Go forward. NOW.

Well, I got my butt kicked tonight.  And that’s just fine – don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  In my lesson tonight, Christy set out to illustrate to me the degree to which I have a lack of forward.   After we warmed up, Christy ratcheted up our trot work, tightening the screws with every turn of the arena.  It wasn’t until Maddie spooked that I got some decent, forward trot.  As I took a quick walk break, Christy pointed out to me how hard I had been working.  “I saw you kicking. I heard you clucking.  You got nothing from her, except ‘the hoof!’ ”  (which is our euphemism for a horse giving you the bird.)

Christy was right – I was working hard to get anything – bend, contact, leg yield – from the mare.  And the biggest problem was the fact that I didn’t have her moving sufficiently forward.  As a result, everything was more difficult.

Panting, we did some more trot work. Mads continued to be spooky and stupid at one end of the arena, so I put her to work, doing smaller, 12M circles and figure-8’s.  As I got after her, I could feel her back come up, and the noises from the middle of the arena took an approving tone.

“There! Nice!” said Christy.  I was remembering to use my half-halt, to balance the trot. “That’s a round horse!”

I was also using the whip.  It’s been a while since I even touched Mads with it.  Tonight, I gave her a couple good smacks when my requests for more forward were ignored.  She hopped forward, and maintained the increased pace pretty well.    But, as Christy noted, Mads has become as dull as a doorknob.   Reminding her that I have the whip, and will use it, will be necessary as we re-establish our forward gears.

Tonight’s lesson was a great illustration of how lax I’ve allowed Maddie to become.   Though we’ll probably have the next few days off due to super-frigid temperatures, I’m hoping to ride Friday, and get back to work.  It’s time to move forward!

About Sarah Skerik
Sarah Skerik is an experienced digital marketing executive and strategist with a long track record of success in content marketing, social media, demand generation, event marketing, sales enablement, product management and business development.

8 Responses to Go forward. NOW.

  1. I have a very forward horse, as anyone who has ridden Cloud or seen Cloud ridden can tell…he’s got a lot of go. Mostly I just think trot, think canter, and I move up in the rank of gaits. I’m more of a half halt girl myself, but when I started in dressage I rode other horses, and one had no go whatsoever. And my at-the-time trainer told me that every once in a while, you really need to surprise them with the whip. She said if you get a response of a too-big rush forward, or even a buck…as much as it sucks in the moment you are doing yourself a favor. Sounds like Christy is saying the same thing…Maddie should be working as hard, if not harder than you…and I didn’t see her panting yesterday 😛

  2. Sarah Skerik says:

    You’re right Liz. And Mads wasn’t always a dead-head. This is my fault. She was beautifully forward last year. I know my life will be easier if I can get those gears re-calibrated!

  3. CHG says:

    Girl – I so feel for ya. Vigo is the same way! It’s my #1 goal with him. I want to be able to put my leg on him and have him GO! How is it that we got the dull-sided TBs? It makes me wonder if it is just an ‘uneducated’ thing. I’m telling myself I just need to educate him to my leg more. Gotta get that done….

    • Steph says:

      At least for me, I had my TB really nicely responsive to me for a while, and then I gradually started letting him get away with a slower response for a bit while I worked on something else, and now while we’re not as bad as he once was, it’s not nearly as nice as it once was either. I think sometimes we focus on other things and start accepting the “good enough” response and then over time we look back and are like, “what happened?!”

  4. Jess says:

    my mare and I have the same problem. some days, when she has on her “Arabian danger face” (I’m sure TBs have a corresponding mood), we get a beautiful, floaty, forward trot. Then again, we also get teleported around the arena when she imagines something scary outside. Other days I am definitely working harder than she is. I have to remind myself that I need to expect things to happen NOW, mare, thanks. We do so easily make our horses dead to our legs without noticing it! And it’s so so hard to ride correctly when they’re not forward. I agree with the comment above that a bolt forward or a buck as a response to the whip is a better immediate response (no matter how much of a pain) than the constant laziness!

  5. Sarah Skerik says:

    I just have to say, I’m so glad that I’m not alone!

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