Wednesday, May 30, 2018

One week in, three trainers later

A few rides later, and I was still struggling somewhat to get a handle on Moxie, but definitely starting to feel better.

Megan came out to help me first. She watched me ride her around, she might even have gotten on her, I can't quite remember now. There were some big things that we worked on, and it turns out I pretty much just needed to take that lesson about sixty times.

  • Moxie liked to go around in a pleasant frame, but it wasn't really connected or through. Once you asked her to connect in a lower place, she got pretty uncomfortable and would try to evade the contact in all sorts of ways. We worked a lot on riding her a little lower, a little more connected. I immediately proceeded to pervert this advice into real messy riding, but that's okay.
  • Moxie doesn't oscillate very well at the canter, so Megan wanted me to really exaggerate the correct movement of her head and neck. She told me to imagine swinging my elbows through my torso, that the torso could stay still and the elbows could swing through me. 
  • Moxie was also a little "zippy", and Megan wanted me to be sure I wasn't allowing her to blast around as a replacement for forward. She had to move off the leg respectfully, not zoom off into another planet. 
This is an excellent example of how I perverted Megan's advice. The reins are longer, so Moxie is lower in the connection.... right?

There's a trainer in the east bay that I've helped off and on for a year or so - it started because I'd often told her I'll sit on anything, so she had me ride some particularly challenging thoroughbreds and give me lessons in exchange. It works out really well for both of us. She's a silver medalist and pony clubber who has evented through preliminary, and she comes at a lot of the work with a really unique foundation of groundwork, so I learn a ton from her. I texted her pretty much straight away and asked if I could bring Moxie to her for a lesson.

The arena at A's barn is a little bit spooky to my senses, and bringing Moxie there showed me one of the best things about this mare: she pretty much unloads anywhere and asks, "what are we up to today?" In all the places I rode her, there was only one arena she struggled to settle in.

Moxie, clearly disturbed by the arena.

The biggest takeaways from this lesson were:

  • Moxie has a very tight canter without much flexion in her joints, so A prescribed lots of leg yielding in the canter to start to loosen her up. 
  • I really wanted to pull her onto the bit, so A had me do a half-bridge with the reins so that I couldn't pull my inside hand back, I could only open the rein. 
  • The saddle that Moxie came with was a no-go for me. We tried making it a bit better for my seat by raising the front, which improved my ability to get my leg on her, but I never really got comfortable. 
A blurry and embarrassing screenshot of me attempting to counter flex the mare in the canter

Cantering after we'd raised the front of the saddle. Still not exactly on the bit here...
Not one to give up at TWO trainers in one week, I scheduled a lesson three days later with a new-to-me trainer that a vet friend had recommended. "She's life-changing," my friend told me, "she'll just change one little thing and you'll wonder how you ever made it through before." 

This trainer has a pretty good track record of producing students, and she has an energy that is astonishing. She is wildly positive and encouraging, saying such things to me as, "I'll make you sit like a queen," and "oh, that's easy. You just look over there and voila! That's a leg yield." 

She makes dressage feel infinitely conquerable. I did end up riding with her again on my journey with Moxie, but this was the only lesson I had for a long time with her due to scheduling challenges. 

She told me, flat out, that Moxie was not on the bit at all. That I needed to get through to her, put her in a lower place. She had me do some mild counter flexion in the canter, coupled with leg yielding the canter to get her more flexible. She told me to move my arms in the canter as if I were the one moving her head up and down. 

After this whirlwind of lessons, I had some pretty good exercises in my toolkit, along with a better view of what I needed to be doing to help improve Moxie. I'd determined that of the three saddles I'd shown trainers, none of them worked all that well, but I did find one that was the best for the time being. 

In full disclosure, the photos shared at the top of the post were actually pulled from a video taken a week and a half AFTER all these lessons. 


  1. I want to say that I did get on her that day but maybe not! If it was, it wasn't for long.

  2. A few rides later, and I was still struggling somewhat to get a handle on Moxie, but definitely starting to feel better.


  3. Always a good feeling to learn new tools for the toolbox!