Trainer’s Analysis

One thing I adore about Trainer is that she is realistic. She doesn’t tell me I need a new horse, expensive saddle or some gadget. She has seen a lot and understands that Gem and I are learning a totally new discipline that is a lot different from endurance and we are both old birds with well ingrained bad habits. She also understands where a lot of my bad habits have come from: namely being extremely defensive with Gem.

However, she also is firm that these need to start going away ASAP and plans to hit us hard this summer to move us past this.

While we were zooming around her in our best endurance trot, we talked a lot about where we have come from, where we are now and where I want to go. Is it possible?

At the end of the lesson here was what Trainer had to say:

  • Gem hates and I mean HATES dressage with every fiber of her being. She is wicked smart and does not understand the point of it. As Trainer put it “Why should I halt when you are just going to ask me to walk again?” It just plain makes her angry which is part of what I am dealing with at home since that is all I can work on.
  • For my part, I overthink and under ride her during our dressage rides. I get tense and if it isn’t picture perfect I start to nit pick internally and that gets me frustrated. This makes me tense and then the wheels start falling off and that makes me even worse as my brain starts to go crazy about how bad I’m doing when instead I need to just take a deep breath and stop caring so much
  • Gem is one of the most sensitive horses she has dealt with and that is saying a lot. Every thought I have translates to her and she reacts. This is a great thing when things go well and just works against us when they don’t. She was watching us trot and could no longer tell who was setting who off. When we are in tune and on the same page it is magical. When we aren’t, it turns into a nightmare.
  • As such, my position needs to be spot on. When Gem doesn’t understand a cue she gets frustrated and tense and her response is to go faster. I know this. I’ve been dealing with it for 7 years. Problem is that my position isn’t solid enough yet to not be accidentally giving her cues I don’t mean to. So I’m telling her something I’m unaware of, she has no clue what I want and goes faster, I get tense because now she is rushing around and it spirals. I need to work really hard in keeping my position no mater what.
  • Gem does not tolerate my lower leg on her very well. We have come to terms with it at the walk but as soon as we trot she takes any lower leg as faster. This has created a braced and slightly forward leg on my part as I try to avoid the confrontation that putting my leg on creates. However this then tips me forward and allows me to curl up and become useless. We need to work on her allowing my leg at the trot to just rest against her. This will also allow us to start working more on our bend.

She doesn’t want to see us abandon dressage and neither do I. We just need to take a bit of a break and not focus quite so hard on it since it really just pisses the mare off.

  • Jumping makes Gem happy. Very happy. I never thought this would be the case. Ever. But Trainer says she is so happy when we do it that it is a pleasure to watch.
  • Why? On Gem’s part, it gives her busy brain something to work on. According to trainer jumping is a task based activity and Gem excels at this. She understands the point and is on board with it to the point where she has started to hunt the jumps down. 
  • On my part, the mere presence of obstacles allows me to focus on things outside of myself which forces me to relax and let go. My type A personality can kick in but now think about getting from A to B instead of nitpicking about everything along the way. I just plumb ride better when there are jumps around.
  • Am I great at jumping? Nope, but I’m getting a lot better! My biggest issue is trusting Gem and that is just going to take time. 

Jumping makes Gem happy. We need to be jumping more and begin to canter our courses. Using the jumps as a way to “hide” dressage work may just be the route to go. During our course work, I was balancing Gem and bringing her back to me using just my body and not getting grabby with my hands. Gem was happier. I was happier. It honestly was like I was riding two completely different horses: dressage Gem was braced, tense and ready for a fight while jumping Gem was loose, relaxed and listening.  She needs to learn to relax into the flat work too and I am not going to become a jumper, but I do need to take her opinions into the matter as well and right now Gem is telling me she does not want to be a dressage horse.

Am I giving up on Eventing? Nope. I think we are just going to approach it in a different manner and see how it goes.

