When You are Riding a Racehorse….

No worries….I have not switched from dressage to being an exercise jockey at the racetrack.  However….in my lesson today, with my coach Belinda Trussell, I  was reminded of a Very Important Point about riding a racehorse. When you ride a race horse the more you pull the faster they run.  How does that apply to me?

Today we were working on the travers (horse’s hindquarters coming in to the inside of the track while the head and shoulders continue to go straight ahead). Then we went on to work on the canter half pass (doing travers on a diagonal line across the arena). As some of you may already know this has long been  my nemesis. Today as we worked on the half pass to the left it went quite well. But then we came to the half pass to the right. Ah….there’s the difficulty.  In taking the half pass across the arena Biasini and I are in agreement till we get to the centerline. Then he starts to get stronger and stronger and by the time we reach the rail it has all gone awry.

“I think I can see what is happening,” Belinda said.  “When he starts to speed up you panic a bit and then you freeze in your hands and wrists and you are locked onto him. This makes him pull even more because then he panics a bit. It like a racehorse. The  more you pull the faster they run.”

It’s like a racehorse.  The more you pull the faster they run.

The penny dropped. The lightbulb went on.  I had a racehorse off the track when I was 16. I learned the hard way that the more I pulled on the reins the faster he went.

We tried the half pass again. I relaxed my arms, wrists, fingers and when Biasini sped up I would relax, give and my fingers would say: “here!” then give again.  It worked.

I’m not saying that all my troubles are over. Not at all. I have to unlearn one muscle memory and learn a new one. At 16 that was easier than it will be now. But at least I have made a start. Here is a video Belinda took at the end of our lesson. It was a hot day and we had been working very hard so both Biasini and I were ready to call it a day but we finished on a good note with travers down the long side and then some trot.



*Featured image is photo of Alfred Munnings “Newmarket Start” c. 1944 From the Paul Mellon collection. *

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Very interesting post. I am getting some horse-riding lessons here. Nice video😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I am delighted to know you are having some lessons in riding horses. I hope you will enjoy that as much as I do!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alli Farkas says:

    He’s such a lovely horse. And that super light fancy trot at the end was gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you Alli! It is amazing to ride that trot as there is airtime in it! I do have to say however that it requires a push up with the inside of my ankle and then a close of my shoulder blades or if necessary give a “hello” half halt with my fingers alternating on each stride in a one-two rythmn. But he responds with that trot! Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tina Schell says:

    I watched my granddaughter’s riding lesson this week. Interestingly as an untrained observer it seemed she was in complete control but as her teacher made corrections I began to see how complex it really is. The horse definitely responds to her leg motion and her form on jumps improved considerably from beginning of lesson to end. You and Biasini are a wonderful team! Surprised u r working inside tho. Is there an outside course??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes there is a beautiful outdoor arena but it has been so hot that it is cooler in the indoor. It has large windows on both sides that are open and a big door on one side so we get some air. Belinda likes to get us working for 45 minutes at least so it is easier in this heat it we are not out in the sun. Thanks for commenting and letting me know how your granddaughter is getting along with her riding.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Emma Cownie says:

    That’s very interesting, the more you pull that faster they run, I always assumed (as a non-rider) that giving a horse “his head” meant you let them run faster, obviously not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are not incorrect Emma. Giving a horse its head does mean letting it go and they will then go faster. But there is a thing with racehorses that pulling cues them to run faster. With Biasini getting tight with the reins gets him set and then he pulls and the more I pull the more he pulls. It takes two to pull so if the rider releases then the horse has nothing to pull against. In dressage it doesn’t mean you throw away the reins. The rider has to keep giving the leg aids and give take give take with the reins. It’s not as easy as it may sound. At least not for me but the racehorse concept was a lightbulb moment for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Gosh riding’s complicated!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. anne leueen says:

        Yes! It is complicated and dressage is deceptive because it looks like the rider is just sitting there. But there is something going on every stride especially at the higher levels. For the jumpers it’s the same at the higher levels as every stride on the course is planned and even in the air the rider is setting up for the landing and the next fence. Thanks for your comments Emma I appreciate your interest.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Emma Cownie says:

        Gosh, I never think the rider is “just sitting there” – I think how amazing the communication is between rider and horse – through the reins, knees, legs and voice!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. anne leueen says:

        Well you have a finely attuned eye and a different perception than many people!!😀

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Emma Cownie says:

        Why thank you!


  5. Juli Hoffman says:

    Beautiful video!! I love it when you share videos like this. It brings back wonderful memories of my horsey days. 😀

    Pull and go faster rings true to me as well! My riding days have been suspended for many years, but I experienced this with my quarter horse. We did some arena work but we mostly went trail riding together. My horse, Snickers, could run faster than any horse I’ve ever been on. It’s like we were flying. Quite frankly, this terrified me! I did NOT want to go THAT fast. A controlled canter once in a while…sure. But I am NOT a thrill seeker. What if she fell? What if I fell? My fear would cause me to tense up, lean forward, and pull on her mouth. Like a jockey with a racehorse…the exact opposite of what I wanted!

    While we unlearned some bad habits, I switched to a solid flexible rubber pelham when I went trail riding, and that helped a great deal. It had some give to it so when I forgot myself and reacted without thinking, I wasn’t as hard on her poor mouth. She seemed to like that bit and it made things much more enjoyable and relaxing. She was a smart horse and a quick student. (Quicker than me!) Her previous owner had been using a thin, twisted wire snaffle and constantly yanked on her mouth. I think that further cemented the pull and go habit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this comment Juli. I enjoyed hearing about Snickers. The twisted snaffle would have been hard and this could have caused her to try to escape by going faster. In my lessons I am usually riding with a double bridle (loose ring snaffle and a curb) . I try to keep the rein for the curb a bit looser so as not to be pulling on that. I think for me it is important to work on relaxing my wrist and giving and taking in the rythmn of the gait. I’m going to keep working on it. Thanks again for your interesting comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Alan Stenson says:

    Lovely work 👌

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting notice about “pulling-running faster” and especially about that horses (animals) can feel our stress and fears

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Horses absolutely pick up our stresses.

      Liked by 1 person

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