February 14, 2013

Outside Rein, Inside Leg

I feel like I need to get a tattoo of "Inside Leg" somewhere that I'll be constantly reminded. Better yet? Lets freeze brand it on the top of Dakota's neck or on the back of his ear so I see it when I'm on his back. 

I have no problem keeping my outside rein, I engraved that in my head early last year. However, I'm having to remind myself, that I can't cater to Dakota's wishes. He hates leg contact, HATES. So over the years I've learned to que him in our own little way. After a lovely post my friend Lyssette recently posted, I realized I need to stop catering to him. 1) If I don't stop, it will effect my riding and training on Echo. 2) My accommodation of the brat head Dakota has ruined my usually good equitation. As someone that while growing up riding, equitation classes were always my strong point and I want to get back to that since I know it will improve my dressage riding.

So to recap yesterday... I couldn't resist going to the tack store. I waited for K to get out of school, picked her up and headed to a tack store I'd never been to, but stalk their website regularly. It's about 35 minutes one way to get there so it's by far closer than the one I regularly visit.

I bought four things. 1) A fly sheet for Dakota that was on clearance for $29.99. 2) A KELLY GREEN saddle pad with white piping. This made my day. So unbelievably hard to find a dang kelly green saddle pad that isn't custom ordered. 3) ECP Air Ride Pad that I plan to start using on Echo. 4) Engel half pad in natural sheepskin color with black quilting. Planned on getting an ECP half pad since those have the free space along spinal column but this will work for what I need. The pad I got does have a few open spaces along the spine for ventilation.

So K and I got back to the farm and rounded up her mom (the barn owner) and the three of us headed out for a ride. I brushed Dakota as quickly as possible but he was caked in mud along with him starting to shed his winter coat (yay). I decided to use the new green saddle pad and my half pad. May as well test them out right away right? Half pad fit my dressage saddle perfectly and I love the green on Dakota. I also realized Dakota's dressage girth was at home (I had no intention of riding yesterday) and had to borrow a girth but their smallest girth was still about 4 inches too big for Dakota. Yay for midget sized horses! Seriously though, my 15.3 gelding wears small boots, cob bridle, 20" dressage girth, and 10" leg wraps.

New AP Saddle Pad & Half Pad w/ my Courbette
So I warmed up working on keeping my legs back and actually making Dakota work through it and have my legs ON him. He was rather... pissed (no better way to put it) but after 3-4 rounds of the arena he started to relax and bend into the bit. I worked on some walk / halt transitions and some tempo changes at the walk. 

Then my trainer / barn owner pointed out that because I'm knock-kneed and I have endless knee issues, my toes point out way too much instead of my foot being parallel to my horse. At the same time my knees are turning into him (because of my previous accommodating his finicky ways) which in turn limits his shoulder movement. She had me riding in a half seat at a walk, keeping my legs in right spot and keeping my feet in better spot. My legs were shaking because I have zero strength when my foot is parallel to the horse. I was able to make it few circles and I could definitely tell he was moving more free in the front and started rounding better and faster. Trainer told me to call it a night but I felt like my legs could handle a lap or two at the trot so I gave it a go maintaining my half seat. I was in shock. The trot I got out of Dakota was what I usually have to trot for 20ish minutes and lots of fighting to get him into. Which means the 20 minutes I spent before is probably wearing me out and my muscles relax and don't restrict his shoulders with my knee squeezing. After the trotting my legs felt like they were going to fall off. I ended with a nice trot to walk transition and a few more halt transitions.

Pictures make this post seem less long right?
I turned Dakota back out and said a quick hi to Echo. Suppose to be a milder, snow free night so I let both horses spend the night outside. 

So now... extra calf stretching before I ride. I am going to also have to be even more conscious of how I walk on a daily basis. I forget now and then how bad I 'toe out' - one good thing snow is good for, letting you see your footprints and remember these kinds of things. Also time to Google some exercises to try and strengthen the proper muscles to help 'cure' my toed out / knocked knees.

Kudos to anyone who followed this long drawn out post of my rambling. Today I plan to work and ride (maybe) Echo. Depending on what K has going on I may ride Dakota again.


  1. Replies
    1. Evil. But yeah... I see that in my future. I've also made a list of different ways to do ankle inversion exercises.

  2. What an educational posts, love when eyes on the ground can point out something seemingly simple that has an immediate effect on how the horse goes & how you ride.
    Love minor improvements to us that make a big difference to their way of going!

    1. It is amazing what people on the ground can see and help with. Everything my trainer told me actually made sense and when I made the changes I can honestly say I felt more balanced! I do not -always- trust my trainer in some of the things she says or has me do, but this one paid off.