things and could give a good description of what was going wrong, but I hadn't *actively* thought about this myself and thought about what I can do to fix it (even though I could suggest good exercises to address it when prompted).

So... to improve my schooling what I really need to be doing is actually thinking and assessing the horse under me, rather than going on autopilot. What a crazy idea, eh? The skills are (somewhat) there, the knowledge is (somewhat) there, but the brain was lacking! Feeling like a bit of an idiot, but I guess after growing up through a decade plus of group riding school lessons it's not unusual to get stuck just following instructions of the instructor on a bit of an autopilot.
 
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Teajack

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Great idea for a thread! I'm a very nervous rider, have been for decades and once nerves take over I could never reason with myself, no matter what input I had from instructors, books or patient friends. Then i was watching my umpteenth Karl Greenwood chat on Youtube and he said that some people have a panic mode that goes off like one of those annoying smoke alarms that won't let you make a slice of toast in peace ... bingo, it penetrated and now all I have to do is tut and ignore.
 

milliepops

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that sounds like a proper lightbulb moment, OP :)
I remember having a similar epiphany years ago now about just go ahead and try things, to learn through trial and error and experimentation can be a really useful thing to get used to. I love my lessons and find them so valuable but 13 days out of 14 I am not riding with my trainer so I have to be comfortable with playing about with stuff unguided.

My little horse is working her way towards GP and I think my biggest breakthrough recently has just been about seeing how all the tiny details can suddenly add up and make a huge difference. and how exercises from different levels support each other.

Her return to work after a winter off with ulcers was focused on working up to riding through the Inter 1 test without any mistakes. I really learned a lot about how you can look at one test in minute detail and really take it apart to identify totally basic things that are lacking in your day to day work. How you use the "free" space in the arena to your advantage. How to really maximise the score for each movement by not letting a single step detract from your performance. I've always felt like I'm reasonably ok at test riding but this *under the microscope* approach was something else and I've completely rethought my approach with greener horses. I'll do much more of this in future, pick a test and absolutely nail every step over the course of a few weeks. I've never been one of those "don't practice the test because the horse will learn it" people, I have always ridden whole tests because if your horse anticipates that just shows it's not on the aids. but now I understand a lot more about the level of attention to detail needed at the higher levels. And how test riding, um... "mindfully" ... can highlight basic themes for future work that need attention.

Some really basic stuff that came out of my I1 test rides were the need to ride better turns, turns on to the centre line, turns onto diagonals, turns in the middle of movements - each provides an opportunity either for the horse to get away from you or for you to improve the way of going. I've worked really hard on securely closing the outside of the horse and also improving impulsion and connection through a turn.
And responsiveness - through a really simple (yet difficult!) exercise we massively tuned up my horse's responses to my aids which mean all the stuff she has already learned gets a lot lot easier. she feels like a ferrari now. but she's a 14hh welsh cob :p

neither of us have learned any extra movements during this time but we are a LOT closer to GP than we were when we left off last year, because of those little boring details ;)
 

quizzie

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And responsiveness - through a really simple (yet difficult!) exercise we massively tuned up my horse's responses to my aids which mean all the stuff she has already learned gets a lot lot easier. she feels like a ferrari now. but she's a 14hh welsh cob :p
......description needed of exercise involved....would be really interesting please!!!

...needs to be transferrable to an 18hh horse in a 20x40 arena (not many strides before we take on the fence!!)
 

milliepops

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......description needed of exercise involved....would be really interesting please!!!

...needs to be transferrable to an 18hh horse in a 20x40 arena (not many strides before we take on the fence!!)
ought to transfer OK, depending on your control ;)
it's super simple but for me has had a bit of a transformative effect

Start on a 20m circle, trot or canter, collect within the horse's comfortable range and then extend for 2 strides before collecting again.
it sounds like simple old on & back but if you are disciplined about only doing 2 strides then you are almost collecting before you've gone forward. it tests that the horse is really extending from your aid rather than building up momentum over several strides. In my head it's the difference between flicking a pinball sharply vs a ball picking up speed as it rolls down a hill. if the horse doesn't go on your aid then you won't have time for any extension. So you might need to spend a lap or 2 sharpening that response first. then you can ride on the track riding micro-extensions at every marker or putting in other shapes etc. remember to collect in between so you are not just adding more forward each time.

