The Routine Again

A few technical problems kept me from posting for the last two weeks.  I didn’t like not doing it. And I had to postpone my riding lesson with Karin the week before. Didn’t like not doing that either. But, I’m back up – on both the horse and computer – and I declare the routine reestablished.

For Lesson #19, I found myself on Krystal, Karin’s Percheron-Thoroughbred. I think she’s around 19 years old. Krystal is a good girl, but from what Karin says, this was not always the case. She was quite a handful for her previous owner. She was pushy and ill mannered (the horse). And she rarely related to members of her own species without her ears being pinned straight back. Krystal was a surly adolescent who needed structure and discipline.


When Karin took Krystal in, she quickly established some boundaries with the horse. She also provided Krystal with a consistent routine which included pasturing with the same group of horses every day. With this stability, Krystal’s more obnoxious habits disappeared and Karin discovered Krystal’s Inner Sweetheart.

Karin and Krystal have a breakfast meeting

Krystal was very patient with me. Which was good, because I was more than a bit rusty after the lay-off. I was bound and determined to keep those heels down, no matter what else went on. The problem was that too much else was going on.

I got Krystal to trot without any problem. But I couldn’t keep her going because I kept inadvertently pulling back on the reins. Mainly because I was obsessed with my heels. Krystal naturally took this as “stop trotting” now. We repeated this pattern several times. And my feet came out of the stirrups altogether on more than one occasion. We just couldn’t get in sync.

There was no sense in me getting angry and frustrated with the horse. It would be like thinking there was something wrong with your car’s engine because the vehicle slows down as you apply the brakes. Imagine the conversation with the mechanic:

“Um … I think there’s something wrong with my transmission.”

“Why do you think that?”

“The car slows down when I apply pressure to the second gas pedal.”

Yeah, there’s something wrong with your transmission, all right. “No problem, I can take of that for you for $800.”

The Old Krystal would have rubbed me off on the arena walls. But she’s a good girl now and just kept trying.  Although, we did end up in the middle of the arena too many times for my tastes. She seemed to gravitate toward Karin, whom she no doubt believed to be a better driver than her current one. Horses are attracted to people who know what they’re doing.

Rusty or not, it was good to get back in the saddle again. The word “routine” suggests something mundane and uninspiring. But I think of a routine as an organized and comfortable place where we can work on establishing good habits and eliminating the bad ones. The glory comes later.

Krystal would agree, I think.

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5 thoughts on “The Routine Again

  1. Have you ever considered asking Karin if you could go on the lunge line for a lesson? That way you could concentrate on your posture without having to worry about moving the horse around and everything. Another option is simply going through your lessons and not obsessing over your posture (though you should certainly pay attention to it). Especially with heels- it takes a while for your tendons to get to the point where they’re willing to go down a decent amount, and then more time to be able to do it on a regular basis, and then more time to where you can do it without even thinking.

    Have you been stretching or doing any strength exercises during the week? I know they’re annoying, but they really do help, especially since you seem to be having a lot of trouble getting horses to trot/stay in the trot. I know this time you were pulling the reins back at the same time, but it’s something to think about.

  2. I’m with Danielle on this one. I find that whenever I’m having issues, it comes back to the basics and something going wrong there. You can’t go wrong with longe lessons – I love ’em, and ask for them all the time. I also do them quite frequently with my son, Noah, and it really helps with his strength, his leg/heel position, and, because it helps establish a better position, more stable hands.

  3. I agree! Longe lessons are excellent – let your trainer do the steering.
    As for stretching, try the Downward Dog yoga stretch & gently see how close you can get your heels to the floor. Great for the hamstrings! You’ll see definite improvement if you do this several times a week.

  4. Completely agree with the ladies here. Do the Longe Lesson, and also (stay with me here) do it with your eyes closed! and your arms folded across your chest. This takes some trust but Karin’s got a vaulting horse that would be great to try this with. Concentrate on the rhythm and keeping your heels down. If you keep your hands under your arm pits you can’t possibly pull back on the reins, right?

    • Wow, you guys are good… When I got to the barn before my last lesson, Karin was reading this very post about my problems with Krystal on her phone thingie. She said “do you mind going on the longe line today?”

      Thank you Rachel,Lauren, Amy and Danielle! And Karin! Any time I can get 5 knowledgeable horsepeople to agree on anything is a good day for me.

      Oh and Lauren and Danielle? Hiliary came with me on this lesson(the one after the Krystal Lesson), we were doing some stretching (H is a Physical Therapist Assistant) before the lesson and Karin caught us and this led to further stretching. That was Thursday. This is Sunday. No soreness whatsoever. I’m guessing we did 10 minutes of stretching all together. It does work! Even for old guys!

      Now, on to the strengthening exercises…

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