Back In the Dressage Tack

I have minimal media so instead you get pictures from our latest hike to Chimney Rock, NC where Wyatt impressed the crap out of me hiking all the way to the top on his own. I can’t figure out the stupid new wordpress app to add captions to the photos so sorry they won’t be there.

In an effort to ride more often, I passed on my typical Tuesday run/workout and dressed in my riding duds instead. We won’t get better without practicing and now that the evenings are cooler I feel the urge to hop on her once again.

The weed field is still not mowed and my patience with it all is wearing thing. Not much I can do since I don’t own the place though. Instead I decided to ride in the pasture which not only solves the issue of the weeds, but also gives me fences. While it is still 3 acres, at least the fence line gives us a hard stop should Gem decide to bolt on me. The mere fact that they are there boosts my confidence quite a bit.

Typically I really dislike riding in the pasture. That’s her safe spot, her place of rest. But you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes and it’s my only option at the moment.

So anyway, last night I tacked her up in the dressage tack for the first time in months. My only goal was to work on my position. I need to train my legs to go back more instead of bracing out in front of me.

Gem wasn’t so pleased with my idea of riding after dinner in her pasture. She was moody and tense. Since I was planing on working on me, I didn’t really care if we did anything but walk. This was an introduction to working at home and my expectations were low.

I began walking her and immediately halted to check the status of my breaks. One thing I am really proud of is her halt these days. Before lessons, a halt was a suggestion she ignored. Now, even when tense or angry, she halts immediately with just the lightest aid.

From there I focused on my position. My upper body has really come a long way and gently following elbows are almost an immediate thing that requires no thought now. It feels really good.

My lower legs are now the biggest issue. I tend to move them forward and brace against the stirrup which isn’t good and this is a habit I really want to break before the end of the year.

The issue is Gem.

She hates my legs against her. Which came first, her hating it so I moved them forward or me having my legs forward making her hate it when they are back, is up for grabs but either way the result is the same. I move my lower leg back and under me and Gem tenses and speeds up. Riding a tense horse is no fun. Typically I’d move my leg off her and she’d calm down, but that would have defeated the entire purpose of my ride.

Instead I persisted. I kept my leg on and used about eight million half halts in an attempt to settle her. All I wanted was a calm and even walk while my legs stayed on her and I would be done.

Let me back up a bit. By legs being on her I don’t mean clamped or asking her to move. I mean having my lower leg under my hip in neutral alignment with my calf lightly against her side prepared to ask for movement. You know. Like a normal person rides.


At one point I thought I’d let her trot a bit to help her relax. Boy was that a bad idea. All I felt was vertical energy with no forward motion. No bucking or rearing. Just tiny little shuffling steps and all this energy being contained. I felt like I was riding a powder keg.


Back to the walk now adding in a lot of transitions. Even though she was really tense, she still halted perfectly every time. I was so happy with her and she got a ton of praise for it.

I decided against trying for any bend on a circle as actually using the inside leg made everything that much worse. Working on relaxation and acceptance of my leg walking in a big loopy circle with a lot of halts and changes in direction was the best bet.

After about 30 minutes she lowered her head and made it one way around without jigging or breaking to trot. So we ended it there with a lot of praise.

It wasn’t the best ride, but there was a lot to be happy with. Her halts for starters. The fact that I neither caved and took my leg off to avoid the issue nor lost my temper and persisted on a losing path. The fact that she relaxed and did what I asked at the end. Heck, the fact that I rode at all on a Tuesday at home.

I hope to slowly build on this ride and get her to slowly accept what I’m asking. I know that riding more often at home will help in general as she learns she has to do it. I’m not sure when my next lesson will be due to scheduling conflicts so for now at least it’s just the two of us figuring it all out.

12 thoughts on “Back In the Dressage Tack”

  1. Having her that in tune with your leg will be a good thing once she lets go of the tension! Keep at it 🙂 I know it’s frustrating.

    I can’t believe Wyatt walked all the way up there. I would have died. The view was gorgeous though.


  2. lol agreed completely on feeling somewhat oddly more secure when there are fences. seems like a really productive ride too in terms of setting expectations and boundaries for Gem, awesome that she settled into it so well by the end! in some ways the way you describe her with accepting the leg reminds me of that Shen horse i rode in a dressage clinic last summer. she wanted like, ZERO leg – and it was soooooo hard for me to ride bc i tend to be a little clingy in the leg department lol.


    1. Yeah Gem needs no leg but then I’m left without an aide for bending and lateral work has been nonexistent so mare needs to learn to chill. She is beginning to get it at the walk which is good. Slow progress


    1. I generally hate doing it mostly because I believe it is her resting place but also I don’t like tearing up the grass. No other choice at the moment. Once the guy mows the field I can go back to using that and I have a bunch of ideas of how to section off an arena temporarily


  3. Charlotte Dujardin says that hot horses need to learn to be ridden with leg on and pokey horses need to learn to be ridden with the leg off (or something like that). Carmen was a lot like Gem. Now, when she’s tense and I put my leg on it relaxes her – it’s like ‘oh you’re there. good’. Keep it up. It will be better with practice.


  4. Good for you for persisting with keeping your leg on. It will hopefully get easier as Gem gets more accepting of some leg contact. I hope that your field gets mowed soon so you have somewhere else to ride.

    I know that powder keg feeling and I hate it too.

    Very nice pictures from your hike! That’s a lot of stairs.


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