Tuesday 12 July 2016

Reining Lesson #2

(Not a true reining lesson, just a lesson with a reiner because we don't have a dressage trainer, previous lesson was two and a half weeks ago)

I had another lesson with the barn owner T this week. I wanted to work more on canter transitions, but Kachina was pretty tense so we ended up doing a lot of work at the trot and didn't get to the canter. That's sometimes just how it goes and it was still a good lesson.

The theme of the day was to let go of my outside rein. At the walk, I can ride with any length of rein I choose, from a fairly short frame, to completely loose on the buckle. However, at the trot, I can't seem to be able to give up my reins. It's a self-fulfilling cycle whereby Kachina gets tense, bunches up, and starts to race at the trot so I need my reins, but I'm using my reins too much with contributes to Kachina getting tense. Additionally, I overuse my outside rein compared to my inside so I end up tipping her nose to the outside and the counterbend helps nobody.

T had me loosen my outside rein and hold my outside hand forward so that the rein was on the edge of being floppy. This of course isn't how you ride in dressage, and it shows T's reining background. However, as T explained, I don't need to ride like this forever, I just need to do it long enough to kick my habit of relying on the reins too much. Instead, I need to make sure that I am sitting back, relaxed in my seat, and looking up to keep Kachina's speed and direction under control. My inside rein shouldn't stay tight either but if I can squeeze on it as much as needed to make sure I'm maintaining the correct bend and can see Kachina's inside eye. Pretty much all we worked on was doing a calm circle of trot with keeping my outside rein loose, but that was SO HARD!

The fact that it was so difficult to give up my outside rein shows that I am too reliant on it. The outside rein is a very important tool in dressage, but if I can't control how much I am using it, I can't use it as an effective tool. This is a good wake up call.

Google made an automatic panorama compilation of three photos I took of
Kachina running in the pasture - I think it looks pretty cool!

In striving for a relaxed trot with a loose rein, I was doing walk transitions every time Kachina was getting too fast and away from me. There were several times where T was telling me my reins were too tight and my excuse was that they were tight for that time because I was asking for a downward transition. Kachina is quite good at listening to my seat, but I can't get her to transition down off my seat alone, it does need some rein. However, it shouldn't be taking me multiple strides to get her to come down to walk. The fact that this was happening didn't really click with me until the end of the lesson but it's an important realization. Regardless of how tense she is or how loose my reins are, I should be able to get Kachina to slow right up the second I ask. It might not be a nice balanced transition on the bit (for now), but her response to me asking needs to be a lot more immediate. Really, with Kachina, it's probably better to have her almost over-react to a slow down command, so that I can add more leg later. I've inadvertently been allowing Kachina to become dead to my half halts so that needs to stop now. A lot of prompt transitions are in our future.

I know training horses and ourselves as riders is not a steady even progression, but it's annoying to figure out that I've recreated past problems while working on improving something else (we had developed a better half halt before). On the bright side, I've already mostly eliminated doing that thing where I lift my inside arm up and bring it across my body that T called me out on last lesson.


  1. The prompt halt/down transition is a struggle for me too. I've also apparently forgotten how to tell a horse to go. Oops. These lessons sound very interesting and while they are a little atypical it does sound like they are useful.

    1. Stinker and Kachina sound like they are similar horses in that they like to get tense and hurried.

      The lessons are good, I think I'm at a point in my riding where I can benefit even if it's from a different discipline. I use T's feedback to tell me what I'm doing with my body that I might not be aware of, and then I can apply some dressage knowledge to read into what that might mean I need to do to improve on the dressage side. i.e. taking T's observation about my tight outside rein and figuring out that I need a more effective half halt so I can get off the rein. It's unconventional, but it's what I have to work with so doing the best I can to make it work :)