It was hard because i didn't trust mine to go on the aid so I wasn't being disciplined enough to ride the collection after 2 strides to begin with. I had to let her make the mistake in order to teach her the importance of an immediate response. impulsion not momentum!

Now we are established with it I intersperse this with actual longer extensions on long sides/diagonals to make sure it's not a flash in the pan reaction, but i often get half way along the diagonal before asking etc so that again i know it's on my aid rather than taking a run-up out of the corner.

I now have a reliable energising aid because I can ask forward and contain in the hand/hold her on my seat which means i can add impulsion all over the place, on short sides, in corners, in the middle of a movement etc. I never had that immediacy of response before.
 

SaddlePsych'D

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OP that sounds like a great realisation - and that you've found a good instructor. I love when my instructor asks me things and we have a conversation rather than always me waiting to be told what next.

I discovered recently that I seem to make better progress when I actively go in to my lesson without expectations, just a general aim to enjoy myself, shut out the rest of the world for half an hour, and hope for a sense of going on a journey where I can feel a difference in how the horse and I are moving from how we start to how we finish.

Also I'm realising how each horse can be a teacher (sounds a bit cheesy, bear with!) and using this to help me be more positive when things feel like they are 'going wrong'. For example I recently had a lesson on a horse which I previously really struggled with, was not a fan of particularly tbh, but then had a great lesson with him and realised he teaches me about not balancing on my hands and to use my seat. He and I are now a good team I'd say, and I'm looking forward to riding him again.
 

quizzie

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Thank you MP.....very interesting...I've done the exercise on 4 strides, but as you say, that leaves too much room for a fluffy response from him, which I am too undisciplined about, and accept!!

2 strides gives no room for error..I can see it annoying the hell out of him, and may well get a few teddies out of the pram episodes until he works it out...Thank you.
 

milliepops

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Thank you MP.....very interesting...I've done the exercise on 4 strides, but as you say, that leaves too much room for a fluffy response from him, which I am too undisciplined about, and accept!!

2 strides gives no room for error..I can see it annoying the hell out of him, and may well get a few teddies out of the pram episodes until he works it out...Thank you.
oh yeah i got humping, bucking, general downing of tools to start with and then... she suddenly twigged that she had to get a wriggle on straight away and it's just made everything fall into place :)
 

milliepops

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OP that sounds like a great realisation - and that you've found a good instructor. I love when my instructor asks me things and we have a conversation rather than always me waiting to be told what next.

I discovered recently that I seem to make better progress when I actively go in to my lesson without expectations, just a general aim to enjoy myself, shut out the rest of the world for half an hour, and hope for a sense of going on a journey where I can feel a difference in how the horse and I are moving from how we start to how we finish.

Also I'm realising how each horse can be a teacher (sounds a bit cheesy, bear with!) and using this to help me be more positive when things feel like they are 'going wrong'. For example I recently had a lesson on a horse which I previously really struggled with, was not a fan of particularly tbh, but then had a great lesson with him and realised he teaches me about not balancing on my hands and to use my seat. He and I are now a good team I'd say, and I'm looking forward to riding him again.
it's such a good way to look at things. it's very easy to get disappointed if you have a bit of a rubbish feeling but if you have a good instructor and are generally making progress, a difficult ride now and then is all part and parcel of learning. it's a kick to the ego for sure but if you (one! not you specifically :p ) can move beyond that then you find useful learning snippets all over the place.
 

