Watching! Listening! Learning!

Today I had a rare treat. My coach, Belinda Trussell, invited me to watch her lesson with Debbie Macdonald. In case you do not know Debbie she has competed in the World Equestrian Games, the World Cup, and the Olympics for the US winning both Team and individual medals. When she was the technical advisor for the US Dressage Team, at the Tokyo Olympics, she led them to Team Silver Medal.

The Warm Up

Belinda was riding her big horse Touch. Belinda, when asked what she would like to work on in the lesson, answered : “I would like to do some work on the pirouettes. They could be better.”

“We all want to be better…. we’re dressage people.” Debbie replied with a smile. For the rest of this post I will note what was being worked on and what Debbie was telling Belinda to do.

The walk. “Keep him light in the contact and ask him to walk with more enthusiasm. Pet him, play, make it fun. Think of the walk to piaffe in the Grand Prix Special. Train him to not look to you for support.

The canter aid. “Walk on and move your leg back that’s all that is needed “

Canter and transitions to trot . “I don’t want more than the weight of the bit in your hand. Don’t sit silent use your butt. You should feel like you don’t need much hand at all.

Trot half pass.

The pirouettes. “Let’s play a little bit and do the pirouette. Use your leg, just a little tickle. A lot of people collect way, way, way, back. Just collect him in two strides because he has to be in front of you in the pirouette. Rock your shoulder back don’t ride with a locked elbow. Use the outside rein to collect and the inside rein for bending. Do not be in a hurry to rotate.”

Touch lifts up into the pirouette.

Look where you are going.”

On riding “I’m all for not working too hard. Belinda you’re not much taller than me and we can’t ride that way.”

Supporting the horse. “Always keep reminding him he’s doing a super job. Pet him, Pet him, Pet him! Tell him he’s a ‘good boy’.

Passage Piaffe transitions “For the Piaffe think passage on the spot. Pet him and let go. Sit back and let go. Get loose and take your leg off and pet him. A soft bend and he can come up but held too tight he cannot so pet him.”

What did I learn from Debbie’s words? I learned that petting the horse’s neck could be praise and also letting my hold on the rein loosen. I need to ride more with my butt and less with my hands. Belinda is an experienced Grand Prix rider and when she would receive an instruction from Debbie it would take her less than a second to execute it. I know I am not that quick but nonetheless all the instructions were things I need to learn as well in the work I am doing with Biasini.

Lexi Bradbury takes video for Belinda to watch later and Debbie instructs Belinda.

At the end of the lesson I thanked Debbie and told her there was much I could use in my own riding. I told her I trained with Belinda and that she has no respect for my advanced age! Debbie laughed and Belinda had over heard what I’d said. “This lady can ride!” said Belinda. “And that’s why she pushes you,” Debbie responded.

Well that’s it really. I just have to ride on!


15 responses to “Watching! Listening! Learning!”

  1. David Avatar

    “We all want to be better …” This is true for most riders. The daughters are always looking to improve their skill set, to improve their intangibles. The best riding, in their estimation, is when you are light with the reins and the aids. The horse knows what you want to do.

    Belinda is right. You know how to ride, and you ride quite well. She sees your desire to improve with each lesson. The day you “settle” is the day Belinda will give you the choice, stay and work hard or leave. I just don’t see you leaving.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Amen to that. I agree. Thanks for this comment David


  2. Amy Avatar

    Watching, listening,and learning can be applied to all we do. Thank you for sharing these wonderful moments with us, Anne! Beautiful photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Thank you Amy!


  3. Prior... Avatar

    What fun / and love the “pet him pet him pet him!”
    Lots of encouragement is fuel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Exactly! The horse will work harder for you if he or she knows they are doing what you want of them. I loved Debbie’s repeated “pet him” .

      Liked by 1 person

  4. cagedunn Avatar

    It can;t be said enough! The butt is a double-butt of big muscles that correspond to each side of the horse; the horse can feel every twinge or clench or subtle lean – and they respond to that aid better than either leg or hand. There’s power in combining butt with core movements.
    What a great advantage, to see and hear professionals in their working practice – and their compliments to your riding (represented clearly by the willingness to keep learning).


    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Thank you for this comment Cage! You are right.I have been experimenting with Biasini at the start of my ride. Riding at the walk on a loose rein I shift my weight and he responds. I can do figure eights with no rein used at all. So that was a clear indication that I should incorporate more “butt” weight into all of my riding.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. seankfletcher Avatar

    This is a fabulous moment, Anne. Great photos too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Thank you. I appreciate your comment

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Diana Avatar

    Ride on!! And the world has come full circle for me as I read your beautiful post. After I graduated high school in 1978 I went to work full time for Debbie and her husband Bob McDonald here in Orange County, California. I was a groom but also owned a horse which I took lessons with them. I basically was working for training which included showing my Hunter/Jumper with them all up and down the coast. They offered me a job in Idaho which I ended up declining and sometimes wish I went as I would have been able to follow and be trained by a world class dressage rider. Debbie has made such huge accomplishments since the 40 years when we showed Hunter’s before their move to Idaho.

    What a wonderful lesson with awesome take aways with my favorites “pet him, tell him he’s a good boy!” “Let’s not work too hard and use your seat!” Love this so much! And Touch looks huge and is so handsome and Belinda looks so elegant on him! Someday I must visit Florida and wonder if Debbie would even remember me? I would think so, maybe, but I’m definitely from her past a long, long time ago. 😀 Thank you for sharing! ❤️🐴❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      How wonderful that you knew her back then. She is a true horseperson with such a kind heart and love of horses. Thanks for sharing this Diana.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. susiesopinions Avatar

    What a lovely treat for you 🤗❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Yes it really was!


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