Monday, February 21, 2011

How To Plan A Ride

"Dressage horse?  Where?  I'm just a fuzzy, muddy pet."

Step 1:  Analyze your horse's training level extensively.  Plot out your training goals.  Plan every movement for your ride.

Step 2:  Get on your horse.

Step 3:  Realize your horse is too tense/rushing/stiff/sore/pigheaded and you are too out of shape/tired cold/hot/cranky to keep to "The Plan".  Scrap the plan and ride the horse you're on.

Ah, "Ride the horse you're on".  I tell myself that all the time, usually when things aren't going my way.    I've been telling myself that a lot here lately.

This winter has been hard.  Snow, ice and frigid temperatures have conspired to keep me out of the saddle.  Then I got the plague, which kept me out of the saddle longer. 

When I finally got back to riding this week, I found a horse that had a lot more energy than I had.  Unfortunately, none of that energy was focused.

After a short warm up (short because he was ready to go and I needed to shorten the reins and put him to work), I started to work on walk-trot transitions.  I got canter.  I decided to go with it.  It wasn't my plan, but at least it was something.

At first, I got carried around the arena by a horse with a lot more forward momentum and energy than I had.  I was struggling to keep up, wondering what to do with all this energy.  We were careening around, it wasn't good.  I was getting tense, Spider was getting tense because I was tense.  Things were just not going my way. 

Sometimes, it's good to remember that there is a living, thinking creature at the end of those reins.  In between that expensive, highly engineered ergonomic bit and that flashy, Swarovski crystal emblazoned  bling-bling browband there is a brain.  A brain that is completely alien to ours.  That brain has its own agenda.  It has it's own wants, needs, language and personality and they are different from our own. 

And so, I let go of my plan.  I relaxed, I put my energy into my seat.  I had a horse that wanted to canter, so I focused the canter.  I took the canter down the long-side, lengthened it.  I brought it back.  Then I did it again. 

That's all we did.  Just cantering.  Lengthening the canter and then bringing it back.  I focused on keeping the tempo regular, his frame good, my position good and overall just letting the energy flow.  I think he needed it.  Later on , when we're both a little more fit, we'll work on the more precise stuff.

I must say, I had a hell of a good time blasting down the long side on a horse with too much energy.  I highly recommend it.


  1. I feel giddy just reading about it! Sounds wonderful and oh so fun. Lengthening and shortening the canter is hard - that's a great way to use the energy for a positive training experience.
    I think it's General MacArthur who is attributed with the quote "plans are useless, planning invaluable". I find this t be oh so true.

  2. Sounds like a great ride. I tend to over plan as well and I often end up telling myself to ride the horse I have that day. It sounds like the horse you had today was a blast!

  3. Good move! Glad you had the footing to handle Spider's energy so you could just "go with the flow" and use it to get something done--even if it wasn't according to plan. *G*

    Up here, I'm still waiting for the arena snow to melt. And waiting for the next round of white stuff to snow...I mean show up.

    Glad you rode the horse you were on. You made the best of it, that's for sure.

  4. The best laid plans...Sounds like you had a lot of fun with the canter today. Sometimes it's just more fun to go with it when they have the energy even if you don't.

  5. I love the fuzzy, muddy pet photo. Best thing is that it won't be to far in the future when our boys will be struting thier shiney, fit selves around the arena. But for now they ,mostly just get to be their fuzzy, dirty, horsey selves.

  6. You own a thoroughbred ^-^ I like how you repsect his nature and his needs, no point to pick a fight really. I read that for leading you need to :
    - follow,
    - match,
    - lead.

    Then the cycle starts again.
    I think it is what you did.

    That arena of yours is holding pretty well to the nasty weather!

  7. Haha, glad I'm not the only one who usually has to make last minute "adjustments" to the plan. Good riding!

  8. Yep I get a few of those rides :) It keeps you on your toes and being able to change plans quickly!

  9. Riding the horse we're on is so important. I think it's alwasy the first step to finding that great ride. Good for you.

  10. I have honestly never thought of it like that... Ride the horse you are on. That is magnificently simple and yet so very brilliant. I always find myself comparing my rides on Frank to the previous one. While I understand that this is an important part of progressing and developing the horse, fixation on the past is, well, not. Thank you for this blog post!

  11. Great post! I think 'ride the horse you are on' is one of the greatest game changers in progressing as a rider. I probably heard it a hundred times before the light bulb went on one day and my riding changed for the better.

  12. I also had to laugh at your 'fuzzy muddy pet' photo caption...that just says it all these days. I look at photos I have from last summer of my own 'fuzzy muddy pet' and find it hard to believe that he is the same horse right now!


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