Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My first ride on a friesian

I started taking dressage lessons at a local-ish barn a few weeks ago, I've been feeling like I need to get further along in my education before I get on Coriander again and start asking him for more. Fortunately the barn where I test rode an Ansur saddle offers lessons.

For the first three lessons I rode an appaloosa cross, the same horse I did the test ride on. All was going well, I enjoy riding that horse and his trot, I got to try a training level test, I got to feel what it was like to ride 'on the bit.' It was very cool.

For my last lesson though, I rode a different horse. A friesian. A friesian that is much more specially trained than the appy cross.

Now when you imagine riding a friesian you like to think it will go something like this: You are sitting on a magnificent black beast with flowing hair all over the place. You whisper to the horse with your legs and he strides boldly forward, long black mane caressing your face. You merely suggest a direction with the reins and he willingly follows. When you want to canter, all you do is think it and the horse lifts into the smoothest, roundest canter you've ever ridden. It's like riding a shiny, black dream.


It was more like falling to pieces. We were fine until the trainer told me to ride him on the second track and that's the point when the steering went out. You know what that means- the steering was never there to begin with. Plus he was kind of lazy so I had to use a lot of leg, but I didn't keep my leg long like you're supposed to- no, I curled it towards my bum which the horse didn't understand at all. The worst was when she asked me to canter and I.Could.Not.Get.That.Horse.To.Canter. I just fell apart, lost the contact, lost my balance, and curled into the fetal position trying to get the leg aid as he just rushed into a faster and faster trot.

It was horrible and awesome at the same time. Horrible because the ride highlighted everything that is wrong with my riding. Awesome because it laid it all out there in front of the trainer. Here I am, here are my issues, help me learn.

Fortunately the trainer was very nice about it, she said most people who are good riders on lesson horses have this problem. Lesson horses will kindly fill in the gaps for you, the better trained horses won't because of their expanded repertoires- they can't guess what you're asking for because you could be asking for so many things. That's exactly the kind of horse I need to be riding right now, so I can learn finesse and balance and transfer that knowledge to the Quarters.

I feel like Humpty-Dumpty, now I just have to learn to like the feeling of being put back together again.

(no fear- I'll get back to the laminitis posts now)


  1. When I first started riding with my trainer - after bringing me to tears with frustration at not being able to steer - her horses would eventually walk over to the corner of the arena nearest the gate (and their barn), stare at their stall and refuse to move.

    "She'll have to get off eventually..." Painful process but helpful to grow as a rider.

    "riding a shiny black dream" lol :)

  2. I have a 1/2 Friesian and James, my trainer said there aren't many 3-1/2 year olds that he ever has needed to try and MAKE them move out. He just trots faster and faster. Walking and trotting is what he loves to do... it will be interesting to see how he progresses. I think both QH and Friesians like their "comfort" and can be a bit lazy. But then so am I and I hope I don't have to use a lot of "leg" on him. ha! But that is what I wanted - a slow, good trail horse.

    I really enjoyed your post and hope you get to ride the Friesian again and see how you do when you work on your "issues" ;)

    I am also enjoying (fearfully) your posts on laminitis, abscesses... My big boy has a small one now and it seems to be just growing out... I hope. UGH.

  3. Loved this post and the picture. I've always wanted to ride a fairytale Friesian but the bigger horses can be hard to motivate. Erik my 17-2 hand Dutch Warmblood was the laziest horse on the face of the earth and took a lot of leg and steering. He was also so big that he had to be adjusted to the jumps which were set up for horses with smaller strides. We also figured out that he needed more turning room than smaller strided horses. Then again when he was "in the mood" he was awesome and we had some great rides.

    I think it's great that you're taking lessons and hope you continue on the Friesian, he probably can teach you a lot. He sounds a lot like Blue who even though he is a QH has the same sort of personality. Do it right or I'm not going anywhere voluntarily! Have fun.

  4. CFS- thank you for telling me that, it really does make me feel better to know that happened to somebody else too. I know it will get better, it just hurt a little bit is all.

    Margaret- no worries, I'll be riding him again next week. Lucky you with your boy, getting exactly the horse you wanted :)

    GHM- it's like driving a Land Rover vs. a porsche. They're both good but they don't handle the same at all.

    Definitely riding the friesian again, the trainer was like, "yup, that's the horse you need to be riding right now." LOL

  5. It sounds like I need a horse like that... I often wonder what my riding would look like if I got on something besides Lilly. Sweet Lilly. I haven't really ridden a horse other than my own in close to a decade. I shudder at the thought! LOL

    Sounds like it was a wonderful (and awful)experience for you, and I look forward to hearing about more lessons!

    (in2paints... guess I'm having comment issues again!)

  6. When I first rode my original dressage teacher's Hanoverian mare the horse assumed a totally hollow stance and planted her feet. She swished her tail when I tried to leg her on and tossed her head. I remember telling my instructor that I thought she didn't like me. My instructor nonchalantly commented that "that may be true, but you still have to ride her." This was initially demoralizing, but later fantastic when I was finally able to ride her and other fancy warmbloods. I have watched the same thing happen to several students. Frustrating, but necessary if one really wants to learn as you so aptly pointed out.

  7. in2paints- sometimes it's good to spread your horizons a bit ;) Your own horse gets used to all your tics and habits, a new horse can sometimes tell you that your tics and habits have gone a bit sour.

    Thank you for sharing that Val. Apparently climbing on board and having the horse say, "riding, you're doing it wrong," is a rite of passage in dressage.

  8. Shannon - Now you know how I feel riding Gem! :-) GHM's description of her Erik is basically a description of Gem. I wouldn't change it though. It may take more effort on my part, but I believe it's going to make me a stronger, better rider. I am envious that you got to ride my "dream" horse!! Ever lucky!!!

  9. Gem has already made you into a better rider- you two have become quite the team :)

    Gem kind of looks like a friesian, you could dress him up as one for Halloween by just adding some feathers to his legs. Actually that would be pretty amusing.

  10. Shannon - you crack me up....hmmm....I like the idea!!

  11. Hi Shannon - Just got around to reading this post. I'm so happy to hear that you're riding some other horses in addition to your own. There's nothing better for your riding! (Love the Friesian photo and your description of it all.)

  12. Thanks Katie, I'm hoping what I learn on this guy will help me with Coriander. It's definitely helping me to understand more of what you were trying to tell me. You'll have to see in the spring whether it's worked or not.

  13. hello, I've been reading your blog for some time now, but only now thaught to share with you my experience on Fresians. I had the luck to ride a Fresian for the second time I ever got up on a horse, and I am since then in love with this race. They are huge and gentle, but with moods, like every horse. Not to make publicity or something for my blog, here are some fresians in action:
    maybe you'll find it interesting...I have a lot of beautiful photos with these wonderful creatures, maybe you can share some advice :D. All the best!