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We Are Flying Solo

September 25, 2011

Learning Curve

Encore finally got to meet Priscilla and her dressage magic this weekend.  For the first time, I was actually able to capture his mind on the task at hand.  Previously, he was always quite busy watching the pastures and checking everything out.  The simple requests I made did not even require his focus for easy fulfillment.  So P put us on a circle and set to introducing the leg yield.

"It doesn't matter that he is green; ride him like a trained horse."  I heard those words often.  You want to give the horse a space to fill with your body and aids.  You create this space out of expectation:  I will apply the aids for leg yield correctly, giving you a space and a direction to move in  and then give you the opportunity to come into that space.

We spiraled down out of the 20-meter into a circle just small enough that Encore had to work hard at it.  Then I applied the inside leg, directed my core and energy to the outside of the circle, opened the outside rein, and kept the inside rein soft and mobile to try and hold a little bit of bend.

At first, he did exactly what you would expect:  Oh!  Leg means forward, ok!  I calmly said nope, wrong answer with an engaged core and gentle closing of the rein.  Then I reapplied the leg yield aids, asking try again, opening up that expectant space again.

I could feel him thinking and then he went, Ummm, this way? as he stepped back out to the big circle.  Good boy! 

Brain is fullz!  No more dressaging!!
After several successful repetitions in each direction, we did a shallow serpentine exercise on a 40-meter line, seeing how he would react to changes of bend.  No problems there, he balanced nicely.  We then attempted a leg yield on the straight line, but he said Unnnggghh, brainfulldinnertime.  Which was fine, we had accomplished quite a bit and just wanted to finish the day with a couple hops over a crossrail to practice picking up all four of our legs at once -- as Encore loveslovesloves to jump, it would make a nice closing and reward for a good lesson.

With a placing pole on each side, I again presented him with a place to go and sat quietly as he attempted the exercise.  Trotting between the standards, he was intent on the horses coming in from the pasture nearby and as a result, hopped over the tiny X with his front legs, neglecting to bother lifting his back legs and whacked a pole to the ground. 

P raised the height to about 2' in the center to present a little more obstacle and we headed back.  Steering is not yet Encore's forte so he ended up a bit off center at a higher section.  Determined not to whack himself in the legs again, he bounced up off the ground as I wrapped my legs around him, giving that cross rail a healthy foot or so of room!  P announced that he lifted his shoulder beautifully, curling his front legs up like a showjumper and tucking his little hind legs neatly up behind.  She asserted that once we got him going steadily at the jumping, he sure would not be the one pulling rails in stadium!

I led him back to the barn with a big stupid grin on my face.  Well, ok, I do that every time, but I really felt like we took some good steps and I'm looking forward to the next couple weeks of homework.  I'll continue to build the leg yield, while focusing very hard on my own body.  Riding Solo for five years, I've developed my own riding quirks, like locking my left arm and riding off the back of my calf for a strong leg aid.  Those have to go and I must be very careful not to bring those forward with me in Encore's training so as to keep him as light and straight as possible!


  1. oooo I just love your updates, I can't get enough of them. I love to hear about every step of you bringing along an OTTB. And it sounds like you got yourself a saint!

  2. Ohhhh he sounds like such a sweetie! Can't wait to hear about him when you are out competing

  3. Thank you! I hope we will have stories of that soon, Katie!!

  4. He's such an awesome horse, handsome too :)! Sounds like it was a totally awesome ride.

  5. I think there is a little Super Star in the making!!!!!!

  6. Thanks! He is already a super star to me, dangit, I can't help but fall in love with him.

  7. It sounds like he's a very happy guy. I love his face, he looks curious and intuitive.

  8. Woooo!! He's such an awesome horse. I love hearing about him.