Thursday, May 24, 2018

Anthony Lothian Clinic: Day 1: When No One Is There to Take Photos

I'm pretty sure it's just the way of the worlds that when there is no one there to capture media, the ride is almost always amazing or The Best You've Ever Had.

Suffice to say, there is no riding media from my lesson on Sunday.

Which means, according to the logic of the world - it was one of the best lessons I've had on the mare.

Of course, it didn't start out perfectly - she wasn't 100% willing to play and made me work for things. Which, is fine. The end result tho, was very much worth it!

Obligatory trailer selfie of Bannie, haha.
Note the windswept mane: it was a verrry windy day!
Let's rewind tho.

The ride out there was great - Annie loaded up just fine and was happy to munch her hay while I checked in with Anthony and the other riders in the ring. He was running on time (which is unusual, lol), so I wandered back after watching for a bit to tack up and get ready.

Typically, the Anthony lessons are very intense and demand a lot of the horse, so I didn't want to do too much warm up. I ended up only making a lap around the Dressage arena before Anthony called me in - the lesson before mine had ended a few minutes early.

We started out at the walk, wherein Anthony pointed out a few things - such as the fact that when I ask Annie to move off my leg, she moves her head/neck first before her feet. He noted I should be making a conscious effort to ask her to move her feet before she swings her head/neck. He instructed me to make random turns and during that time, think about moving her front left foot an inch to the left, ensuring that her head/neck followed instead of leading. The same with her right front - asking her to move her feet and keeping her head/neck straight and following the legs vs leading with her head.

Unrelated photo from a night-time ride.
My steering can sometimes be faulty on Annie, and Anthony pointed out that having her lead with her neck area was only causing the issue to compound instead of fixing it. Which, made a lot of sense. Just turning the neck makes it verrry easy to motorcycle the turns, and any rider knows that horses can still move the opposite direction even if their neck is pointed the other way. (Ask me how I know, lol).

We moved into the trot with the pivot exercise - asking her to move her front legs to step in and out in regards to which rein we were on. It was found that she is naturally more disengaged to the right and had a harder time adjusting to the exercise this way. Still, we had success in it after a few repetitions.

This particular exercise was also helpful at the canter, where we found Annie was shorter strided in the hind end and had a much longer stride in her front legs. The pivoting allowed me to maneuver her and manually shorten her front (by pivoting out her front legs) and lengthen her hind (staying straight). It sounds like I was riding crooked, or riding a haunches in, but the amount of pivot I needed to achieve was so slight that I don't think it would be recognizable to the average rider. It is also important to note that once we pivoted a leg over, I would straighten her out again.

Anthony described the exercise as teaching her to take longer strides in the back while teaching her to be more careful and shorter in her front end.

Another unrelated photo - from our trail ride last week.
The rest of the lesson was spent primarily on a 20m circle and we worked on compressing the trot and canter striding. Anthony wanted me to concentrate on keeping her even in both the reins, steering appropriately, and also responding to various seat cues - slow and fast. We managed to get a super slow and collected canter, which Annie fumbled out of a few times and fell into the trot, but once she understood what I was asking, she was happy to comply.

One of my favorite things about Anthony is that he believes the rider shouldn't have to be doing a ton of work. Not that we shouldn't be athletic or capable, but having to nag the horse for every single stride or constantly pushing/adding leg isn't beneficial to him (especially because he rides jumpers). If he asks a horse for a bigger trot, he asks and the horse complies. There isn't a nagging leg aid that follows - the horse complies and we as riders carry on until we need to ask them a new aid. It's kind of funny in a way, because as riders we think "well duh", but to put it into practical use is hard. I'm guilty of nagging, or continuing to add leg or just DOING SOMETHING, but a lot of the times when the horse is doing what we are asking, we shouldn't have to be doing ANYTHING.

That's not to say our core isn't engaged and that we are stiff/incompetent in the saddle. We are still present, but we aren't sweating bullets trying to get the horse to stay trotting. And it's kind of interesting - how Anthony lessons differ from Karen lessons. Both help me achieve quality rides out of Annie, but both do it differently. And sometimes it kind of blows my mind trying to use all the tools in the toolbox, haha!

