Working Through the Fugly

Working Through the Fugly

I had a bit of an epiphany last night, but it seems silly now that I sit here and write it down. In the interest of sharing and learning and all things bloggy – I’ll write it down anyway.

So we’re working on our flat work. Last time I reported, my trainer basically told me that I had to make my horse work. Stop dropping his shoulders in the corners. Be “mean” if he doesn’t listen when I ask him to slow his trot (aka ask firmly instead of say… well okay you can trot fast I guess). Work on this great mystery called lateral work.


Basically, I’m not to only hack around on the buckle with my OTTB doing whatever the f he pleases.

Taking the advice to heart, I’m turning all of our rides into more than just exercise for him and I. Right now we are doing tons of circles asking for an inside bend. We’re working on our walk marching forward instead of alternating from meandering to downright static. We’re doing transitions (even the hard ones). We’re making our haunches move over to the left or right when I ask… okay he’s moving his haunches – I’m applying the leg pressure of death to make this happen.


Sounds great you say, but what’s the epiphany?

Well, one of the reasons I love the hunters is because I am a perfectionist and I want my ride to seem ‘pretty’ at all times. Nice big trot. Long and low. Slight drape in my reins. That’s all well and good when my horse is chill and at home, but the problem with being so concerned with looking pretty all the time is that you tend overlook some important foundations.


One day we’ll have the ‘pretty’ ride, whatever that means for us… but it’s going to take a log of ugly to get there. Last night there was a lot of ugly. Head in the air mouth gaping wide open angry horse ugly. There was also perching and loose lower legs and tough hands. Fugly.

But I sat up a bit straighter. He got a bit softer. I got a bit softer. The fugly melted just a tad. It still wasn’t a ‘pretty’ ride by my old standards, but at least it was educational. I got off feeling like we were both learning something and working towards a goal, instead of just having a nice ride because the stars and the moon aligned every so slightly in the proper way.


In short, it’s going to take a lot of fugly to make a true pretty picture.

15 thoughts on “Working Through the Fugly

  1. This is a good reminder. Too often I get fixated on being perfect immediately, which in turn results in a horrible ride. It’s best to take a few steps back and reassess myself – even if it’s ugly it can be a step in the right direction!

  2. This is so true — it takes me a lot of ugly rides to get things right! And that’s what I love about being able to practice at home: I can be ugly and do what I need to do to get shit done. And many times, once you get that click, you can transfer that over to the show!

  3. That is so great! Practice makes perfect….if everything was already perfect there wouldn’t be a need for practice ;). I bet it felt so good to feel like you are making progress!!!

  4. Twilight zone here…I think I had the same ride last night. I want only pretty rides, and I want them immediately. But last night there was some ugly – lots and lots of lateral work which necessitates a LOT of leg-thumping on my part – and we finally broke through some “Move your shoulders NOW!” barriers. It was just somewhat discombobulated in the meantime. Anyways…WTG, Simon!

  5. Yes, I just had a clinic on the weekend and the instructor kept saying – it’s ugly, but you need to get the ugly in order to get to the good. The more you ride correctly, the less ugly there will be!

  6. I spent time trying to get me horse soft in the bridle and quiet at the canter. I thought these things needed to come simultaneously… As we addressed some physical challenges with the Fancy Pony, I also addressed some riding approaches… I started by just getting my butt up out of her back by taking a half-seat at the canter. She started relaxing, if not slowing down. Then, all of a sudden, she slowed down! It wasn’t pretty, but my reins were loose and sloppy and she was still cantering slow! And relaxed!
    Then, I reminded her of the rein aids at the canter (similar to teaching them at the trot and walk): inside rein means flex, outside rein means compress, indirect rein with opening rein means move your shoulders over… That sort of thing. Still not asking for the connection, because she has to build her muscle to do the things I ask, and she apparently can’t do that while I ask for the connection. The upside is, I refocused on my training scale and said, “Screw supple right now, let’s just get rhythm, however fast it is!”
    Then, I got the rhythm, so I said, “OK, now I can get some suppleness” and she is so relaxed that EVERYONE at the barn has been commenting on her entire carriage! NOW, we can start asking for more contact and connection!!
    Let me tell you…. It hasn’t been pretty and it’s not going to get any prettier for a little while yet… But she feels sooooo much better than she has been!

  7. AMEN! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: I had to learn to be satisfied with simply riding better today than we did yesterday 🙂 I am not as advanced as you and look forward to reading more!

  8. This is a great epiphany that I have to re-learn every so often! My trainer is very much a “form fits function” aka do whatever you have to do in order to get the horse to do what you want it to do, “pretty” riding be damned. But you’re exactly right – it will get prettier as he gets more broke to your aids, and you’ll be able to be more subtle and more subtle until you wont need to cow-kick that haunches in 😉

    BTW I’ve awarded you the Sunshine Award! =)

  9. Yes this is true….. My instructor urges me to exaggerate my aids in truly fugly ways to Get The Point Across sometimes…. then you refine them so there are invisible.

  10. YES!!!!! I have to remind myself of this every so often when things get less than ‘perfect’. I’m sure some of my rides lately have been pretty weird-looking, but I’m building sensitivity in my pony, and we can always make it ‘pretty’ later!! You’re on a roll, girl. 🙂

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