Being Subtle

I managed to squeak in a lesson last night despite the chilly temps. I rode Mc Pherson again, or as he should be named Mc Awesome, Mc Pushbutton, or Mc CompleteOppositeofSunny. Mc is a rockstar and since all of the buttons have already been lovingly and properly installed, he is great for when I want to work on ME. I mean I am always trying to improve but you know when you ride a horse that has some moves you get to feel for once like YOU might actually BE capable of correctly asking for such things from any horse someday!

I am at that “terrible twos” stage in my riding where I know lots of things but don’t quite know how to do them on my own but damn it if I’m not going to just do it anyway. It’s like when you first learn to kick a ball. Toddlers just freaking haul off and fling their lower extremity at the ball. Even if you didn’t play a ball sport I think we can all understand that there is a difference between kicking a ball and placing a ball. Is your approach to the ball and strike modified or nuanced in any way so as to affect the trajectory of the ball off of your foot?

I am scratching the surface of “feel” while riding and my trainer made a good point last night after I had some success on Mc asking for a walk-canter transition in a very fluid, subtle way. She said that it is good for a rider to practice being subtle on a horse that is well-trained. A younger or greener horse won’t respond to the subtlety the same way initially, but that would be the goal. She had me pick up the canter and count ten strides and on the tenth, transition back to walk. It was very evident that my ability to produce a particular type of canter from the initial transition was going to make a huge difference in which stride in the sequence I began asking him to rock back and sit in preparation for the walk transition and more generally- if I was even going to get the transition at all.

Mc is super adjustable so the first few times doing this exercise he felt my anxiety of the transition as well as my “club-him-over-the-head” cue for the canter and produced a giant, launching canter that, to no one’s surprise, I was unable to redistribute to a walk within ten strides.

Sidenote… He also snorts adorably every time I “shout” aids at him which I think is just darling because he complies, he is just mildly insulted.

He started to run a little as I felt myself get hyped doing the exercises. It has been a while since I have ridden a horse that picks up on my energy like that and it was a good reminder of what a huge effect that can have. When I breathed and relaxed my body, I was patient enough to wait for the feel of the proper moment to ask for the transitions and then they didn’t seem like too much effort on either of our parts.

I expect this little reminder of being subtle will help me when I ride Sunny this weekend. He obviously takes huge offense to transitions and I suspect that my caveman cues have a lot to do with it. He doesn’t get to be fully off the hook- but my trainer reminding me that subtlety is the goal, made me sit back and re-evaluate my approach. With Sunny it’s becoming a little bit of a grudge match each ride. I am forgetting to ask, insist, demand and I have not been abiding by the first part of the principle “as light as possible, but as firm as necessary.”Β I think I’ll try a little different approach next time.



What I did at work yesterday over my lunch hour…







6 thoughts on “Being Subtle

  1. I love Higher Standards! I have Peppermint and Sweet Lemon. I also am so jealous that you got to ride McPherson. I’m sure she was thinking of me and Connor when she made that green horse comment!

    • haha maybe, but sometimes she has to watch Louie and I have battles over how much of my nagging he can ignore- it’s a vicious cycle leaving me about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Sometimes we are too Type B for each other…

      I saved Connor a bite of my Cliff Bar πŸ™‚

    • yeah, I like it a lot! This is the conditioner and it’s basically the Frank’s RedHot of my leather world over here: “I put that sh*t on EVERYTHING.” Which scent is your fav of the soap? I have the Vanilla Lavender and I think it’s great but the Rosemary Mint intrigues me too.

  2. ahhh my old fave – the ‘club him over the head technique’… lol! the reminder to be subtle is a good one, and i find it also helps me to slow down a little bit and be more deliberate when i am aiming for subtley

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