Thursday, 6 November 2014

Doing less to get more

Trainer has an interesting philosophy in riding life.  Do what you have to do, when you have to do it, and no more.  That means there are times when you just sit there.  He likes to snicker and tell us he's a lazy person, but too, that the hardest thing we all have to learn is to do nothing when the time calls for it.

This is at direct odds from our previous instruction, where we were forever doing something. If nothing was going on, that was a very bad thing indeed.  There was always a list of tasks to accomplish: in the corner, take back, then come lightly forward through the turn. Steady after the jump. Half halt on the approach. You can't just canter along and enjoy the ride, for heaven's sake, you are riding! Do something!

But with Trainer the approach is different.  Let the horse find his own balance, stop trying to help him so much, let him fall flat on his face a few times until he figures out where his legs are - it will make him, and you, better in the long run.  Don't take back in the corner. Just stay on your rhythm, relax your elbow, let the flow happen.  There is no need to interrupt the rhythm on the approach unless you actually see that you need to adjust your distance.  Accept whatever distance you've gotten yourself to in the last stride.  Once you've jumped the jump, decide then, and only then if you need to steady, if you need to go, or if you just need to sit there.

This has been the focus of my lessons over the past couple of weeks.  Where everyone else is flatting, I'm constantly jumping.  Trainer has said I know enough about what he's working on with everyone else, so we're working on something else.  I guess this is complimentary, and the jumping is definitely something I need work on.  And oh, it is hard.  I'm a control loving perfectionist.  I love my perfect distances, my perfect rhythm and the perfect ride.  Trainer has made it his goal to get me over that and just allow things to happen, to stop chasing the fence and the distance, to stop anxiously looking so hard for it and just letting the pace and rhythm dictate everything.  His big thing, which he isn't wrong about (when is he ever wrong?!), is that I block with my elbow coming through the turn.

Curious Pony roaming free in the barn aisle...

Of course, this hearkens back to the way I learned to come at a jump, which is to collect through the turn and come forward out of it.  It's ingrained, seriously.  So guess what I get to do all the time now? Jump singles off the turn on a forward rhythm that isn't too forward but isn't blocking.  This has involved me feeling like I'm flapping my elbows around like a chicken and letting Riley fall on his face a few times.  He didn't like that much, and doesn't do it so often now.  It's actually improved his jumping a lot - and mine, too.  I don't start messing with the canter so much, and just let whatever happens, happen.  Oddly enough, with the tiniest of adjustments, it works out to be The Perfect Distance about 95% of the time.

In slightly amusing things that I'd like to remember for awhile, at the end of a lesson the other day I was chatting with Trainer, and asked if he thought if I could be a 1.20m rider next year.  To which he said, "you already ARE a 1.20m rider, look at ze other riders at the show doing 1.20. You have ze education and ability to do beyond zat already. Do not mistake your abilities with ze abilities of your 'orse." To which we discussed Riley's tendency to say no to bigger jumps if they are not met with complete and perfect accuracy. But that's another story, I suppose.

I also enjoy? torture myself with? keep an eye on the market...? by looking at cute horses for sale approximately every day of my life, particularly ones that I think would possibly be suitable for myself.  Mostly, I get depressed when I see their price tags. Obviously I can't make a move toward buying one just yet, what with still owning Tigger, and my entire budget tied up there.  There are some horses I've fallen across that I've liked and watched their videos a few times and even asked about price on one or two.  

But the other day I fell across one that I completely cannot stop thinking about.  He's in the Netherlands, he's young but apparently super straightforward and brave, and scopey scopey scopey. He ticks all my boxes - he's fancy, he's small(ish... I like the 16-16.2 ones!), he's quick and blooded but not crazy looking, he's super super cute, beautifully bred, and apparently very sweet and kind and jumps from anywhere.  He's shown up to 1.15 and has very obvious scope for a lot more.  I inquired about him, somewhat seriously. In an interesting twist of fate he is listed for the exact price that I'm trying to sell Tigger for, including import costs.

The chances of this horse being around by the time Tigger sells are small.  He's a really nice horse listed with a busy sales agent and I suspect he will fly off the shelf. But you never know.


  1. Enjoying your lesson recaps - so many great tips :) Love your trainer too. Best of luck with the buying/selling thing :)

  2. Fingers crossed for the Dutch horse, sounds like to see how things play out.

    Your trainer sounds so cool, the more you share about him the more I'd love to rode with him. Besides that being impossible due to obvious location issues, it would also never happen if i were nearer due to intimidation stuffs. In saying all that it sounds like I could slot quite easily into his way of doing things. I am definitely way too sloppy a rider for him to ever work with me, but doing nothing coming into a face and letting the horse figure it out is something I am very good at - counting strides etc forget it. Have yet to learn how to do that, although I have never actually been taught either - just as well i sadly don't often get to jump anymore. Poor Kika though as fences are her calling in life :(

  3. Love that riding philosophy! Fingers crossed on that special horse forya.

  4. Love your trainer's "do nothing" approach when it's called for! Thank you for sharing all the valuable info via your lesson recaps. And happy horse shopping! It's fun to peruse the options daily :)

  5. doing nothing is SO hard lol - i tend to panic and pick pick pick... but will try to keep some of your points above in my head. sounds like you're getting a lot out of these lessons (and Riley too!) even if it wasn't what you expected to work on. definitely keep the recaps coming!

    and that's both exciting and depressing about the dutch horse... my fingers are seriously crossed for you that Tigger finds his new person soon!

  6. I've talked about a similar theory of not doing too much with my Trainer. Interesting how some things about riding are so similar, no matter what discipline you ride.

  7. I saw your trainer made the LGCT final in Doha, how exciting. I hope all goes well for him & his gorgeous girl