The Princess and the Pea

Hi folks, Sarah here, with another update from the Land of Intro A.

For the last month, I’ve been grabbing extra rides on Kim’s mare Angel.  Riding more horses is always a good thing, and even Angel – a smooth moving 23-year-old quarter horse that’s a favorite among beginners for her exceptionally calm demeanor – has plenty to teach me.

I’ve been working on my seat, trotting and cantering Angel without stirrups, which has helped improve my balance.  A lesson on the bigger-moving Diamond last week revealed some other unexpected results.

One persistent issue I’ve had is picking up the correct diagonal at the trot, or lead at the canter.  This stems, in part, from my lack of innate ‘feel’ for what the horse is doing when.   As a result, I have to steal downward glances to  determine whether or not I got it right.  I chalked this up to an annoying gap in my abilities,  and even made jokes about it – “The princess and the pea I ain’t”   was my standard line when I blew a diagonal or lead.  Simply put, I really couldn’t feel the difference.

Evidently, that’s changed.  On my lesson with Diamond, I picked up the correct diagonals, without fail.  Suddenly, I was aware that I could really feel the horse moving under me and I knew – almost instinctively – which diagonal he was on.  For fun – or maybe because she couldn’t believe her eyes, Christy had me switch diagonals on demand and do transitions.  After about a dozen correct diagonals, we both concluded that I was close to putting this problem behind me.

It would be great if I could lick this for once and for all, because slipping a change of diagonal into an already tight movement in a dressage test can be challenging for me when I’m also trying to bend and soften the horse while also half-halting to prepare for a turn across the diagonal…

But who knows, maybe mounted multitasking is the next hard thing I’ll master.  Riding is about gradual improvement, and those a-ha moments occur when a rider’s fitness and skills build.  These moments are popping up with gratifying regularity, and they’re what make dressage so addictive, and so satisfying!

My pal Angel, with some young friends:


3 thoughts on “The Princess and the Pea

  1. I loved your description of what you are learning! Getting the feel of your mount takes lots and lots of practice. You may want to try removing that English saddle and trying the maneuvers bareback. It will certainly give you a clearer message about your horse’s body movements, not to mention a quick leg strengthening exercise! Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi Anne – I have tried riding bareback, and it is HARD! Angel is such an angel, any time I start to slip she slows up – it’s as though she’s thinking “you can’t handle this so I’m going to be in charge now.” I’m not to the point of cantering bareback yet but the trotting is coming a long. Your are right, it is a fantastic exercise.

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