Chestnut Mare Fanfare


Awareness of the outside world. YouTube: Horses like violin playing, 2019. Hat tip to J for the find.


Last week, I had what I hope is the first of many lessons at Silver Lining Equestrian Center in Auburn, Alabama. SLEC Facebook, SLEC Instagram. [Lesson Ahoy]

I went there years ago when the saddle seat riders of Stepping Stone Farm Advanced Camp went down for a jump lesson. No, I am not reposting the photo, once was bad enough. [Up & Over]

The People

Stephanie James Counts is the boss mare at Silver Lining. She takes the big horses and riders to the big events. Hanna Miller is the one who takes students to the schooling shows. Since a schooling show/event is far more likely for my immediate future, I elected to start with Coach Hanna. Her teaching schedule also works out better for us. Technically, it would be Instructor Hanna until we go to a show. I live in hope.

The Horse

Coach Courtney kept assuring me that the Silver Lining school horses were wonderful. The Silver Lining folks kept assuring me that Tuesday was wonderful. Sure, sure, everyone thinks their own horses are wonderful.

Tuesday was wonderful.

Stand quietly? Sure. Trot in a perky fashion? Sure. Pick up contact and motor around in a perfect intro dressage test frame? No problem.

Chestnut mare attitude? Myth.

The Lesson

The corrections Coach Hanna gave me were not a surprise. I am consistent and not subtle with my errors.

‘Thumbs up.’ If my hands are not up around my ears for saddle seat, they tend to drift down to the horse’s withers, which causes them to flatten. My hands to flatten, that is. Well, also the horse.

‘Sit up/shoulders back.’ Partly defensive hunch on a new horse, partly long-term bad habit.

‘More lower leg.’ Been a long time since I heard that. Coach Hanna explained that pinching with the knee takes the lower leg off the horse. I smiled and put my lower leg on.

For those not up on the nuances between English disciplines, saddle seat is all about driving your knees into the saddle and having your lower legs stuck out to the side like pontoons. Check out Reagan’s victory pass photo here. Different styles, different purposes. I pretty much fixed that with a reminder. In general, the transition back has always been easy. I revert to hunter/jumper(/dressage/eventing) as baseline. Re-establishing saddle seat takes effort. [Switching Gears]

My position at the canter was not lovely. I had to struggle to sit. Bit of a shock since the ASB canter is one of strengths. But then, that’s the whole point of the breed, a smooth, luxury ride.

By end, it was as comfortable I have felt in h/j saddle in a while. Can’t ask for more from a lesson that that. 100% success.

Tired after. Not so much the lesson as the stressing beforehand. Self-inflicted, but no less tiring for that.

The Point of it All

Point is to bring it home to my own horses, else why bother. [Why The Wait, Where Have Hunter/Jumper Lessons Been All My Life, Or At Least Recently]

When Tuesday accepted the contact and offered to pleasantly trot about the ring, the thought came unbidden, ‘Horses do that?!’ It made me realize how difficult Rodney is. No, that’s not fair. Difficult has connotations of resistance and disobedience. Rodney is complex.

Let’s say you want to type a sentence. You open a word processing program. You type a sentence. The sentence appears on your screen. That is a school horse.

Let’s say you want to type a sentence. You open a graphic design program. Where do you want the text? What font? What size? What kerning between the letters? That’s Rodney. Plus each button effects each other button and every so often one of the knobs turns itself up to 11.

I’ve made this analogy before. Still true. Still need to remind self. When you have an N of 1, you lose track of how extreme the situation is. I have to monitor my weight, my bend, where I’m looking, pace, direction, line, and so on. This feels too hard. Am I doing something wrong? No, it is hard. As I said before, “Way more ability. Way more powerful. Way more options for the operator.” [Finish Your Pass, um, Corner]


10 thoughts on “Chestnut Mare Fanfare

  1. Oh, I like that your analogy! Some horses really do seem like complicated graphics programs. And it IS challenging going between disciplines/breeds. I ride my backyard gaited horses at home during the year and then take lessons at a Saddlebred barn in the Winter on their school horses. I sometimes do the Academy shows in the huntseat classes (I just don’t have the right anything to make even a plausible saddleseat rider). I enjoyed this post and so glad you enjoyed your lesson!

  2. This barn sounds fantastic! Here’s to more days of fun! And chestnut mares – I’ve known some brilliant ones so I’m glad you connected with a star!

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