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Ride great on my own . . . suck in lessons

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  • Ride great on my own . . . suck in lessons

    Does anyone else have this problem? I keep my horses at home and I swear that I ride so much better on my own than when I'm in a lesson. In a lesson I feel like a total beginner who can barely steer and go straight. At home I get good work out of my horses and I ride them differently than in my lessons. My coach has a very specific "program" and while I understand what she wants intellectually speaking, my body (or old riding habits, I guess . . . and my gut, too) just doesn't play along.

    In my lessons I feel stiff and uncoordinated; at home I feel relaxed and with the horse. There are some things I do at home that I don't get to do in lessons (my pattern of warming up, for example, or cavaletti), which I'm sure has something to do with it. But I find it very discouraging. I like to take lessons and I'm a good student (listen, apply, do homework, improve, etc.) but I feel like the effort I put forth at home in my schooling doesn't show in my lessons because I don't really get to ride "my" way, if that makes sense (aforementioned warm-up patterns, cavaletti, transitions, figures, etc.) - mostly we go around in a 20-m circle . . . around and around and around and around . . .

    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

  • #2
    I have just the opposite problem, but it sounds like your trainer and you might be a mismatch, for all that you see the point of her program.

    I just won't take lessons from someone who does the 20-m circle. . . around and around and around and around . . . type of lesson anymore.

    This is one of the reasons why I like the jumpers trainer I work with. Today's lesson, for example, did incorporate a lot of circle-ish figures a bit bigger than 20 m, but (a) we switched directions at every one, (b) he added three closely-spaced trot poles at the middle section, which I treated as a straight line rather than part of a circle and (c) as we straightened towards the trot poles, he had me really compress maresy's trot so she wouldn't send the poles flying, and keep it that way until the new bend was established, at which point I was to ask her to lengthen back out. He is very big on horses being adjustable, which is of course essential for jumpers. What I got from this was: a horse who used her hind end much better and much more in response to my cues, "got" inside-leg-to-outside-rein (which can be a struggle for me), and a vastly improved canter circle in each direction, minus the poles, at the very end. (She has been having problems holding the canter -- related to her earlier soundness issues -- but today she held it for the whole circle and responded to a half-halt during that circle by rounding up and reaching under and using that little Morgan butt, rather than breaking to the trot.)
    You have to have experiences to gain experience.

    1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


    • #3
      Post #3 reported.


      • #4
        I can totally relate!

        Here's my theory:

        The very act of listening to and processing instructions cancels out the feel you have when you are riding on your own. It's really hard to relax under such scrutiny.

        When you ride on your own, I think you get to process and incorporate the lessons in a different part of your brain.

        I used try to get on early enough to be totally warmed up before the lesson time. My pattern was to do WTC in both directions in my warm up, or else I would get stuck on the right lead canter and never get it. It would piss me off when the trainer showed up early and started coaching.

        Now I have physical limitations that prevent me from getting much out of lessons. I can't do any one thing for very long. My riding has turned to sort of a dressage/hunt seat hybrid. If I truly sit the canter, I get sore. Honestly, I'm kind of happy I have a good excuse not to lesson. I pay my trainer for rides, and boy, do I benefit from what she puts into him. Consequently, my riding has really improved.

        I will share kind of an aha moment in one of my lessons. She was having me do the circle thing, trying to get him on the bit. He was still pretty green at that point and it was not easy for him. I was only riding once a week, and dealing with chronic pain, so it was even harder on me. I just stopped and said, you know, I'm not going to show him, and I don't ride enough to get good right now, so is it that important to get him on the bit? Would it hurt his training to let him poke his nose out while I get him forward and work on myself? She said, I never thought of it that way. And after that my lessons were so much more fun.

        Don't be afraid to say something.
        2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

        A helmet saved my life.


        • #5
          I agree with pp that your instructor might not be a good match for you. Although she may be a great instructor, and her program may work for a lot of people and horses, that doesn't mean that it's right for you.

