The Lines That Make You Go, "Duh!"

Feb 20, 2013 - 4:09 PM
Photo by Amy Duckworth.

If you’ve never sat in on a lesson between two upper-level riders, I bet you’d think it’s really beautiful work, full of piaffing and passaging and half-passing and the upper echelons of dressage.

You’d be mistaken. I spend a remarkable amount of time in my lessons trotting a 20-meter circle and hoping that whichever horse I am on will put his or her head up, down or in, respectively.

What also happens in my lessons, 99 percent of the time, is being reminded of things I already know and have forgotten, or am not doing enough, or am doing too much. A little bigger, a little smaller, a little higher, a little lower, give, not that much!, etc.

But there’s that 1 percent of the time where I hear something NEW, or if not new, at least revolutionary. And it’s almost inevitably something really, really simple, which makes me feel really, really stupid. Today, it was a brilliant little nugget on the transition from extended trot to passage.

Michael: Pretend like you’re going to bring him back for one step of walk.
Midge: (executes it perfectly)
Me: (dies)

Here are a few other DUH one-liners that changed my life:

- A stroke of brilliance from Max Gahwyler during my young rider days: In the canter pirouettes, look where you’re going.

- From Lendon Gray: When you school trot extensions (or mediums, or lengthenings) on the diagonal, bring your horse back at X for a couple of steps every time. When you show, he’ll half-halt himself, and you can just push your leg on and find a whole new gear.

- Not sure who this is from, but if your horse tends to fall to the inside in the half-pass, sit to the outside.

What’s the training one-liner that turned your training around?


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