Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Three lessons on Jr: Tanya 1

I’m writing this after both days of a clinic with Tanya Vik, so it’s possible the two days will run into one another, although I took pretty good notes after the first lesson. 

Tanya asked me a little about me and about Jr and our goals together and what I wanted to work on, (the short version: Jr is an ex-hunter and sort-of lesson horse I’m trying to do dressage on because it seems fun and I wanted to improve my lateral work) and then sent us off to watch us go around. When she reeled me back in, she told me yes, you definitely need some lateral work, and referred to Jr as altogether too “gumby-like” which was super accurate because I always feel a bit like he’s going 17 directions and I’m herding cats to stuff them back in the barn. 

She had us do this very small walking turn on the forehand exercise to get him a bit more alive to my leg, essentially I had to keep him straight with my outside rein, looking to the inside with the inside rein, and move him off my inside leg, and move him forward with my outside leg. Once we were about 15% okay at this she had me move directly from this to a leg yield from the centerline to the rail. Then she asked someone to find me a whip, which Jr took great offense to and tried to buck, but it was hilarious because I just find him a bit uncoordinated when he bucks. 

Tanya pointed out that I do the same thing with my whip as I do my leg -- I come a bit too far away, but my timing is such that I really want to make corrections at the right moment, but when my whip is hanging out by his shoulder, when I go to correct him and want to correct him RIGHT THEN I end up whacking him way harder than I meant to because of the speed I go to move. And I do the same thing with my lower leg, I come a bit too far away from his side, so when I go to aid, I end up jabbing him too aggressively because of my momentum. 

Fair point. So she asked me to carry the whip so it rested across the top of my thigh, in order to encourage me to simply touch him with the whip rather than bite him with it. She also had me hold the whip a bit farther from the end so I could use my thumb to control it. 

And then we come to my favorite part of the day’s lesson, which was a beautiful image of straightness. 

She asked me to imagine that the horse is comprised of building blocks. Their haunches, their loin, their barrel, their withers, their neck, their head. Inside each building block is a small hole, designed for energy to flow through. As a rider, we have to get all of these building blocks lined up in order for the energy to come from the hind end and into our hands. So when he throws his shoulders around, or gets a kink in his hind end, what’s happening is he’s blocking that energy because all the pieces aren’t lined up in a straight way. 

So she then asked me to ride the horse as one unit, with these shifting pieces to sort of stuff back into line, and once they were in line, increase the energy coming through as if that energy were the glue that was going to hold everything together. 

And I’ll be damned: the horse came over his back and totally went to work, with much less fussiness to the contact and wild-eyed staring off into the distance. 

There was one very funny moment though, where Jr looked at something mid-transition and became super rigid in his topline, and Tanya asked me what happened. I sighed and said that I yanked on the right rein and fell behind the motion. She laughed and told me that he got distracted, the blocks fell out of alignment, and THEN he trotted, rather than me bringing him together again before putting the energy forward. I’m so ready to blame myself for everything that goes wrong, which is super helpful in a lot of ways, but also is a bit tough sometimes when horses are just being horses. 

Also seriously who IS this horse?! (Details... forthcoming.... ;) 


  1. I love when the magic comes together! I tend to do the same thing with the whip

  2. Gah, can't wait to see who the horse is

  3. I LOVE the building blocks analogy, it's such an awesome visual! I think TC gets his shoulder block clogged with tension and then upsets all his blocks in order to get them in line again. Gah, he could just unclog himself without doing that...

  4. Sounds intense but awesome!!! Also I can't wait to hear more about that last horse!