          That being said, I personally feel that my current instructor is a good match for me, but I have a few issues that are worse in lessons. I tend to curl up and tuck my chin when I'm concentrating, and I concentrate more in lessons than I do on my own. Riding at home I'm also out in the open more, so I'm better about looking up than I am in the indoor. In the indoor I'm more likely to find my horse the most interesting thing to look at, and I tend to stare at her neck more.

          And I also agree that the endless 20M circles are really tedious. That can really get to a lot of horses and people after a while. Though that might be something you can discuss with your instructor and change about your lessons.
          "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
          -Edward Hoagland


          • Original Poster

            quietann, your lessons sound awesome and those are the kinds of exercises I like to work on at home. With my "made" horse I do poles on a circle, walk poles to trot poles, trot poles to walk poles, serpentines, figure 8s, TOF, TOH, lots of transitions, etc. With my green horse we work on figure 8s, "ice cream cone" changes of direction (that's what my old coach called them), trot poles, walk-halt-walk transitions, trot-walk-trot transitions, trot-walk-halt-walk-trot, etc. In my lessons we just go around and around on the circle, trying to work from inside leg to outside rein and straightness. I get the need for that, but I think that there are other ways to get the same result and I find it frustrating. For me, only being on the 20-m circle and not doing exercises takes away my gut feeling of how to ride an exercise. I do have feel and know when I get the right movement, but sometimes I think that focusing on an exercise produces the result without trying so hard with the body - does that make sense?
            "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


            • #7
              Could be you and this instructor dont mesh -I took a lesson with 3 different higher level trainers - two dressage and an eventer trainer. One had me hold my horse in the mouth and walk for like 30 minutes and trot for like 15 holding my horse in the mouth on a circle. I felt humiliated when I left. I am the kind of person who takes things really to heart and tries to be a real learner. I thought - ok, I must be totally lost in the last 8 years since I was riding 3rd level and jumping at misc rated shows. I must have lost everything.... and I really felt down.

              So the next trainer had me and a different horse I have working well above where he was at and she had me riding perhaps as opposite the first one as possible - so I thought then - I guess I need to go home and work more with him before I put him through that again - I felt far better about my riding - but I felt like we were not ready for this amount of demand. He nor I. Took the first horse to a third trainer and it was GREAT. I felt like it took 1-2 lessons and he and I were where I had imagined we should be and he is now moving along a little every week visibly and it's fun. The other two trainers are very well reputed but just a bad fit I guess at least at that time.

              Another thought - maybe you could pay a little extra to have the trainer come to you - maybe you are a bit tense and your horse makes it worse reacting to you?


              • #8
                And when I say hold in the mouth - I mean she did not want me to move a THING - no softening-nothing - just hold. And we stayed on a 20 meter circle the entire hour.

                I will say that as an instructor - I have a lot of totally green riders and I spend a lot of time on the lunge or in the round pen on circles so I can work on basic equitation and try to help them get to a place where they are safe to go practice patterns in the arena. Then I teach them serpentines and diagonals and how to ride a circle and give them easy 'patterns' to trot and navigate and all that. I really feel like it is disheartening for beginners to also spend all their time on a circle.

                I have a few horses who go dull and sour on a circle all the time as well.

                I guess there are times to stay in a circle a lot. I have a few students who are learning to put their horses on the bit and ride into some level of connection and it really helps keeping them on a circle because that geometry helps a lot. But I try to deal with the riders like I train horses - I dont stick on one thing for the whole time. I will do warmup - hack a minute - oxygenate - work on what we have been - hack a minute - oxygenate (means stretchy walk) - work on something new - cool out. I do the same thing when planning for a horse and planning for a rider.


                • Original Poster

                  Something else . . . I always get better scores at shows when I school and warm up myself - maybe I'm just more relaxed following what my usual program is?

                  I don't know . . . I don't know what it all means. Guess I'm just interested in knowing that I'm not alone or maybe I'm not in the right place??
                  "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


                  • Original Poster

                    LaraNSpeedy, that sounds like what we do with the contact and the circles. Sometimes we never get past trot. Sometimes I just want to chuck the reins and GO!

