Back to Kindergarten

Back to Kindergarten

Remember that time when I was like it’s flat work boot camp time! And I was all gung-ho and all COUNTER CANTER ALL THE THINGS! And Simon’s brain exploded?

Oh wait, I didn’t tell you about the brain explosion part.

So, flat work boot camp started out fantastic.  We did bending!  We did circles!  We did rollbacks!  We did counter canter!  We did canter extensions!  We did transitions… well, we didn’t do transitions.  Instead, we did a series of really shitty rides where I really just wanted a few good damn transitions.


I did not get a few good ones.  I might have gotten a few okay ones, but stupid Lauren wasn’t happy with mediocre and was in a perfectionist mood.  In case you haven’t caught on (because I haven’t apparently), Simon is not a perfectionist kind of horse.

Frustrated, I signed him up for boot camp while I was on vacation and told my trainer, “I don’t care if he jumps please just improve this hacking situation anyway you can.”

My first ride back, I had a noticeably nicer horse to ride.  Oooo.  Ahhhhh.  Lovely!  I kept the ride fairly simple since I felt fat and out of shape from eating pony birthday cake and countless other treats.  Only when I cooled my horse out did I feel my phone buzz in my pocket with a text from my trainer, who had said we would catch up on Simon flatting specifics when I was back in town.  The text was long and informative, but I will paraphrase it for you.

Stop working on transitions.  Trot on a loose rein.  Teach him ‘whoa’.  

Whoa, as in not a downward transition but a “I said whoa out loud and now you have to stop without me pulling on the reins.”  Otherwise known as the things you teach a baby horse before you do things like… oh I don’t know… counter canter and lead changes.  Sigh.


Of course she’s right and I know she’s right, and I am listening to her and working on our “whoa” and working on trotting and cantering on a loose rein/light contact without letting him build up speed on his own.  My reward (so far) is a very relaxed Simon who is listening to me say “Easy” when he gets too quick.  I know he’s happier going long and low too.  The proof is in the pudding, she’s absolutely right.

So this is why I have a trainer, and this is why I listen to her… because sometimes I can’t be trusted to institute my own boot camp.  If you need me, I’ll be teaching my horse voice commands and awaiting to when we are allowed to graduate back to transitions 🙂

20 thoughts on “Back to Kindergarten

  1. VOICE COMMANDS! Indispensable. My girlfriend’s horse will trot from the canter the MOMENT she says “trot.” I’m teaching Lex, too – if I say “easy” she has to slow down, if I say “woah” she does a downward transition, and if I say “halt,” she halts (so far just doing the last one from a walk). I can’t mess with her mouth or she’ll just get pissed, so I’m reinforcing it with posture changes, but she’s really great about it so far. She listens hard and wants to please. I’m an old-school communications guy – whatever works and is humane.

    1. Yeah, I’m trying to institute something similar! We don’t need any ‘forward’ voice commands because lord knows he loves forward, but I’m doing “Easy” for slow down and “Whoa” for a down transition or halt if we’re walking. He’s great at “Easy” but the others are taking some work.

  2. Oh, I’ve had that same ah ha moment when working on Loki. It’s amazing how much easier it is to train a relaxed horse in the first place!

  3. The half halt is the single most important tool in your toolbox. Use it, and train it properly, and you are set for life! I must say I don’t get the ride on a long rein thing…but Im a dressager, not a hunter 😉

  4. Ugh. I feel you. At my last lesson I was schooled on contact, again. We’d been starting new and exciting things, but now it’s back to the very basics. Oh well.

  5. It’s so funny the things that we forget in our foundation. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in how far Brantley is coming I forget to remind him of the simple things in life. Always makes for a better ride and an easier horse! The little Arab I used to ride was used to forward forward forward and transitions and all these sassy moves, but she kept forgetting her “woah”. So we started from scratch with a loose rein at the beginning of every ride then slowly worked back up to the contact. Always helped. Your trainer sounds great. Keep it up!

  6. Teehee! I’m glad your trainer has figured out something that works for you AND Simon! I know it’s tough to go back to the basics, but man, if you don’t have them, it’ll bite you in the butt sooner or later.

    Funny “whoa” story – I was galloping XC with Cash, we were coming into a fence a little hot. About 15 strides out I said “whoa” and I almost came off over his ears when he slammed on the brakes. I’d said “whoa” after all, he was just obeying my request! “Easy” and “Slow” became my go-to voice commands – I only said “whoa” if I REALLY wanted him to stop!

  7. My main man Dallas requires periodic boot camps in which he is reminded that he is 20, not 2. In fact, he is in the middle of one right now!

  8. I think we’re all guilty of this on some level. You get all these ideas and all these goals and go rushing forward to complete them before laying the ground work. You know what they say about riding, “you never stop learning.” 🙂

  9. Good for you and for your trainer! Horse before cart and all that. I’m there right now, working on riding him from my seat instead of my hands, so the reins are long and his throatlatch is soft. We’re not creating an ideal here, we’re working toward the ideal – the ideal is not his reins being long, but that’s going to help us get there. Sometimes it’s hard for me to turn off the show ring when I’m riding.

  10. It seems like you and Simon are a perfect pair with your differences in perfectionism. You’re both learning from the other. I bet with time you’ll meet in the middle and conquer everything that is thrown at you with ease and grace.

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