Yep, another trail ride photo, haha.
At the beginning of the ride, we had a few wrong leads and cross-firing, but Anthony assured me to just ride through it and ignore her protests/hijinks. If I asked her to canter and she cantered, ignore if it was a wrong lead or ugly and just keep going with it. Once she was over herself and was finally willing to comply, we had some of the most beautiful canter work I have ever sat on her. We spiralled in and out of the 20m circle, pivoting her front legs in and out, and even had some lovely canter-trot transitions which are undoubtedly our ugliest.

The trot work was nice as well - we worked on regular trot as well as slower trot. A few times she came over her back, lowered her head into more of a huntery position and swung through her hips. It felt very different from her usual dressage-y trot which is more uphill.

We also worked on the sitting trot, where Annie became tense and READY TO CANTER. Anthony stressed the importance of practicing this with her, asking her to be more relaxed and compliant when I sit on her. A few times she trotted out quite big, and Anthony protested me trying to slow her back down. We did get some nice sitting trot after we sorted out Annie's Feelings, which included the dropped poll and raised back.

As always, here are some of the major points of the weekend:

  • When you ask a horse for something and you get it - stop asking. The horse complied. It's important that with a young/green horse you understand that they may give you the wrong answer. Don't get upset or angry - just let them know they gave you the wrong answer, ask again, and move on.
  • The reason she falls out of your left rein is because you have your right rein shorter/tighter. Let it loose a bit and let her mouth be centered in your reins and take up both sides.
  • You should be smiling right now!! (In regards to one of our collected canters).
  • If your horse offers you athleticism, you take it. Learn to sit the trot she gives you - never punish when a horse gives you more.
  • Your canter leads aren't a lead problem, they are a steering problem. When you lose your steering, you lose your leads.
  • It's important to note that your aids mean something to her. If you ask her to trot out more, mean it and ask until she gives you what you ask for. Then, take the aid off.
  • She likes to get tense and restless on you - these are the things we need to practice. If you don't practice them, they'll never get better. (Sigh... Fiiiiine).
  • Her muscling is starting to change a lot, which is a testament to how you are riding her now. Take a picture of her condition this month and then again next month. You'll be surprised how much she'll change as you continue to ride her more correctly.
  • As a rider, all we need to do is steer and tell the horse when to stop and go. That's it. You shouldn't need to overcomplicate things. (This was when he asked me to canter and I kept trotting around waiting for the "perfect" moment to trot. He was confused by this and directed me: "Just canter. That's it. It's easy." I explained I didn't want her to get the wrong lead. To which he replied, "So? That's why we practice.")
  • We, as riders, like to make things more challenging than needed. Riding is actual very simple.
I'm sure there is more, but like always, I forget to write things down so I can actually remember them, haha. 

Repost of a show photo bc I have zero media...
One of the things I did find was that I didn't have to "yell" my leg aids at her anymore - with the canter transitions I am always a bit "harsher" when I ask for them vs when I ask for the trotting aid. It's almost like I ask hard because maybe it'll make her get the right lead or something, lol. I was able to experiment a bit and end up just shifting my outside leg back and little squeeze and boom, we had a canter on the correct lead. 

We did find there was some disrespect to my right leg, but we ended up figuring out the problem and addressing it the next day (which I'll talk about in my next post). 

Overall, it was a super lesson. She felt very willing, compliant, and easy to maneuver. The work we achieved was certainly some of the best I've ever had out of her and we ended after a very lovely right lead canter. As always, we have a ton of things to work on, but at the same time, it feels like we are starting to chip away at something tangible. 


  1. what a great ride! There is so much to remember and learn when you have a lesson but you guys are doing great! And how wonderful that she is doing so well! YAY.

  2. Haha! I do that too--trotting around waiting for the perfect canter moment. It sounds like he covered a lot of really great stuff!