Be Careful What You Ask For

Wait! What? What does that have to do with dressage?

Did you wish for a spirited horse that would go willingly forward from your leg and end up instead with a horse that bucked every time you tried to ride him? Maybe you should have checked the seller’s definition of “spirited” before you bought the horse. That’s one interpretation.

Or, are you in the same boat I’m in. I happen to be a control freak. I can keep it under wraps most of the time around people, but there are moments when it rears its ugly head. Mostly when I’m riding. Physically, I can let my legs hang and use them only when necessary. Mentally, I want to use them EVERY STEP the horse takes and this is the route I normally take.

So, today I’m riding around the corner on the left rein. Yvonne said “Why did you just use your right leg three times going around that corner, get no answer and settle for that?” After stopping and pondering for a moment, I came up with what I thought was a good answer – “I didn’t feel him drifting right but I was afraid he might, so I thought I would just remind him not to.” Boy was I in big trouble with that answer.

White noise! That was all my leg aids meant to my horse! No wonder he doesn’t go forward from my leg. No wonder he doesn’t move willing sideways in a half pass or leg yield. No wonder my heels are continuously drawn up instead of dipping downward with each step in harmony with the movement.

By the end of the lesson, once I had quit bouncing random leg aids off my horse’s sides, I could ride with a long, loose leg. When I used that leg to ask for more forward or more sideways, he would respond quickly and willingly. I could almost hear his sigh of happiness at not having things continuously thumping him on his sides! I had started the lesson with a horse that tuned me out because I was making so much “white noise” and I ended the lesson with a happy, attentive horse willing to listen to my aids. How can we be lucky enough to have partners who can so easily forgive our previous mistakes!

Now I am very careful what I ask for, because I want him to be able to “hear” the aid and understand it. He told me that he is much happier with the new me, and that he will work as hard as he can if I continue to hold up my end of the bargain.

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