Lesson Update: Basics are Hard

I know, I know. It’s been ages since I have done a lesson update! With the move to the new barn at the beginning of March, I’ve been settling in and getting used to things. Now that I have 4 lessons under my belt, I’m ready to start putting my thoughts down.


Votaire design Palm Beach
Pics of me in my new Palm Beach, what do y’all think about how it fits me?

As I mentioned in my previous post about the new barn, there are actually 4 trainers at Bay Yard. My first lesson was on the day I moved there, with Laura, and the last 3 have been with Julie, who also does pro rides for BYF (Bay Yard Farms) at horse shows. I had an awesome first ride with Laura, but I am going to focus on the ones with Julie since I have ridden with her the most, and the most recently.


Votaire design Palm Beach


Julie has freaking eagle eyes. I kid you not. My first lesson was good, but I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit discouraged. She sees EVERYTHING and immediately has you correct it. Which is AWESOME, but SO HARD. I am not gonna lie, I was a tiny bit impressed with myself and Rio and my flat work abilities prior to these lessons. During my month alone, I spent time feeding my inner DQ and worked on things like leg yields, half pass, shoulder in/out, haunches in/out etc. Not saying any of it was dressage quality, but Rio was getting the gist of it, and some of it was actually really really good! So why was, what I would consider, basic flatwork seeming so hard all the sudden?


Votaire design Palm Beach


Oh ya. Because I don’t like to work that hard, and I tend only work on what comes easily.


Rio loves to bend! He loves to move his haunches around! You know he doesn’t love? Going straight. Staying back on his haunches with light contact. Trotting slowly and deliberately, but still with engagement. Carrying his own butt around.


hunky hanoverain
Spring is definitely near in Texas!


Dressage mode Kelly got pretty comfortable holding a steady contact (way more then you would want in a hunter), practicing extended trot, and using things like shoulder-in to put his inside hind under him, which comes more easily to him the rocking back on his haunches while staying straight behind. That is all fine and dandy, except I want a hunter, not a dressage horse. It is very difficult for me to do some of those things WITHOUT doing it “the dressage way” which is the initial way that I learned it. I can do a more collected canter easily but I do it by using a good bit of seat. You know what’s hard for me? Doing it in a light seat, and not holding him up the whole time with  my outside rein.




It also became immediately apparently that I have been using the rail to hold us up. Makes sense, because the majority of my rides in February were in the indoor ring at the old barn, which is somewhat small to start with, so we tended to hug the rail the whole ride. Laura and Julie both noticed right away that we were using the rail as a crutch. I am no longer allowed to ride on the rail, and I am sad about it.


Even cavaletti work is hard these days


Don’t get me wrong, all good basic riding is “dressage”. That is not what  I mean. I just initially learned to do things in a very dressage type style, and that is just not how you ride a hunter. When I rode dressage competitively, I used to be communicating with my horse every single step. I remember my coach telling me that you ride every step in a dressage test, there is no going on autopilot, no zoning out. I want my hunter to do a bit more for himself. I do not want to be telling him that he his has to engage his hind end and stay light in the forehand while maintaining a constant tempo every single step. He has to learn to do that for himself!



Julie immediately zoned in on my desire to make everything perfect by constantly micro-managing. She insisted I correct when necessary, and then allow him to make mistakes. Is this the first time I’ve heard that? Oh HELL no!!!  But man, I sure am a slow learner sometimes. After all, if I am always telling Rio what to do, he will never learn to think for himself. I realize this, but man, it is HARD.


In summary, our lessons have been good, and definitely getting better as I realize what the standard is, and what is expected. Unfortunately, I will be out of town starting today until the 28th. I’m not too sad though, because Rio will be getting training rides while I am gone, and I’ll be in Morocco and Spain with my hubby and some of our best friends. Hasta luego!!!!



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  1. Going from hunters to dressage is probably harder – what do you mean ride off my outside rein??? And you want me to sit how far back??? I swear I’m practically touching Cupid’s tail with the back of my head (I think to myself as I’m still leaning about 15 degrees forward…)

  2. So my baby horse lives with trainer and I only get to ride him occasionally this time of year. (He’s in FL and I am not. So unfair.) Anyway, point is, trainer is constantly telling me to let him mess up. I’m always doing too much for him and basically all the same things you just talked about. I feel you!

  3. Have fun in Spain, we did Portugal once and loved it! And didn’t you JUST go on vacation not long ago (No judging just curious LOL).

    UGH the simple things are the hardest for sure when riding. OMG but 4 trainers pretty much at your disposal. You are either going to get really really good at riding or going to end up curled in a fetal ball 🙂 I think Rio and you look great and I love the saddle! YAY!

    1. You are right! The Harry Potter trip was more like a long weekend though- and it was a family thing so my parents paid for the condo (thankfully!). Spain was amazing!! I was also told to do Portugal next time- you might have to tell me more about it!

  4. I have the opposite problem — I want the horse to do too much on his own! I’m learning to take more contact and be more active. This is also hard, LOL

  5. Girl I feel this post on a spiritual level! Especially learning to kick the desire to micro-manage to avoid mistakes, ahhh! I’m a jumper turned polo player turned DQ turned hunter princess (over the course of 24 years at least, lol). Now goal-wise focusing on hunters/derby with my lil greenie mare, but I still work with a GP dressage trainer once a week. The dressage-to-hunter changeup is so tricky! Kudos for staying so determined and open to the changes. You guys look fantastic and your trainer sounds super technical and thorough, so I’ll bet in no time the changes in techniques will be second nature! Have a blast on your trip!! 🙂

    1. Ah yes, a similar soul!! Every ride I have I feel like I struggle with my dual natures- my DQ self and HJ princess self want to fight it out lol. Just today in a lesson I got told that my sitting trot was “too dressage” LOL whoops!

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