Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Fixing problems one step at a time

After our first level debut, I knew we had to make changes. I wasn't happy and I don't think Mia was either. We can do so much better. With the lessons at the new barn going well, I brought up the concerns with the trainer, let's call her A, and her first suggestion was "Let's try Mia in the Pessoa lunging system". 

How we started

Okay, sure. What kind of issues are we focusing on, what are the goals? There are a lot of mixed opinions of the Pessoa system, which is why I was hesitant but with someone more educated in its use, I was willing to give it a try. 

How we started

The goals are to build her topline, get her to push from behind and step under herself, and to get her to develop neck muscling that will let her be more compact without pulling me forward. The last one is becoming a legit concern, she is pulling me forward because she is refusing to yield at the poll. Does she hurt or is she being stubborn? Let's find out!

How we are going

The first time was pretty uneventful. Mia is a solid citizen in lunging and has lunged in side reins extensively, especially when she was younger, so I wasn't super surprised. 

Needs to stretch down, but coming through and on the vertical

When we shortened the ropes enough to bring her on the vertical, she did throw a tantrum and I had to really push her to go forward. She was very insistent that she could not go forward like this and we had to do some adjusting of the ropes to get her through her tantrum, but she accepted this new torture. 

Is that a...canter? In balance? With haunches behind her? Miracle!

The first week I lunged her exclusively, starting with 15 minutes and working up to 30. The second week I started lunging her before every ride and keeping the actual rides short. The third week I would throw her on the lunge line for 5 to 10 minutes before getting on.  Y'all. I can't even.  

A snapshot from our lesson this week. LOOK AT US!

I am not calling this a miracle tool, I know it is not. But to try describing the difference in Mia without using "amazing", and "mind blowing" is impossible. For the first time, Mia is soft in the bridle and isn't pulling me forward when I shorten my reins. Mia's canter feels totally different now, it feels like a "normal" horse, where it has always felt almost lateral and short in the hind. I can put Mia in a frame and she is staying in the contact, she isn't constantly dropping in and out of contact. 

More of this please!

It's now been about 2 months and you know what happened this week? Mia gave me a place to sit in her canter because she is suddenly uphill. Like....#Mindblowing It feels SO different and so GOOD. Good enough that I plunked down entry fees for a Novice level derby next weekend. I am super excited to hear what a judge has to say about this "new" mare, I know I am leaving nothing but rave reviews!


  1. That is interesting. I have read mixed reviews of this system and I am not educated enough to use it without support (like you did). It clearly helped her understand about yielding her poll. Probably because it can be more consistent. You must be so happy.

  2. What a gorgeous transformation! <3
    People can be so weird about this sort of thing. Sure, using a lungeing system doesn't fix everything, but it does teach the horse one very simple thing: yield to the contact. Is that what connection is? No. But it is a building block of connection and one that we love to overthink. Once we've got that, it's our job to actually establish a connection and get the horse to use their entire body, the way you've done and are doing. Amazing job!