Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why Everyone Needs A Dylan

I've hit three major milestones with Dylan this month. We did our first clinic together, signed up for our first show (which is in 2 weeks!), and now have taken our first lesson. It took me a year to get here - SO much longer than I anticipated - but I am so much better for it. 

I have been trying to get in with this trainer for awhile now, but it hasn't worked out until now. I knew she had experience with Spanish horses and a quiet manner, which is why I chose her in particular - these horses really just ride differently than warmbloods, and it really helps if people understand them. I originally contacted her at the end of June for a lesson, but by the time she got back to me, Dylan had injured himself and was out for awhile. I got him back going, then contacted her again. It took another month to organize my schedule in order to accommodate her lesson days (which are Tuesdays and Thursday), and then today was my first trailer in lesson with her. 

Dylan has really gotten so much better about being quiet when trailering to places. He has trailered ALL over the country, so he has no reason to be a goon, but the first few times I trailered him out to places (like to WD the first time, and to the WE practice), he was terrible when left tied to the trailer. He screamed, he wiggled, and he was prancy and wild and hot to ride. I trailer out to WD constantly now, so he is totally chill about that, and he was really good when we went to the Tarrin clinic as well, standing tied to the trailer munching hay for several hours. This time, he was the best he has ever been, being totally calm and quiet at this new facility. I picked his snaffle as my choice of bridle, got him ready, and went to warm up.

 L and I talked about him, and about me, and what my particular goals are. She watched us warm up a little bit, and then jumped right in with suggestions. In particular, she pointed out some of the things I'm doing with my body that are really limiting me on my right side. She described the rider's seat as having three parts - the bottom of the pelvis, which is kind of like a bowl and anchors the seat in the saddle; the lower/middle abs, which are what really controls the horse's back; and the upper part of the abs and ribcage, which should also be stacked and straight and can also independently influence the horse. She said the lower two parts for me are really good and are secure, but the upper part she described as a bucket, and that my bucket was tilting forward. This is definitely true. and I've always had issued with rolling my shoulders forward and sitting a little slumped. This got exponentially worse when I was riding defensively on hot horses, and it also negatively affected my lower leg, which L was also quick to point out.

She had me straighten my upper body and push my chest a little wider, thinking about keeping my boobs out further than my biceps. I did fine going left, but then really struggled going to the right, as I often do. She had me lower my stirrup on that side, which helped a surprising amount, and then had me thinking about relaxing my knee and putting my lower leg on instead of bracing on the stirrup and letting the lower leg come off the horse. He talks me into using my rein too much on that side, and spirals me off to the left. I thought it was because I was floating my seatbone and collapsing on the left side, but really it seems more like I was bracing a little too much in my right stirrup and therefore pushing my seatbone up and out of the saddle. We did some shoulder-ins to 10m circles, and then schooled a few walk pirouettes. Again she stopped me. "He's planting and turning," she said. "In a walk pirouette, we want. continuous steps." She switched up the exercise to where we did haunches in, then half pass. During the haunches in, she then had me add in a few tiny circles still in haunches in. From those we went right into the walk half pass, and then would do a few steps of pirouettes - kind of sneaking in those steps. We would do a few steps forward, then a step or two of turning. In this way we were able to develop some really good steps of pirouette where I really felt I had him correctly bent and correctly using himself through the pirouette. Before I was losing him in his haunches - he would swing them out or would just plant and pivot. The ones we did today were really, really good. 

We moved into the canter and already I had a horse that was going a million times better. Just straightening the upper part of my body and thinking about my pelvis as a bowl completely set me up for being a much more effective rider. I always talk about how much ab strength it takes to keep this horse under control (not that he's out of control per se, he just tends to get quick and go in every direction if you're not holding him together). In reality, just adjusting my seat a small bit made holding him together a million times easier without expending even a quarter of the energy I was using before. We did a few canter leg yields, where it wasn't so much giving an aid as it was coming onto the quarterline and letting him drift back to the rail. We added in a few quarter pirouettes, but he was getting a bit hot doing them, so we decided to go back and work on stabilizing my seat before we ask for more complicated things. 

We also did some extended walk, which I wasn't sure was great but L reassured me that it was a very competitive walk. He had a big overstep and was stretching well. We went back into the trot, taking time to emphasise going gently upward and downward in transitions. Dylan tends to be so electric and responsive that any aid is met with enormous over enthusiasm, so he almost leaps into the trot and sometimes slams on the brakes when coming down to the walk. Going to the right, I felt much more stable. We played around a bit in the final trotwork with having my seat ask for a little more, while my upper body and shoulders said "actually though I'd rather you stay right here." Dylan responded immediately with more cadence and lift in his trot without increasing anything else beyond his lift. L was so excited about his responsiveness. She said it's not often that she gets to teach someone how to ride on a horse like this - one who responds so readily to everything the rider does. 

I know not everyone can have a Dylan, but if you ever get the chance to lease, take lessons on, or even just occasionally ride a Dylan, you'll be all the better for it. Schoolmasters really are invaluable in that they can teach us ALL these things that we wouldn't otherwise be able to feel or learn. I know first hand how riding green or untrained or problem horses can give us some habits that are hard to break. Horses like Dylan are so great because when we sit correctly, they do the correct thing, because they already know how to do it and already know exactly how to respond when the correct aid is given. When we don't get it right, they don't do it right. In that, they teach us how to refine our aids, and how to correctly use our bodies - and when we get it right, we can feel it. It teaches us how to do it the right way. They really are the ultimate teachers. 
Dylan in particular has been around for a LONG time showing and training, so while he has some quirks, he is a steady guy. He doesn't get completely riled or put out when I don't do something right, but he won't give it to me correctly unless I sit correctly. He won't buck, rear, bolt, or do anything stupid that might give me defensive habits again.  He's hot - SO hot! - but he doesn't direct any of that energy into anything malicious. Instead, he is overly enthusiastic about everything, and tries almost too hard in everything that he does. He lets me flop around and experiment and shift things without getting upset, and then when I get the buttons all pushed the right way at the right time, he gives me exactly what I asked for. I love that about him.

If you can get a few rides in on a Dylan.... do it. You won't regret it!

Also the best at getting dirty


  1. So awesome! It's a schoolmaster thing but I think it's also a stallion thing. The nicest ones are just so smart, it's practically like riding a person (yes that sounds weird, I'm going with it).

  2. I plan to come steal him someday soon. Just FYI.

  3. What an amazing opportunity and that sounds like an amazing lesson :-)

  4. Boobs before biceps hahaha - I'm going to work on that today.

  5. He sounds like such a pleasure to work with!