Jeremy was back to clinic again and after having a good lesson on Muze the last time, I decided to plunk down my money for another go. I was tempted to do 2 lessons, but it was just wayyy too expensive and I didn’t want my checkbook to run away screaming for the hills.
I was the 4th lesson of the day so I got up extra early to polish my boots and to get to the barn earlier so I could clean tack while watching some of the other riders go.
Soon enough it was my turn and we started warming up while the rider before me was just finishing. To warm up, I usually do a few leg yields and a few laps of an easy trot to loosen him up. With his sorta bum pastern, its really important for him to warm up slow and not ask for a ton in the beginning, but I have to make sure to not let him get too low and lean on me.
Jeremy watched us as we did our little warm up routine and he commented that he liked the energy we had and how I wasn’t being super demanding or super easy on Muze, but still making him work. After getting the trot loose, I asked Jeremy about the lateral work I had been working on in my lessons with Trainer M. During my lessons with Trainer M, I’ve started to chip away at the Leg Yield, Shoulder-In, and Haunches-In to get the feeling of how each movement rides and the aids needed. While I’m still getting the feel of them, I wasn’t sure if I was using too much inside rein, or not getting the bend right, and if whatever I was feeling was the right feeling.
We started with some leg yields from the centerline back to the rail and while I was attempting them, he told me that LYs are a straightness/sideways exercise and we are basically asking the horse to be able to move his diagonal pairs together. He went on to say that a lot of people ride the LY like a shoulder in with the horse bent opposite the direction of movement, but in reality the horse should be quite straight and moving parallel to the wall. Right away, Jeremy noticed that I had too much bend and was letting go of my outside rein, so he told me to have Muze’s neck being straight on his shoulders with just a little bit of bend at the poll. That immediately helped me firm up my loosey-goosey outside rein and Muze traveled much straighter instead of bulging out with his shoulder. I wasn’t getting enough cross over behind so Jeremy told me to bring my leg back more at the hip instead of the knee (without contorting my body and tilting forward) to emphasis I wanted Muze to step over with that hind leg. The next subsequent LYs were much better and I was better able to feel what a good LY should feel like. I’m really glad we worked on the LY because now I have a better idea of what the feel is like for when I work on them with Spot!
We moved on to the Shoulder-In and in converse to the LY, a lot of people ride the SI with the mindset of riding a LY. He said that the SI is more of a bending and engagement exercise that teaches the horse to swing underneath himself more, which is different from the straightness/sideways goal of the LY.
I loved the way Jeremy described the steps of the SI and he helped me realize that it wasn’t as complicated as I made it out to be. I told him that I over analyze and think about “how many pounds of pressure do I need in that outside rein?” “Do I need like 3 pounds of pressure in my right seat bone?” which he totally laughed about. He said, ” of course you over analyze…you’re a dressage rider” LOL.
After a good laugh, he told me that I needed to not over think and make it more complicated than it is because horses don’t do that and they can’t comprehend that sort of complexity like we can. So, if the horse can’t over think it, why should the rider? That definitely turned the light bulb on in my head. The thing I really like about my lessons with Jeremy is how he is able to break things down and his ability to help me realize that the movements I’m working on aren’t rocket science. In the clip of my lesson below, he talks about how the more complex movements are just the simple addition of different operations.
With the SI, he told me that I needed to think about the bend right before and during the corner, then slowly peel Muze off rail like I would a banana, keep my inside leg strong to keep the bend, move my outside leg back a bit at the hip to keep his hind end from swinging out, and a keep a little bit of flexion in the poll and jaw. Muze was being a little piggy and resistant so I had to use a bit of my spur to keep the bend and to keep him his haunches straight. Muze also likes to speed off down the long side so being able to regulate the rhythm and make sure my half halt still worked was key. I’ve got more work to do on that for sure! Jeremy said that once I feel more comfortable I should start getting a bit greedy and challenge the degree of the bend and ask for a bit more steepness.
Lastly, we revisited the Canter-Walk/Walk-Canter transitions. I told Jeremy that in my lessons with M I’m still not quite sure if I’m getting the correct walk with enough energy for a good transition. I don’t really have the feeling yet of what differentiates a “good walk” and a “mehh walk” and the quality of my up transitions are hit or miss. More miss of course, ha!
While we played with those transitions, Jeremy basically said that if my transition feels good with the canter being prompt and having energy, then I probably had the walk right. If it didn’t feel good and was stumble-y and not crisp then my walk wasn’t right. At first I thought this was a bit oversimplified, but thinking about it more, it actually does make sense. One of my transitions was a bit meh so he asked me:
J: “What did you think happened at that moment there?”
P: “He kinda shuffled into the canter, I wasn’t super crisp with my aids, and I leaned forward”
J: “Well yes, but he took a trot step before the transition. So come back to the walk and ask for a bit more march to his step. For you, I want you to lean back a bit more so you don’t tip forward”
The key take away I got is that I need to figure out what our baseline is so I have the same gauge for each time I do that transition. The transitions got better and I got a better feel of what I needed to look for in the walk. Andy, the one armed husband extraordinaire, got a ton of video for you so can watch this section of my lesson if you want!
We ended our lesson talking about how I can start asking Muze for a bit more energy and jump in his canter. He is limited by his bum leg, and doesn’t have a ton more to offer, but he still does a little bit and I can be a bit more insistent with him. We ran out of time for some sit trot work (THANK GOD I was so tired) but he said we would be sure to hit that next time I saw him.
What I was really surprised about is when Jeremy told me that I ride Muze well and he likes the way I ride him. He said that I obviously have a good feel and connection with him as he’s kind of a beast. He told me that I must be riding him strong enough because if you ride Muze too strong and are overbearing he usually just becomes dull and tunes you out, but if you don’t ride him strong enough he won’t do the work. I don’t think Jeremy is the type that gives compliments when they aren’t deserved soo…I’m just gonna take it.
Maybe I’m a better rider than I give myself credit for? Maybe its time I start believing in myself and my abilities a bit more! These rides with Muze and lessons with Jeremy have been so helpful and have help me grow as a rider. I’m looking forward to riding with Jeremy next time…even if he makes me sit the trot.