Guys I Forgot How to Ride

Francis and I had our first private lesson together with Trainer this week. I’ve been so excited for this- more individual attention means more progress. I knew it would be hard work, but figured that we’ve been rocking it lately and just came off a great show. How bad could it be?

Spoiler alert: SO HARD. SO FREAKIN’ HARD.

I should have known from the very first moment of the lesson. I had been trotting around to limber up a little when the clock chimed 6, the lesson officially began, and Trainer turned to me and said, “OK now drop your stirrups.”

Clearly we will be wasting NO time getting down to business.

At the trot we experimented with having my hands go super wide, which helped keep Frankie steadier in the contact. As I get stronger and he gets more familiar we can bring my hands closer together, but this was a really great exercise to use on different sized circles. I was not allowed to have lopsided hands- they had to remain the same distance from his neck. Circling required steady inside leg to encourage the bend, outside leg to get his body in line, outside rein to channel the energy, and inside rein to soften. No pulling or kicking, just steady pressure and squeezing that energy up in front of me.

We also did lots of extension-collection work insisting on a prompt response to my cues. The collected work was not allowed to be weak- he had to remain round and bouncy and energetic. And in the extended work he could not run around with his nose poking out and his balance over his front end. He had to be pushing up into the bridle. Holy half-halt core work Batman.

As we moved up into our canter work, we decided to try something new: the driving rein. I honestly didn’t even know what this was until quite recently, so I told my trainer she was lucky I googled this last month. Perfect timing. For those of you who may not know the difference, here it is:

The standard way
Driving reins

It feels like you’re giving the reins a handshake.

Um. Wow. MAJOR DIFFERENCE. Trainer had me do this to break some muscle memory and build new habits and WOW. Our canter departs were cleaner, he rocked and rounded into my hand more softly, our circles were rounder, and I got the tightest circle out of him that we’ve ever gotten. He basically sat back and turned on a dime for me.

His increased fitness and training rides over the last month have a lot to do with this, but I think my balance and communication was that much more straightforward with the driving rein.

We did a lot of canter-trot-canter transitions all over the ring and managed to get the lead every time. I have a weird thing where I tend to block him picking up the right lead, but NOT WITH THE DRIVING REIN I DON’T. RIGHT LEAD EVERY TIME BISHES.

So basically I was feeling magical floaty unicorn hooray for the driving rein I love this forever. And also wheezing and panting but that’s not important to focus on.

After taking a brief walk break to wheeze a little less, we trotted a few small jumps to get our muscles moving and then it was time to weeeeeerk. THE MAGICAL FLOATY UNICORN FEELING DID NOT LAST OMG.

Our first exercise was bending oxer to oxer in a shaped but forward five strides. I was required to keep using the driving rein and auto-release over the jump.

First exercise was A to B

Turns out that when I have no neck to press into, I do a couple really fun things: jump up over the pommel of my saddle, straighten my knee back like superman, my hands go all sorts of different directions, and I roach back into my saddle like a sack of flour.

You know, exactly how you’re supposed to look.


So yeah struggle bus right there. So what do you do when a certain exercise is giving you trouble? That’s right. You move on to another HARDER EXERCISE.

New exercise: Roll back on the left lead over C, turn over D, then pop over F and G (mini little boxes) in a short bending two

Turns out I not only suck at jumping, I suck at steering. Almost turned right after D before swerving to the left, and straight up did a flyby on G because I couldn’t get back act together to steer. ALL WRONG IT’S ALL SO WRONG. We went back and at least managed to steer a teensy bit.

So we decided to just glue it all together and do this: bending A to B in 5, roll back over C turning across the ring to D, turn left, go around everything, then long approach down to E.

Still messy, still gross, but it had some redeeming moments. The first bending line was still a freak show. But we got our mojo a bit more coming around to C and the rest at least had a decent flow.

Still not great, still not where it should be, but moderately better balanced

So, yeah. We didn’t end this lesson with some crazy breakthrough or wild improvement. We have LOTS of homework and strength building to do. It was really humbling to go in there and basically mush through every exercise in such a mediocre way.

This is what’s going to make us better though! If we practice the way we’ve always practiced, we’ll perform the way we’ve always performed. It’s going to be really hard and probably frustrating at times. That’s OK. I don’t just ride for the easy days- I ride to be a better rider. This is what’s going to help make that happen.