Tarragon

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I think that my breakthrough was seeing how work done in hand (roughly following Philippe Karl principles) carries forward into the ridden work and realising that it is about teaching the horse to hold itself. I do pilates myself, and love it, and now think of this sort of training as Pilates for the horse!
I am a product of old school Pony Club in the 1970s, and I don't think that finesse was ever taught :)
 

Berpisc

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Year and years ago at a clinic, realising that I unconsciously brace my chin. Actually not just when riding but in general life as well. This therefore affected my shoulders and arms and contact on the reins; I was not necessarily pulling, but was a little rigid. I don't ride any more, but still catch myself doing it in everyday life when I am tense.. From a riding perspective it helped me soften as I was trying too hard to do things correctly and of course not having the desired effect.
 

quizzie

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oh yeah i got humping, bucking, general downing of tools to start with and then... she suddenly twigged that she had to get a wriggle on straight away and it's just made everything fall into place :)
Well lets hope they never get the chance to exchange notes on tantrums...I'm not sure which I'd rather deal with...powered packed Welsh mare or 18hh of Master Imp breeding....combined they could be "interesting" to say the least!!!
 

scats

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I had a breakthrough a few weeks back, but probably in a slightly different way to what most of this thread is about. My breakthrough is the realisation that I really don’t want to push my horse too much, and that’s ok. I won’t ever make it too far up the levels with her because I just don’t have it in me to demand too much of her. Perhaps that makes me soft, but so be it.
I’ve had so much bad luck with horses- weird and wonderful ailments, injuries, early retirements and making the decision to put several to sleep over the years. Now I have a nice, willing little horse, who will happily try anything I ask, but who isn’t built brilliantly for the job. We will tinker around at the lower levels for a bit of fun, but I have decided now that I don’t want to push her physically or mentally further than I believe is fair to her. We enjoy our lessons, but I do have a limit to what I will ask of her.
Maybe one day I will have a horse I feel is more suited to the job, but for now, I will enjoy tootling around on Millie.
 

daffy44

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Brilliant idea for a thread OP!

I think I have two big break through moments, the first one is kind of the opposite of yours OP. I was riding in a lesson when my then trainer asked me why I had just done something, unfortunately I didnt even realise I had done something. This prompted a discussion where he pointed out to me that I rode almost entirely from instinct and feel, but with no intellect or understanding of planning etc, this was gobsmacking to me because it showed me just how much I didnt know, and that I understood even less. He explained to me that it was possible to ride primarily from instinct, like me, and it was also possibly to ride primarily from intellect, but to the be the best possible rider I could be I needed to ride with both. This has always stuck with me, so I set about learning as much as I possibly could to be able to combine the two, and I have tried my best since then to always use both instinct and intellect.

The second one is probably a bit boring, because I'm sure you've all heard it before, as I had, but for me, it wasnt until I started training at the higher levels that it really brought it home to me. So the second one is that attention to detail, and focus on the basics really are the most important thing, and they are the things that can fix 95% of all training issues, and they are the things that makes tests and movements easier for you to ride and for the horse to do. This applies at every level, but it really took the higher levels for it to really sink in with me.
 

ycbm

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I had a breakthrough a few weeks back, but probably in a slightly different way to what most of this thread is about. My breakthrough is the realisation that I really don’t want to push my horse too much, and that’s ok. I won’t ever make it too far up the levels with her because I just don’t have it in me to demand too much of her. Perhaps that makes me soft, but so be it.
I may be close to this, it's how I've been feeling lately.
.
 

scats

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I may be close to this, it's how I've been feeling lately.
.
I have great admiration for people who can push average horses, or any horse for that matter, up the levels, but I’m starting to realise that it’s not for me. I don’t think I’m tough enough. If I have a session and I feel my horse has struggled with something or perhaps got a bit upset/thrown their toys out the pram, I really struggle not to dwell on that and feel like it’s been an abuse of my power. Going soft in my old age perhaps, who knows.
I still enjoying training and working towards a goal, but I am mindful of what I am sitting on. If Millie finds something really difficult, then I accept a token offering and we move on to something else that I feel is within her comfort zone. I don’t think that approach will get me very far really..!
 

milliepops

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The second one is probably a bit boring, because I'm sure you've all heard it before, as I had, but for me, it wasnt until I started training at the higher levels that it really brought it home to me. So the second one is that attention to detail, and focus on the basics really are the most important thing, and they are the things that can fix 95% of all training issues, and they are the things that makes tests and movements easier for you to ride and for the horse to do. This applies at every level, but it really took the higher levels for it to really sink in with me.
thought of your comments this morning while riding :)
nearly all the knowledge is installed now but it's the stuff you'd work on with a 4yo - only more so - that will now make the work good quality and easy to do. Good balance, good responses, good suppleness, good straightness, etc etc. Reassuring and mindboggling in equal measure.


