Hail Mary

I had requested a bigger horse for my lesson this past week but Digger had already given three lessons by the time I showed up so I thought I’d be doomed to the fjord table again. Luckily, that was not the case. I got to ride a very fancy school master mare named Hail Mary. What a difference it makes to be on a horse that knows its job 100% of the time. She’s a huge BLM mustang that R trained. I’ve never thought much of mustangs’ abilities as a sporthorse but this mare definitely had it going on.

This is an older picture from before I started riding with P but can we talk about how this is a mustang???

It took me a while to get comfortable on Hail Mary. She was definitely bouncy and swinging in her movement. Her ability to compress and extend was awesome. She doesn’t get quite as slow and bouncy as Ben so my lower back missed that smoothness but holy cow does her extended trot just motor around the arena. My seat was not prepared but I had a lot of fun trying to get into the rhythm.

I’m quite a bit more comfortable holding double reins the new way from all the practice I’ve been getting in on Ben but I do still seem to have some issues making sure the curb rein has enough slack. It’s not such an issue with my own setup because I have a braided rein and a plain rein but P’s rig has a cloth web rein and a plaited rein. It’s kind of bulky in my hands and doesn’t release as easily through my fingers with gloves on. Since I have a tendency to let my reins get too long, I’d like to keep working with the web and plaited reins so I’m just going to have to be more aware of what my hands are doing when I shorten or gather my reins.

Although after typing this I’m thinking my approach to dressage is a little off. In my classical training it was all about being very light and quiet with almost no contact. I was encouraged to ride with a single hand or no hands and use my seat and legs for the majority of my cues. Neck reining was the preferred contact when contact was required. Dressage encourages contact. You set your inside rein and then have a conversation with your horse through an elastic kind of give. They should be light but never completely off the bit. I could be totally wrong. I haven’t been doing this dressage business for more than a few months but that’s my impression.

My canter work was still not great. I’ve been watching a lot of videos on youtube about canter seats since this lesson. I think I’ve pinpointed what the problem is. Without realizing it I must be squeezing with my knees. It would explain why I lose my stirrups and why I can’t sit down. It also explains why P keeps telling me to relax my legs but I don’t seem to be able to accomplish the job. It took riding a nice collected canter to realize that it was definitely a problem with me and my stiff knees, not the horse I was riding. Which I suppose I already knew but was hoping the short stride of the fjords was also a factor. Guess what? It’s not. I just suck after years of not riding.

Another new experience for me was that Hail Mary likes to drop her head and get heavy. Ben is always in danger of raising his head so high his brain falls out his butt. Constantly lifting my hands the first half of the ride to lift her head set made me feel like I was Superman trying to fly but that didn’t last long because she realized I had her number.

While I was spraying Hail Mary off R came over to ask how I liked riding one of his horses and to chat about Aria’s progress. He has so much pride in his fancy dressage mustang and has nothing but admiring things to say about Aria. He also complimented my riding and said I should ride Hail Mary from now on to help refine my technique. What I said at the time: Oh…uh…thanks…I’d like that…*wilt under praise*. What I thought later: I just graduated to the big kids table, folks!

Actually, I’m sure going from lesson horse that needs a good schooling to a schoolmaster that does it all is a step down for me. Although I’m happy that the focus is now on my crappy riding instead of my crappy riding on a horse that is moving kind of crappy too.

I never have pictures or media from my lessons. I don’t know if that will change in the future. Maybe if I can coerce someone into being my photographer/videographer…Sorry for the wall of text otherwise.

3 thoughts on “Hail Mary

  1. hey i just found your blog from you comment on mine and am catching up! this sounds like a great lesson, Hail Mary is gorgeous and seems like she has a lot to teach! fwiw, i know exactly what you mean about losing stirrups and struggling to sit the canter in a more ‘dressage-y’ kind of way. coming from riding hunt seat for so many years (i’m still pretty new to dressage too), learning how to actually sit the canter with draped relaxed legs continues to be … well…. hard haha. oh well, at least it’s fun to learn!


    • It’s been really fun, really frustrating, and really rewarding. I have a lot of feelings about the whole situation. Plus, there’s still fear lingering in the back of my mind.
      I’ve enjoyed your blog a lot and feel a lot better and learning a new disciple because of bloggers like you. 🙂
      Dressage is hard. Harder than my classical training was.


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