From now until eternity, I am not allowed to touch Frankie’s neck while jumping. It’s driving rein and auto-release until I am told differently, which likely won’t be for at least several months. Time to lean in and embrace the sore abs.

What are your opinions on using a driving rein? Have you found it helpful to switch things up?

25 thoughts on “Guys I Forgot How to Ride

  1. Megan 10/05/2016 / 9:17 am

    LOL ahhh the driving rein. I did a clinic with anne kursinski about …….. probably almost 15 years ago christ how old am i what happened ANYWAY

    she had us do gymnastics using the driving rein with very similar results but boy did it change the game around. you cant brace your wrist with the driving rein 😛


    • hellomylivia 10/05/2016 / 9:19 am

      Such. A. Game changer. Trainer said usually she would introduce it over a gymnastic but then laughed and said “learn by doing!” so I’m a little dead sore today haha


  2. Allison Stitzinger 10/05/2016 / 9:53 am

    I love the driving rein!! It prevents me from doing grabby weird things with my hands and improves the contact SO MUCH. Enjoy using it!


    • hellomylivia 10/05/2016 / 1:46 pm

      For realz the contact is so much more consistent and soft and elastic and majikalamazing


  3. thekeystoneequestrian 10/05/2016 / 10:48 am

    That’s about how I felt at my lesson last night – it’s crazy how even simple exercises can be made tougher just by switching up how we do them! I may have to bring this tidbit up to my trainer. Obviously I like to willingly torture myself. XD


    • hellomylivia 10/05/2016 / 1:50 pm

      Haha you’re brave! You’re totally right- just making a minor tweak to how I held the reins made it SO much harder!


  4. relstaff 10/05/2016 / 11:10 am

    I actually warmed up with driving reins this past weekend and OMG it makes a HUGEEE difference!! I’m with ya, Reef and I will be using them until our muscles memory of it gets a bit better lol


  5. heartofhope10 10/05/2016 / 12:25 pm

    I LOVE THE DRIVING REIN! It totally changed my life. It keeps me from perching and leaning. Plus like 100 other bad habits. It’s a miracle.


    • hellomylivia 10/05/2016 / 1:52 pm

      I’m hoping eventually it will stop me from perching and leaning, because at this point I’m just perching and leaning and falling all over myself haha. We’ll get there eventually!


  6. Monica V 10/05/2016 / 1:50 pm

    Leaser only is allowed to ride with a driving rein jumping haha. MAJIKAL


  7. Heather 10/05/2016 / 4:11 pm

    I legit almost fell off last time I used a driving rein because my brain just cannot compute. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I get so busy being freaked out by how weird it feels that the rest of me refuses to function. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


    • hellomylivia 10/06/2016 / 7:31 am

      So relatable. I almost fell right off the side more than once because I could. Not. Even.


  8. carey 10/05/2016 / 6:32 pm

    I’ve thought about using a driving rein, but then I never think of it when I’m actually riding.

    I just started a self-made plank challenge to get my core up to snuff. I was supposed to do 30 seconds last night. I forgot. Tonight though, 30 second plank!


    • hellomylivia 10/06/2016 / 7:32 am

      Ahh share the plank challenge, I need some motivation to join in!


      • carey 10/06/2016 / 8:48 am

        I forgot again! 30 seconds this week with one rest day. 45 seconds next week. 60 seconds the following week. Then 70 then 80 then 90. Then 90 and break for 15 and then another 30. And just keep going from there. The problem is the longer planks get boring.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. KateRose 10/05/2016 / 8:47 pm

    I had no idea what a driving rein was until I read this…so thanks for that!


    • hellomylivia 10/06/2016 / 7:32 am

      And I learned about it from another blogger, so I’m glad to keep the knowledge train rollin’ 😉


  10. Stacie Seidman 10/06/2016 / 11:15 am

    I haven’t tried the driving rein, but it sounds like I need to! About a year ago there was all sorts of internet rage happening because Mary Kate Olsen was using it at the Hampton Classic. And all the fake experts were tearing the girl apart. From what I’ve learned about it, it’s a great tool, and it sounds like it exposes a lot of hidden habits. I’m gonna try it and see what I discover too!


    • hellomylivia 10/07/2016 / 12:10 pm

      I remember that! Gotta love the armchair critics. It DEFINITELY exposed a lot of my habits and is forcing me into addressing them. Let me know what you find! 😉


  11. Micaylah 10/06/2016 / 12:09 pm

    Private lessons are a blessing and a curse!


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