winning a fight by not fighting

I had a really lovely ride on Murray today, the first nice dressage ride I’ve had all year (all year I say! not that the year has only been 14 days or anything), and had a little mini-dressage revelation.

We started out with Murray’s new lunging exercise, Tina Steward recommended and approved.  If you’re interested in really encouraging your horse to stretch down, lift the back, and lift through the withers, this is a great exercise.  You put a loose side rein on the outside, just to stop shoulder popping, and throw the lunge line through the inside bit ring and down to the middle buckle on your girth, between the front legs. (If you don’t have a buckle on your girth you can use a piece of baling twine or a little leather girth-ring attachment thingo).  As you lunge, you ask your horse to be forward without moving fast.  Forward without rushy is key to this.  Then you use your lunge line like you would the rein — a little pressure and then you give when the head comes down.  And I mean down — like, Murray’s nose has been essentially dragging in the dirt and I never thought he’d be capable of that — below their knees.  I’m certain I can’t take pictures while lunging, but I’ll possibly convince a friend to take pictures while I lunge some day.

Anyway, after a few minutes in each direction (we’re working up to 5 minutes of trot each way), I hopped on and picked up my standard warmup — marching walk, long rein trot and canter work.  Ever since our most fantastical dressage lesson back in November, Murray and I have seriously been playing catch up just to try to get back to that place.  It’s seriously frustrating, because we were making a lot of progress and the holidays and some fussypony trickery really caused a backslide.


Seriously we were making alot of progress. (If you haven’t read the alot comic at Hyperbole and a Half, you must.)

So today I practiced all those things we are so good at practicing. Like leg yields and shoulder in.  Murray was fussy, as per his usual this year (not tired of saying that yet), and not his best.  Eventually, we couldn’t avoid it and we had to work on a little walk work, which at the moment is his absolute worst thing. I’ve somehow lost all ability to elicit anything like a forward, medium walk from him, and Murray tosses his head around near-constantly at the walk when asked to engage his back.  My fave. So dreamy.

14627101506_4b0c8518f2_oI will not go forward. I do not believe you.

And so this is what he did.  And I just decided to ignore it.  I had to kick M off my leg once when he completely ignored me and popped his shoulder out for no reason in a turn, but other than that, I didn’t nag with my seat, I just insisted on forward with my leg and kept my hands steady.  Murray kept fussing and looking for a fight, and I mean, looking for a fight.  He was swinging his haunches around, tossing his head, and kept getting glued into this one corner which was driving me insane.  But I persevered.  And eventually, I won.  Murray gave in after he spooked pretty seriously (headlights came into the arena from the road somehow, right into his face), and I said “that’s cool, let’s keep working.”  And weirdly, I somehow think letting the spook go is what convinced him to just go with the flow.  Because after that, everything was copacetic.

So we did our spiral in/out to the right (he’s more supple left right now so I’m focusing on working right and stretching out his left side), a couple of canter departs to the left (working that weak right hind), and then I called it.

I won the fight by not fighting.  Which is a technique I absolutely hate when my boyfriend tries to use it on me!  Because I’m all hey EFF you, I’m RIGHT, so FIGHT ME OVER IT SO I CAN WIN.  Evidently, it’s actually a pretty legit fighting strategy.  And I should probably employ it more.

Pony will be happy tomorrow regardless, because we’re having a jump lesson!

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9 thoughts on “winning a fight by not fighting

    • Glad to have been of service, then! It’s seriously one of the hardest things I have to do. I mean, I love a righteous fight if it’s needed! But one thing Murray is teaching me is to be a much better negotiator…. which I definitely appreciate.

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    • You know, I’ve really wanted to try a chambon and think that could be really good because it encourages stretching with equal bit pressure, which is more realistic to what I would do with my hands. I just haven’t gotten access to one yet. It’s so nice to see my short-necked horse achieving some real stretchiness, though, because I was seriously beginning to despair there for a minute…

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