                    I hope it doesn't come across as bashing my coach because I don't intend this topic to be that. She is very intuitive and is really great at reading horses, seeing every movement, riding every step, and improving the gaits of her horses. I just feel like I'm her remedial student or something because we spend so much time on a circle at the walk and trot. And I've been riding for 30 years ("dressage" for almost 10).
                    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


                    • #11
                      If you are on those circles to learn connection and you have ridden 30 years - 10 years in dressage - my question then would be - how well does your horse respond to the work? Can he work ahead of your level? Maybe have the trainer get on him and ask for more and then have you get on and get what she got and see if you can feel a better connection?

                      I actually have 2 students who are starting to feel connection and ride their horses into the bridle and ask their horse to track under (this is not new - I mean all this together) and lift the back and stay soft and bending. I do not work the entire time on just that - I have them do snowman circles, shoulder-fore (which really helps the learning process I think) and we work on some canter transitions. If they ride the horse into the contact and yield off the inside leg softly and que their canter,the horse usually feels real happy to step through and into their hands - and that also helps their feel of connection.

                      Of course, you should always go and look at the training scale and make sure you are ready for it but your experience depicts to me that you should be doing more than trotting in circles.

                      You could ride in a clinic and just see how that goes....


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by LaraNSpeedy View Post
                        I will say that as an instructor - I have a lot of totally green riders and I spend a lot of time on the lunge or in the round pen on circles so I can work on basic equitation and try to help them get to a place where they are safe to go practice patterns in the arena. Then I teach them serpentines and diagonals and how to ride a circle and give them easy 'patterns' to trot and navigate and all that. I really feel like it is disheartening for beginners to also spend all their time on a circle.

                        I have a few horses who go dull and sour on a circle all the time as well.
                        THANK YOU.

                        One lesson I had when I was at a new barn and trying out the trainers ended in tears. The trainer had me walking my energy-conserver horse in a 20 meter circle over and over. It was like churning butter--he got lazier and lazier, then of course I was having trouble steering him, and the circles got worse and worse. So then she was like, how can you call yourself a dressage rider if you can't do a 20 meter circle?
                        2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

                        A helmet saved my life.


                        • Original Poster

                          I have two horses I've ridden in lessons with her - one I've shown at 1st with good scores (70%) and evented. We do trot circles. My other horse is a green 6YO mustang who IS in the process of learning contact and moving into the outside rein and maintaining contact and forward and straightness. We also do trot circles. Granted, my TB's gaits and quality of work improved with the work we've done (9 on walk which used to be a 7), but sometimes it is hard to feel like I'm on an endless loop. Just whining, I guess!

                          "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


                          • #14
                            I'm having that problem now. I never used to, but since I've been struggling to regain my balance and seat I think I'm more obsessed and overthinking stuff in lessons. When I'm on my own things are much more productive. I feel like anytime someone talks to me they're interrupting my concentration. I resent it and I want to tell everybody to shut up! I think I have to learn to relax again and concentrate without my head crawling up my own backside!

                            He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


                            • #15
                              CENTERED RIDING

                              I agree with Quiet Ann, have you tried another instructor?Using/ doing a "moving meditation/ and exercises such as "walk and the following seat" from Centered Riding" will help you become centered; I recommend finding a Centered Riding instructor to give you a basic Centered Riding lesson, the four basics and Walk and the following seat." You can then run through these yourself before your lesson
                              breeder of Mercury!

                              remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                              • #16
                                well.... re: circles, the way to longitudinal bend (aka round over the topline) is thru lateral bend.

                                Circles are one of the most important exercises we have as riders to teach our horses to bend, be supple, reach into the connection, connect, strengthen the inside hind, etc etc.

                                while it may be boring, they are very very beneficial.

                                i have spent many lessons only on circles, and i dont regret any of them?

                                as for not riding as well in lessons.... i used to be similar.... but i thought about it and my hypothesis is that when i ride in a lesson i kind of expect my trainer to tell me what to do - ie: ride my horse thru me - so i was kind of not using any initiative on my own and so of course everything would fall apart because i didnt RIDE. i also didnt want to make a mistake so again, i didnt DO anything!

