A Demanding Teacher

The more I ride Remy, the more I realize what a schoolmaster-type he is. He may be young and relatively inexperienced, but he has a certain wisdom about him, and I swear he rides like a much more educated horse. But he is demanding. Very demanding. He responds to the tiniest little shifts of my seat, which is fantastic, but also requires me to sit absolutely perfectly balanced when I’m not asking for something. If I am the littlest bit tense or distracted, he mirrors it. But as soon as I take a deep breath and focus, he seems to tune right in to that as well. He has produced movements well beyond his training level, including canter half passes (I just shift my weight, and he floats over under me like it’s no big thing) and flying changes (yup, just closed my “new” inside leg). He understands his shoulder-in and haunches-in. I like to think I’ve taught him those things. But he’s taught me some things too. For example, our trot work is leagues ahead of the canter for the most part. Once I get him into a good canter, his canter is awesome. It’s lofty and light, uphill and so balanced. But getting him into that canter…

Well, that was where he reminded me that he knows more than I do. After all, he was born knowing how to trot and canter, I wasn’t. So I listened to him. When I put my outside leg back to canter,  he moved his haunches-in. Correctly I might add. So he had a point. So I put my outside leg back enough to get an inside bend, and considered my options. I wanted him to go forward, but straight forward into a canter. I already had enough bend. I closed my inside leg and he cantered off effortlessly. Now with my outside leg still available, I saw how I could use it to increase the bend, or move his haunches. Interesting. We repeated it again and again, getting smooth transitions and no longer missing leads. It was as if he was thinking “Oh good, she’s finally learned her leads!” as I got off him, shaking my head in wonder.

Over and over I’ve repeated that scenario with him. I’m trying to get him to do something the way I’ve been taught to do it, or the way I’ve always heard it “should be done” but Remy has his own ideas. When I get my balance right and get my aids right, he effortlessly offers advanced work. But when I’m not quite right there is no convincing him to accept my lacking ability. He trudges on patiently, ignoring my pleading voice and responding only to my aids, continuing to “do what I say, not what I mean”. He never seems bothered by it, nor does he seem interested in compromising. He is determined to make a better rider of me. And, when I really think about it, I am grateful for that.

He’s also made me realize just how awesome Liam is. Liam never seems to question my knowledge. Where I lack, Liam jumps in to help. He offers more than I ask for, and when I muddle something, he tries to make it work anyways. Now that I’ve attended “Remy school” for a few semesters, I am realizing that some of my difficulties with Liam as we move up the levels are due to his generous heart and “just wants to please” nature.  Instead of demanding perfection from me, he tries to make sense of whatever I give him.  So sometimes I can get away with giving a not-quite-right aid, but other times when I do give a correct aid, instead of taking it at face value, he tries to interpret what I meant and gives me something other than what I wanted. I’m realizing more and more how often that seems to happen, like in my counter-canter story from a few days ago. He knew I wanted to canter, he knew my aids were “wrong” but he cantered “correctly” for me anyways, instead of taking the aids as they were and giving me the “wrong” lead, which Remy is more than happy to do! Now when that happens, I’m going to try to remember that it comes from Liam’s generosity rather than naughtiness. I know he’d do anything for me, and if he knew what I wanted he would happily deliver.

It’s kind of funny to reflect on the two horses, my 5 year old school master and my 16 year old who seems to only want to please with a childish innocence.  Two matching thoroughbreds, but entirely different, somehow complementing one another perfectly, each offering me what the other can’t. Hopefully between the two of them they can help me become the rider that every horse hopes to have.
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9 thoughts on “A Demanding Teacher

  1. I went through that “I’ll only canter if you use your inside leg” phase with my TB! He progressed from there to “I’ll only canter if you lift your inside seat bone.” So don’t be too surprised if Remy reaches that point, too! Lift the seatbone and he lifts the shoulder right under it and canters… the leg aids no longer matter. For simple changes, they do, but original canter from trot or walk? It must come from a lifted seat bone. Period.
    I find it funny – it sounds as if my horse is a combo of your two. If he can figure out what I’m looking for he’ll practice on his own, and he’ll give me more than I ask for. As far as collection, lengthenings, and even lateral work. But I must ask the way HE deems correct. And if I’m doing a bunch of simple chances but sometimes ask him to stay in the same lead and he is trying to predict what I want because I’m not clear enough… he throws a temper tantrum for getting it wrong.
    Horses, especially TBs, are the best! 🙂

    • Oh, I can’t wait til Remy gets there!! Liam canters when I lift my inside seat bone, but it doesn’t work yet on Remy. Maybe in a bit more time. They sure are funny how they seem to “know” about things!

      • Funny thing… today I got a beautiful trot to counter canter transition. I meant to ask for the correct lead, though. So I am aware that my body has been trying to twist back to left hip forward… and hadn’t noticed that seat bone was the one in front when I asked for a canter, so despite it being his bad lead, the first transition to canter of the day and counter canter when he knows better, left lead canter it was!

        (As for race records: My guy won his first race, and was in the money about half of his 11 races. I think it was 5, but may have been 6.)

  2. It would be interesting to compare your horses’ race records–which one was the more competitive on the track. I have a “Liam”–a very obedient fellow who clatters along trying to figure out what the HECK I am asking him to do and then offers “something” and most often, he is correct. I doubt that my aids are refined in a single 20m trip, so he’s doing what he THINKS I want. And he’s very clever and athletic.

    On the track he was a worrier. He had breathing issues and was afraid to run (because the paralyzed flapper would be sucked over the opening and he couldn’t breathe at all), but he was also afraid NOT to run because he was supposed to run. Before the issues with the breathing, he did win (and “handily,” said one handicapper), but the fire was not in the belly and he really likes being challenged more slowly. He loves dressage, though–the “jockey” is a bit heavier and the “track” is a bit smaller, but he ALWAYS wins because he’s the only horse in the “race.” ;o)

    Good post–and a good assessment of your two boys.

    • That’s interesting about your horse, I wonder what he would have done without the breathing issue complicating things. My horses were opposite at the track. Liam finished his 8 year old year at Arlington, made $115,000 in 32 starts, and as a younger horse ran some pretty decent races. Remy on the other hand, had 6 starts, won once and was last more often than not. He made like $2,000, they were cheap races, and most of his comments were, “Ran wide, stayed there” or “Not a factor” lol Probably the jockey wasn’t asking right 🙂

  3. Good post and so true. Jackson is a pleaser and Auke, before him, demanded perfection. I became a much better rider on Auke but I had more fun on Jackson. It will be interesting to see what my new horse is like. I’m hoping he wants to please, at least a little, because I got very frustrated riding Auke — I’m far from perfectly balanced all the time. Moments here and there…

    • It’s hard, isn’t it? There are days I get off of Remy and I think that if I didn’t have Liam I might just quit riding! But, then there are days I get on Remy to do an easy ride but the stars align (or maybe it was my position…) and he produces the most amazing work! When I get it figured out, I think Remy is the horse that will go further and help me put together the letter perfect test, because the same thing that makes Liam fun is what makes him hard to move up and do more difficult tests with. I hope your new horse is just the right balance of the two for where you’re at as a rider and for your goals. Enjoy him!

  4. Don’t do horse talk. Will never understand the lingo. But, Christy, I enjoy reading your blogs. I can tell you’re making good progress into professionalism and potential dressage olympics by the way you write the lingo. Pat Liam and Remy for me. Grampa

  5. Pingback: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to C « Collecting Thoroughbreds

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