Dec 26, 2011 - 2:29 PM
Photo by Susan J. Stickle.

Every trainer has their soundbites, their one-, or two-, or three-liners about training, about how to think about an element of riding or an exercise. Some of our lines are borrowed from the trainers who made us; some we come up with on our own.

One of my students suggested I assemble a book of “Laurenisms.” I don’t think there are quite enough for a book, but there are certainly enough for a blog post. So here’s an abbreviated list of Laurenisms, some of my own mind, some stolen (and credited when I can), all regular fixtures in my lessons. 

- “Sit like there’s $100 bucks under your butt.” This one’s my own, and I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. I usually add that if it flies out, I’m going to take it and go shopping for shoes. Oooh, shoes!

- “Contact like you’re rolling a shopping cart down a hill.” If you don’t keep enough contact, the cart will roll away; if you take back too much, the cart won’t go anywhere. This one made it into Dressage Today!

- “Don’t be a clothespin on a bowling ball.” If you grip with your upper thigh, you’ll pop yourself right out of the tack.

- “When you take on the reins, he comes to you; when you give the reins, he stays.” This is a Pam Goodrichism, and I think it’s genius. Everything you need to know about self-carriage neatly wrapped up in one go.

- “Arms like rowing a boat.” Keep your elbows moving forward and back so they don’t lock up.

- “Get a tan on your forearms.” A twist on thumbs up.

- Two different ways to sit light for go: “…like you’ve taken a big breath of helium,” or, “…like there’s a thumbtack under your butt.” The rider should then sit heavy for whoa, but the horse should NOT whoa… “… like you’ve dropped an anchor off the back of a Jetski.”

- To encourage riders to look up, not down: “George Clooney is naked on the ceiling.” (A story about this one—I used this line at a clinic while teaching a teenager who asked, no kidding, “Who’s George Clooney?” Sigh.)

- “It takes two to pull.” This I’ve stolen from Madeleine Austin, my friend Liz Austin’s mom, and it’s one of my FAVORITES.

- This one maybe isn’t the most PC, but it’s a playground lesson on neck length: Think of two kids playing on the teeter-totter. If the fat kid sits on the end, no matter how hard he tries, the skinny kid won’t be able to get him up off the ground. But if that fat kid gets closer to the fulcrum, the skinny kid will have a much easier chance. Of course, the neck can’t get too short. But when it gets too long, particularly in the not-yet-finished horse, the hind end can’t get the front end off the ground.

- “Don’t be a girth.” This is shameless theft from Lendon Gray, who described the process of tacking a young horse for the first time: You put the surcingle on and girth it up, and the horse gasps and sputters and bucks and snorts and is convinced you’re trying to squeeze the life out of it, only to eventually settle in and become immune to the girth’s pressure. This is to keep a rider from keeping an aid on all the time, making the horse numb to its use.

- To keep activity within a gait: “Think of trotting barefoot on hot beach sand.”

- “Arms like a zombie movie.” With all due respect to the German masters, it is impossible to sound cool saying the word “überstreichen.” My way, while definitely not elegant or classy, is a bit more fun.

- The compass: Imagine a compass on your horse’s neck, with his ears as North and his tail as South. Your hands are to move to the East, West, North, Northeast and Northwest much more than they move South, Southeast or Southwest.

- “Pamela!” As in Anderson. I don’t feel this needs further explanation.

- “Get his nose dirty.” In the stretchy circle, try and get the horse to get footing up his nose by reaching as faaaaar down as possible. This is a variation on a Conrad Schumacher chestnut: “Let him seek mushrooms!”

- One of my personal favorites, because it’s utter nonsense: “Be a quiet monkey!” I have NO idea where this image came from—there might have, hypothetically, been wine involved—but think of jogging with a monkey in a backpack. If the monkey tries to match your stride—and inevitably is slightly off, essentially jumping around on your back—you’ll find it very distracting and hard to relax into. But if the monkey just bobs along following your motion, you can run with ease. This one’s for the riders who try to drive with their seats.

- Last but not least, a few made-up words. After my lessons with Steffen Peters last month, I’ve been on a gigundo-schooling-pirouette kick, including one at the trot. I call it the “trotouette!” (TROT-oh-wet) There’s also “whoever” (WOH-ver), a combination of whoa and over, particularly useful in the leg yield to keep the shoulders from leading too much. And while all of these are real words, they certainly don’t make any sense in a dressage setting, which doesn’t stop me from using them all the time: gooey, marshmallowy and fluffy.

A special nod to Allison and Stephanie, my amazing working students, for their assistance compiling this list. They had WAY too good a time mimicking all the other doofy things I say regularly: “Get ‘er done!” “Good for you!” “Aww, poor snuggles! Suck it up!” “Whoa, Seabiscuit,” and “Don’t be a ding-dong!” to name a few.


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