And for me I think that's how I can currently balance the competing thoughts of "i love training this horse" with "is it in her interests?".
Because yes, it is, if all we are doing is improving on the scales of training piecemeal and within her capabilities :) yes it means she can do more fancy things as a by product, but if I do it right, she should do those fancy things in a way that is positive for her physically (in terms of a ridden horse), with a stronger, more supple and more balanced body, with better control of her own movement and also I have to become a better rider each day too.
 

Rosietaz

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I’ve always been abit iffy with confidence and am always very keen on my horse going to the nice steady pace I want etc - no rushing. The other month I got a new Pivo and tried it out for the first time. Watching my riding afterwards hit me like a giant sack of cr@p. No impulsion, trot looked like my horse could have gone to sleep. At no point ever did he rush, honestly it was awful. Yet when I was riding it felt alright… gulp.
Que me sorting my stuff out and riding with abit more enthusiasm. More leg. More oomph = nicer work from my horse.
Also, turns out that if your not looking at the ground then you don’t feel like you’re going that fast! That was lesson two. Stop. Looking. At. The. Floor. 🤣 I’ve been working on myself a lot, and by doing so my horses way of working has massively improved.
My confidence has shot up since - I really needed that wake up call. Also planning. I have a much better ride if I plan before hand what I’m doing, rather than my usual get on and then just wing it.
 

CanteringCarrot

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I’ve always been abit iffy with confidence and am always very keen on my horse going to the nice steady pace I want etc - no rushing. The other month I got a new Pivo and tried it out for the first time. Watching my riding afterwards hit me like a giant sack of cr@p. No impulsion, trot looked like my horse could have gone to sleep. At no point ever did he rush, honestly it was awful. Yet when I was riding it felt alright… gulp.
Que me sorting my stuff out and riding with abit more enthusiasm. More leg. More oomph = nicer work from my horse.
Also, turns out that if your not looking at the ground then you don’t feel like you’re going that fast! That was lesson two. Stop. Looking. At. The. Floor. 🤣 I’ve been working on myself a lot, and by doing so my horses way of working has massively improved.
My confidence has shot up since - I really needed that wake up call. Also planning. I have a much better ride if I plan before hand what I’m doing, rather than my usual get on and then just wing it.
Hm. This sort of made something click for me. I help a friend with her riding from time to time and she always feels like she is going a bit fast...but she's not. I even tell her to push the horse more forward and she thinks it's too fast...it's actually lovely, free (not all stifled and held back), and the horse moves very comfortably...the thing is...she looks down a lot 😅 so maybe this is part of where her perception about speed come from. I never thought about that.

I was taught two things when I was younger: if you look at the ground, that's where you'll end up and when in doubt, add leg! 😂
 

ycbm

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I have great admiration for people who can push average horses, or any horse for that matter, up the levels, but I’m starting to realise that it’s not for me. I don’t think I’m tough enough. If I have a session and I feel my horse has struggled with something or perhaps got a bit upset/thrown their toys out the pram, I really struggle not to dwell on that and feel like it’s been an abuse of my power. Going soft in my old age perhaps, who knows.
I still enjoying training and working towards a goal, but I am mindful of what I am sitting on. If Millie finds something really difficult, then I accept a token offering and we move on to something else that I feel is within her comfort zone. I don’t think that approach will get me very far really..!
I'm right with you. I've stopped training for a few weeks while I get my head around feeling uncomfortable about some of the stuff I'm being asked to do. I'm also doubting my competence to do it without unknowingly damaging a horse I absolutely love.
.
 