I also asked Trainer at the end of the lesson if I could get some pro rides on Gem and return to a few lessons on her well trained horses. Getting someone on Gem who can ride her better and more confidently may help install some basics on her that I’m unable to do right now. 

So that’s the plan. Stick with my goals in Eventing: amoeba HT this fall and a hopeful debut at tadpole next summer. Get some pro rides for us both to level us back out. Hide dressage work in our jumping lessons. Have fun!

14 thoughts on “Trainer’s Analysis”

  1. Sounds like a GREAT training plan. I can’t wait to hear what your trainer’s rides on Gem are like! I think you two will hit your stride by fall and then you’ll absolutely take off when you do!

    For all the past comparisons we’ve made between our mares, I’m finally seeing a big difference: Q loves dressage and doesn’t enjoy jumping. She relaxes with dressage work and seems happy and secure. Jumping makes her tense and she looks for reasons to spook at the jumps. I think the minutia involved with dressage that doesn’t involve external stimuli gives her confidence. As you plan to use jumping to aid with better dressage, I hope dressage will help aid Q with confidence on trail.


    1. It will be interesting that’s for sure. Last time I had a “pro” on her, the pro got off handing me the train saying they never want to ride her ever again. She isn’t easy that’s for sure


  2. i love your trainer’s assessment and how you’re working it into your plan going forward! and totally agree about using ‘jumping’ as a task based activity to change the focus from bickering between horse and rider (something i do a lot of, if i’m being honest) and onto doing *fun* stuff.

    at some point my mare decided dressage could be a task based activity too – that i wasn’t halting her then walking off again specifically to piss her off, but that there would be something next, that it could be a little game, a puzzle. especially when we started first level stuff, not just endless 20m circles at trot, she really started to enjoy the dressage bc we were doing *things* instead of me just constantly fussing. the cool thing with using jumping the way you are describing above is that it can really help build that partnership, and maybe Gem will learn to accept your leg better through jumping, and maybe her more forward pace will start feeling more ‘normal’?


    1. I think the endless 20 m circles are really getting to her. We just aren’t at a place where we can do a lot of other things with it although doing more serpentines and figure 8 help. I honestly think she gets offended by it. Like I ask her to trot and she does then I ask for the walk and she is all “um you just said trot and I did leave me alone to do it!”

      We have a lot of work to do ahead of us but if we can keep it fun and relaxed it will all be worth it 🙂


  3. Sounds like a stellar plan and awesome trainer! Remember your last thought…have fun! When you allow yourself to relax and enjoy, Gem will soon follow suit.
    The great thing of eventing is the built in cross training. Gives purpose to the dressage work. Get creative with it. Since she is so smart, mixing everything up will work well for her I bet.


  4. Gem, like so many Arab and part-Arab mares that I know, sounds like the type of horse who would excel at working equitation, specifically because so much of it is task oriented. Fina, the gray Arab/Friesian mare that I work with, LOVES WE because she can figure out the “point” of each exercise and “get it”, which pleases her. She flunked out of a dressage program because it made her angry. (We have readdressed dressage and she is improving at it now, but we keep the sessions short and focused and move on to other things when she gets it.) FIna also excels at jumping and endurance!!!


    1. We will see how it goes. I’m a natural worrier when it comes to my horse. I’m always afraid I’m going to hurt her which is a bit ridiculous. Anyway….I don’t want to over stress her joints at this agency doing too much jumping but it’s only 2′ so I think it should be okah


  5. Good goals. I’ll be interested to see how the pro rides go. Jumping is definitely more fun than dressage. I have yet to meet a horse who LIKES dressage. I’ve been told they exist, but none of the ones I own or have ridden like it. Nilla likes being right so when we do dressage, she likes being told she did it right. The rest I think she could care less about.


    1. Gem likes to be left alone to do her job. In dressage work we are always changing it up and I think it frustrates her. In jumping work Inset the pace and point at a jump then get out of her way and let her do it.


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