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  • Saskia Gerritsen

My Biggest Challenge

Riding horses, especially training them to make progress, can sometimes feel like watching paint dry... I love working with young horses because the steps are so big at the beginning! From knowing nothing, to carrying a rider in all three gaits with pride is a major step. It always make me realize how special riding is.


But once we're passed that point were you can basically go where you want to go and stay on the horse, some persistent challenges come to test our knowledge and skills... And that is when sometimes you just need time.

Riding correctly is an art. In my last blog I have written about the investigating mindset that we need to have. On the other hand, some things just need patience. Everything with horses is always balancing on a fine line between too much-too little, too soon-too late, too precise-too free...


There is one big challenge that I have right now and I thought it might be good to write about it. Because I believe this is the patience kind of challenge.



Kaya has a very big canter, which is a talent I love about her. Once she will be able to carry more, it will feel amazing. But at the moment, it is very hard to ride her in canter. It basically turns into a galop and riding circles feels very unbalanced. She does listen to my aids to start the canter, so we got that covered. But after a few strides she gets faster and faster, holding on to the reins sends her more on the forehand so that's of course not the answer...


I have been looking for some help with my challenge. In the last 6 months, I had training from 4 different instructors. Some during a weekend clinic, some in a regular group lesson. And my conclusion after assessing what really helped me is:

Just be patient...

When the challenge is cantering slower and cantering circles, the trainers that didn't help me progress actually proposed:

  • Cantering on circles

  • Cantering more (on said circles)

  • Cantering with more bend and more contact (the aim was rounder, but that is counterproductive when the horse is not balanced)

Of course they tried to help me with my challenge. But right where that challenge is occurring, most of the time, is not the best place to fix it!


The trainers that did help me progress proposed solutions that I could also really use afterwards by myself. I got feedback from my horse that things are improving and that she is learning to balance and carry herself. Those trainers had not only seen the problem, but observed what is causing it and started working on ingredients to the solution, like:

  • Working on more alignment and balance in walk and trot

  • Focusing on my position and how exactly I am using my aids

  • Riding bigger lines and sometimes one circle

  • Letting the horse decide how to best use her neck to balance herself

These strategies I was already using in my training, because they were feeling good to me. They are founded on the knowledge I have acquired during my entire life and previous experiences.

Vor dem Können steht das Wissen

In German this statement is a slightly more correct expression of the meaning. In English: Knowledge comes before Skill. "Können" is more than just a skill, it is to be capable to do it.


Okay, let's get to my conclusion... If you have a challenge with your riding it can be of two different kinds:

  1. Something is being done wrong, fix that and the challenge is quickly gone

  2. Rider and horse are doing it right, but a piece of the puzzle is missing

In the second category, finding the missing pieces can take some time. What I always try to do and has helped me progress with any challenge:

  1. Observe what happens with an open mind (making a video really helps)

  2. Find information about the topic in literature (classical dressage)

  3. Define Training Plans to work on improvements with varied training

  4. Learn from every training and trust the process

With patience you will not be drilling on the challenge and this will build trust in your horse.

A challenge should only exist in our head, because we have certain goals.

The horse must stay mentally relaxed to be able to learn. A mentally relaxed horse can work with a relaxed body. And that will in turn enable them to strengthen the required muscles!

So for this Blog, I've uploaded a "Kaya Update" video. You can see what is already going well and how our challenging canter looks like. And I look forward to posting the next one soon, to see if my 4 Step approach has helped us improve :-)



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