milliepops

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I'm right with you. I've stopped training for a few weeks while I get my head around feeling uncomfortable about some of the stuff I'm being asked to do. I'm also doubting my competence to do it without unknowingly damaging a horse I absolutely love.
.
is there anything in particular that you're being asked to do that is making you feel like that? or is it a generalised thing about training horses? I have sacked off training in the past when I've had a lesson with someone who I think is in it for the results first and not the horse :confused:
 

ycbm

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is there anything in particular that you're being asked to do that is making you feel like that? or is it a generalised thing about training horses? I have sacked off training in the past when I've had a lesson with someone who I think is in it for the results first and not the horse :confused:
I'm trying to work it all through MP. Some of it is my peculiarities, some of it is a mismatch between what my trainer can do and what I can do, mentally more than physically, some of it is fear I'll break the nicest horse I've ever sat on if I keep asking for more ...

I suspect you've been through similar over time. I'm taking a break from lessons while I sell Deza, who, fabulous looker and mover though she is, is sadly a definite mismatch, and I'll see how I feel then.
.
 

Annagain

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I remember one session where I thought to myself "I'm sitting really well today." I don't know what it was but everything just felt right and Monty was going so well as a result. Almost as soon as I thought it, my sharer, who was also an instructor, said exactly the same thing to me. All of a sudden I had a model to work to and now when I get on I think "Am I sitting like I did that day?" It's a really good reminder of what I need to do to correct my pretty awful position, which I was aware of before that day but didn't really know what/how to change. Instructors would tell me to put my shoulders back and lift my head etc but it never felt right until that day when I figured it out for myself.
 

milliepops

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I had a really valuable learning point in a lesson the other day which is sort of the other side of that AA
I find a feel breakthrough one one day really useful to try to journey back to for *me*, but
I am terrible for remembering the one brilliant example of where my horse did something fabulously and then trying to re-create that and being disappointed that it's really hard.

Instead of trying to chase that feeling, what I now have to do is take more frequent assessments of the work and try to improve on what it was like 5 mins ago. So instead of trying to create the feeling of a trot from 2019, I just need to make the trot now better than the trot 5 minutes ago was. It's really helped me to stay in the moment, and also be more realistic and relevant and helps me deal with the variable nature of training an animal that is not the same to ride each day. It doesn't matter if we never get the level 10 quality for a session to feel successful, if we start with 5 and get to 7 then that's still improvement.
 

Annagain

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I had a really valuable learning point in a lesson the other day which is sort of the other side of that AA
I find a feel breakthrough one one day really useful to try to journey back to for *me*, but
I am terrible for remembering the one brilliant example of where my horse did something fabulously and then trying to re-create that and being disappointed that it's really hard.

Instead of trying to chase that feeling, what I now have to do is take more frequent assessments of the work and try to improve on what it was like 5 mins ago. So instead of trying to create the feeling of a trot from 2019, I just need to make the trot now better than the trot 5 minutes ago was. It's really helped me to stay in the moment, and also be more realistic and relevant and helps me deal with the variable nature of training an animal that is not the same to ride each day. It doesn't matter if we never get the level 10 quality for a session to feel successful, if we start with 5 and get to 7 then that's still improvement.
I totally agree but it helps to know what that 10 (or probably more of an 8 in my case!) feels like!
 

milliepops

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oh yeah for sure. i think i probably find it useful as an approach to cut my horse some slack (in terms of my mental satisfaction levels)
whereas I'm probably going to continue chasing the 10 feeling when it comes to my personal performance ;) I can beat me up for not sitting properly but let my horse off an off-day :p
 

Rosietaz

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Hm. This sort of made something click for me. I help a friend with her riding from time to time and she always feels like she is going a bit fast...but she's not. I even tell her to push the horse more forward and she thinks it's too fast...it's actually lovely, free (not all stifled and held back), and the horse moves very comfortably...the thing is...she looks down a lot 😅 so maybe this is part of where her perception about speed come from. I never thought about that.

I was taught two things when I was younger: if you look at the ground, that's where you'll end up and when in doubt, add leg! 😂
It was like an epiphany 🤣 good luck to your friend! She’ll get there I’m sure!
 

