Fun with maps. And outside reins.

I was totally new to dressage until almost three months ago. It was a totally foreign concept to me, like saying no when cheese is offered….or wine. So this whole outside rein thing was even more foreign to me. In my version of hunterland I lived in, it was totally fine to turn with a direct rein, use some leg, get the job done and then go smoke a cigar, looking pleased with myself. But then I get to Eventingland where I keep hearing this “use your outside rein!” refrain over and over. What, was the outside rein feeling left out? Did its mom yell at it as a kid and now it needs attention? Seriously, outside rein….get some therapy.

OK, so whoever made this doesn't know me. I am not calm, nor do I know how to use my outside rein. Tell me to use my outside rein better, and I am not calm. I am inept and panicky.
OK, so whoever made this doesn’t know me. I am not calm, nor do I know how to use my outside rein. Tell me to use my outside rein better, and I am not calm. I am inept and panicky.

So I kept hearing this in my dressage lessons, and from other boarders, and I tried to “get it” but never really got the coordination. Or the process, really. So Ollie and I kept trucking along having a sorta-not-round trot and canter, and with shoulders falling all over the place. Mine and his. Maybe more mine – I’m still hunchy.

UNTIL. Last week’s dressage lesson – we had a breakthrough. In preparation for my upcoming first combined test (OHMYGODLET’SNOTTALKABOUTIT), we were practicing trotting circles, trying to get nice and round and ON THE RAIL. And again – I was told to use that outside rein more, and I must have looked like this


Because my trainer Nicky had to draw me a map to my outside rein. Lucky for me, I am better at geography than I am at dressage.

I was made to put both reins in my outside hand, and using the reins like that and only leg, get Ollie to turn. I felt like a Western princess (WHERE THE HELL DO YOU PUT YOUR HAND WHERE IT’S NOT CREEPY OR WEIRD?), but with just a tiny pull of his nose to the inside, I was then able to leg him into that outside rein and then use it exclusively to complete the turn. And then I got my reins back in both hands before my inside hand went to sleep, and was made to replicate the exercise.

And then magic happened. Ollie magically got himself into beautiful contact and rounded himself so much that you would have thought there was food on the ground he was looking at. I squealed like a little girl, petted him and called him Pumpkin, which I am apparently only allowed to do when he’s super excellent fantastic amazing. Pumpkin is too girly for him, ya know.

I also discovered that he no longer regards spurs as an OH MY GOD, GO mechanism, but as more of a “FINE, I will get the hell back on the rail, GOD” cue now. Which is music to my ears. Or legs, really. He was wearing me out, yo.

So we were able to replicate this beautiful trot in our ride yesterday as well. I am fairly certain we’re going to be just fine in our test on the 5th now – and I’ve even already memorized it. Bad part though- I think Ollie has too. Last night on the last run-through, he was wanting to rush to the end, like he was showing me he knew what was next and aren’t I the cleverest thing? Better not run through that again…  Now our upcoming stadium round? I feel like we’re still going to be trantering/can-otting queens.

But that’s OK. I feel great knowing that outside rein is now my bitch – that’s enough for now.