Preventative Not Reactive

Third dressage lesson with C and thankfully, Gus and I continue to improve and are learning just a ton. C was really impressed when he arrived and caught the end of our warm-up. I didn’t tell him that just two minutes before we were not moving that well. Glad Gus can turn it on when he wants to.


What C really wanted to work on Saturday was getting a more consistent ride out of Gus. Yes he can have really beautiful moments but we need to build up more consistency. Some of that is just building up more muscles. But some of that is asking for more each and every ride. And that means that I have to stop Gus from tensing and throwing his head in the air. Something I failed miserably doing with Dandy.

But C finally told me how to do this!

The first thing he asked me to do was put Gus on a circle, ask him to soften, and see how long Gus can hold that himself before he comes up. Average this over four or five circles. For Gus, I found that the average was about three steps. Well according to C, we want even numbers and we want to be generous so we bumped that up to 4 steps. Then you halve that. Now we are down to 2 steps.

So instead of waiting, and reacting, to Gus tensing and throwing his head up, I now remind Gus to soften every two steps.

Wow. Mind blown.

I mean, it seems so obvious but it was not instinctive. And this might be something that really good dressage riders, or those who have done this a long time, just kind of know but no one has ever told me. So all these years I have just been reacting to Dandy and Gus coming up against the bit when I could have been preventing it. I am so glad that C finally taught me a “trick!” And of course, the number of steps that go on before I have to remind him will increase. But for now I have to completely rewire the way I think and ride. It’s hard!


This is our new project for the next few weeks (since I won’t have another lesson until July 18th). I really felt the difference when I remembered to keep asking. When I forgot? Well, there we get the tense above the bit crap again. It will just take time.

And just to prove that Gus really is a baby OTTB and does need some work… Check out this video of me trying to get Gus to stay on a circle, bend and canter to the right. Oh GusGus.

10 thoughts on “Preventative Not Reactive

  1. I love it!! I also love C’s accent. 😀

    This is very timely for me because I’ve been really trying to respond to Murray’s protests with a little more sympathy and avert them before they happen instead of reacting to them. This is a great reminder of a strategy I honestly should employ more often!

  2. um i love that insight!! inconsistency is maybe one of the biggest issues my mare and i have in our work. the idea of getting ahead of her is a great one but i never really knew how either… thanks for that!

    1. I knew I couldn’t be the only one! I’ve always been told to stop it before the horse decides to invert. But I could never guess when the horse would come up! This is so helpful.

  3. Ahhhhhhh what’s a good baby! He is doing great for how little time you’ve had him, in a year you will look back and be amazed I’m sure!

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