SaddlePsych'D

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it's such a good way to look at things. it's very easy to get disappointed if you have a bit of a rubbish feeling but if you have a good instructor and are generally making progress, a difficult ride now and then is all part and parcel of learning. it's a kick to the ego for sure but if you (one! not you specifically :p ) can move beyond that then you find useful learning snippets all over the place.
Yes dropping the ego and asking 'okay so what have I learned here?' is probably a more constructive way to go. Probably a good life lesson there as well for someone (i.e. me!) who tends to be easily knocked by things.

Ex share horse (via a more experienced horse person's help) taught me to stand up straight and mean what I say. Not in a big shouty way but just 'this is what we are doing' He probably would have taught me some stickability and not to be so afraid of falling off too but I wasn't quite up for that particular challenge just yet!

I’ve always been abit iffy with confidence and am always very keen on my horse going to the nice steady pace I want etc - no rushing. The other month I got a new Pivo and tried it out for the first time. Watching my riding afterwards hit me like a giant sack of cr@p. No impulsion, trot looked like my horse could have gone to sleep. At no point ever did he rush, honestly it was awful. Yet when I was riding it felt alright… gulp.
Que me sorting my stuff out and riding with abit more enthusiasm. More leg. More oomph = nicer work from my horse.
Also, turns out that if your not looking at the ground then you don’t feel like you’re going that fast! That was lesson two. Stop. Looking. At. The. Floor. 🤣 I’ve been working on myself a lot, and by doing so my horses way of working has massively improved.
My confidence has shot up since - I really needed that wake up call. Also planning. I have a much better ride if I plan before hand what I’m doing, rather than my usual get on and then just wing it.
This is sooo relatable! I have a video of me on the horse I was sharing, cantering round a corner going "too fast, too fast, too fast!" as I went because at the time I thought we were practically galloping round. Watching the video back you can almost see the horse rolling his eyes at me as we most definitely were not! I will try the not looking at the ground tip as suspect this might be a habit I have.
 

daffy44

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thought of your comments this morning while riding :)
nearly all the knowledge is installed now but it's the stuff you'd work on with a 4yo - only more so - that will now make the work good quality and easy to do. Good balance, good responses, good suppleness, good straightness, etc etc. Reassuring and mindboggling in equal measure.


And for me I think that's how I can currently balance the competing thoughts of "i love training this horse" with "is it in her interests?".
Because yes, it is, if all we are doing is improving on the scales of training piecemeal and within her capabilities :) yes it means she can do more fancy things as a by product, but if I do it right, she should do those fancy things in a way that is positive for her physically (in terms of a ridden horse), with a stronger, more supple and more balanced body, with better control of her own movement and also I have to become a better rider each day too.
Absolutely, I certainly find I work on the same things with the newly backed 4yr old as I do with the GP horse, I'm just more demanding with one than the other. I remember being frustrated that my one tempis (which are good) were only getting 6s in the test, because they dropped in quality once I rode them on the diagonal rather then the wall. I asked my trainer about it, and was told it was simple, I just wasnt riding the corner and the turn onto the diagonal well enough, so I went home and spent two weeks working on right turns, positioning on the right rein and right corners, once I felt the right was as good as the left I rode then tempis again and they were massively improved, and I've had 8s for them in the test since then. The improvement was entirely down to paying more attention to the basics.

I also understand where Scats is coming from about training, for me, it comes down to the feel the horse gives me, I really only want to work with horses that want to work, that enjoy the training, its not about struggling with a particular movement, its about the feel in general. I have a beautiful mare, very naturally talented, but she always felt like she wasnt enjoying herself, she wasnt naughty, she just always felt so uninspired by working, so I felt wrong asking things of her, so she went to be a broodmare and is blissfully happy. Whereas my GP mare, although she struggled with various movements during the training process she always wanted to work, she felt like she was trying with me every step of the way, so I never felt bad demanding things of her, it was my job to try and simplify things and make her training as sympathetic and systematic as possible to keep enthusiasm, but I think training should be like that with every horse. I see it as MP described, as the training being physically positive to make the horse more balanced, more supple and more athletic, so they become the best physical version of themselves.
 
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