                                now that i recognize it i am more proactive which is good.


                                • #17
                                  I actually have the opposite problem - great lessons, and then the next week practicing, It's all over the place, lost. Yes, its a testiment to my trainer, but what I realize is that she is coaching me on learning and moving, and though it is new in the lesson, and I excell under her direction, the truth is that I need to break the lesson down and hone some of the fundemental parts, and that honing I have had lessons on, so I kow what to do.

                                  I find that the week goes by and only the last day before the next lesson am I putting it all back together and seeing some of the same results on last weeks lesson. "How did it go?" she asks, "How's Airborne doing? How did you do with the exercises we did last week?" Well, I hem and haw, we struggled, but actually it all came together yesterday.

                                  "Good, she says, now we'll do it at the canter." Aiee, she is pushing me, but her training is correct, and gosh we are improving by leaps and bounds. Four weeks ago I couldn't trot a round circle or keep an even bend; yesterday we walked and trotted squares with turns on the haunches at the corners. My outside leg and rein are supportive in his canter, he responds to the correct aids.

                                  My point is, see if you really are getting the correct instruction from your trainer. Are you advancing? You should be feeling you are advancing in leaps and bounds, really, that's no exageration.

                                  My previous trainer wasn't able to give me the instruction and detail to execute the moves she was askig for and we stayed stuck. I sometimes rode well on my own.

                                  Evaluate your instructor; take from somebody else a few times to give your self perspective. You shouldn't have to feel you arent' getting good feedback and instruction, and that you can't respond in a way which shows learning and advancement.

                                  Unless after the lesson you spend the next week incorporating what you learned, and advance after the lesson. Its just a shame if you can't respond learning wise to your instructor.
                                  Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                                  • #18
                                    When I first started riding with my trainer I hadn't ridden in years, and my catch rides (on well trained horses who could handle my unfit and unbalanced self!) went better than lessons. That even applied when I first got my horse.

                                    Through time, external input stopped being a distraction for me, but instead I was able to incorporate the external feedback to improve what I was doing. That was a learning process for me. Previously, I was much worse in lessons than on my own, but would hear what I was being told and work on it on my own and improve by the next lesson. Part of my growth as a student has been learning to use the feedback as I get it instead of having to process it later.

                                    However, that's with a trainer who IS a good match for me. I agree that it's definitely worth considering if this trainer is a good match, but I believe it's just as likely you need to work on being a good student. It takes practice to do so!

                                    I now leave every lesson with my instructor feeling as if I have improved. I still have some rides with clinicians where I leave feeling as if I can't ride at all, but working on what they did with me later and improving to where they are really helpful. It just varies depending on what feedback I'm getting.
                                    If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                                    • #19
                                      Well I can attest to the fact that Pocket Pony is one of the most intuitive and thoughtful and balanced and harmonious people on a horse, and does not need to trot on a 20 meter circle for hours. It's interesting, since I know the person and the situation and the horses and have watched an actual lesson, just how insightful some of the comments are.

                                      I think there is always something to learn for most instructors, we just need to find the one that speaks to us in the right language, and that we enjoy working with.
                                      On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                                      • #20
                                        I have not read all the posts, but this thread is interesting to me b/c I've had some of the same issues. I don't necessarily ride worse in a lesson, but tension creeps in quickly I find.

                                        For me, I think a lot has to do with trying too hard. I've found I ride better when I just go with the flow and let my horses work out their issues as the ride goes along instead of forcing them to be a certain way at a certain point in the ride. WAZ's videos are good for getting that "harmony" with your horses.

                                        I also found the endless 20m too much and like to incorporate cavaletti, hillwork, transitions, trails, outside the arena stuff a lot and have found that will get my horses working nicely just as well as a lots of cricles.

                                        I have to feel my way through the horse and this is hard to do and hear when you are listening to/focusing on someone else.

                                        OP, maybe a program of videoing yourself and then submitting your video to an instructor for critique would work well for you since you ride better alone? You don't have the real time corrections, but you also may not have the stiffness and tension. Or if you just want to work on you, lunge lessons.