"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


When we returned to the barn on Friday from the C&O, Lily had a bath and time to eat her dinner while Charles had a lesson on Gracie.

I have been working on installing buttons on Gracie and wanted to show Charles, especially since he had been having a little difficulty in getting her to gait consistently for him on the trail. Part of the problem was that he tends to try to imitate the way I ride Lily (I do a lot of riding in a half seat, especially when cantering) whereas Gracie responds better to the opposite (sitting up very straight in the saddle or even leaning back slightly). 

He had not really seen me ride Gracie since the day I introduced her to him as a possible horse for us, so I wanted him to see the way I ride her now that he's applying what he's seeing.

First time Charles saw me ride Gracie, back in April
Direct link here

He is a very visual person and I knew he'd assimilate a lot more just by watching me ride than by me trying to drill him. This was also a good opportunity to have him get some film so I can see what Gracie looks like when I'm riding her. This is my favorite of the clips he took of us. Of course on this day she was pacey, but this is exactly why I wanted video: even when pacing she feels so smooth it's hard to tell if she's moving properly.

I like how she is starting to step under herself better with her hind end when compared to the first video (and yes, she does subtly try to break into a canter a couple of times). She is also able to maintain the gait when going to the right; when I first started riding her she would trot when circling to the right due to a history of a weak right stifle.
Direct link here

"Pacey" means she is moving in more of a lateral 2-beat gait vs the correct 4-beat gait with footfalls similar that of a walk, but at a higher speed. 

I rode her up and down the driveway once so Charles could hear the gait, and then it was his turn. He had absolutely no problem getting Gracie to maintain the gait with the minor adjustments of his seat.

Direct link here
Yup, we still have to work on the hands...

As he was gaiting past me on the following round (not caught on video), I told him, "Now clench your abs HARD." He did and Gracie came to a dead halt. He was absolutely fascinated. I explained that you can use your ab muscles to hold and release the gait: tighten your abs and the horse should slow down or collect (depending on the level of training the horse has; some gaited horses will collect until they are gaiting in one spot, like the Paso Fino); relax your midsection and ease your shoulders back and you literally allow the horse to flow into a faster gait. He practiced this a turn up and down the driveway, and then I showed him about turning with his seat. I have Gracie down to where she can figure 8 with barely a touch on the reins, going mostly off of seat cues. Charles attempted it:

Direct link here

He's a good student!

The best part? I told him let's call it a day and he wanted to keep practicing! "Wait, wait! Let me do it one more time!" I was laughing: for the first time ever, the roles were reversed: I was starving after riding all day on the C&O and wanted to go home for dinner, and Charles wanted to keep riding. It is so cool to see him this excited about horses, riding, and learning more about them!

Gracie got hosed off, thanked for being a good girl, and turned back out into her field for the night.


  1. Awww hell yeah. Go horse husband, go!

    That ab thing intrigues ME,too! It absolutely makes sense in my mind WHY it would work etc. etc. but having ridden so few gaited things I am further intrigued about all of the nuances to riding them and triggering different speeds within gaits and changes between gaits. The subtle changes in body position are so much more a part of riding for gaited horses it seems than ungaited...is that truth? I mean, I totally understand that riding from your core on an ungaited beast will help you better attain advanced moves and concepts, as well, hello dressage! But with that in mind, how does riding from your core correlate between a gaited vs. nongaited beast? Overall same re: collection, change in velocity? EXPOUND!

    1. I had to think about this to come up with the answer, because we all know that what we do with our core on non-gaited horses also has a huge effect on their way of going. Like you said: hello dressage! I think the biggest difference comes from the fact that we are spending more time seated in the saddle on a gaited horse: no need to post, do half-seat, two-point, etc, really. Since you're not having to use all of these other muscles and energy to actively work on balancing your body and both working with the horse and staying out of the horse's way while getting them to move effectively, you can really focus on using the tiniest of aids from your core and seat to get the horse to do what you want. And since there is so much less "noise" because it is a smoother ride, it's easy for the horse to "hear" these tiny aids from your core and seat. The beauty of it is that if you're already an effective rider on a non-gaited horse, when you ride a gaited individual you realize exactly how much a horse can perceive just through the saddle alone. And since you're already an effective rider, you can get so much more out of said gaited horse.

      And now I can't wait for you to come visit so you can ride the G-mare and experience it for yourself! Haha :D

  2. Gracie is so beautiful! They look great together. Love that last video!!!

    I always love reading the comments on your blog. :-D I stop my horse by tightening my core. I learned how in dressage lessons hehe. Chrome needs a lot more practice with it obviously since he's so green, but it's my goal to train him like the dressage horses I rode. Can't wait to start lessons!!