Elvis came to me with an incomplete understanding of how to really bridge the hind legs to the bridle while keeping them quick. He also had a fair bit of anxiety about the piaffe. I did my homework, focusing on quickening those beautiful floaty hind legs of his, making him really connect his ends and not getting caught up in the fancy expressive “show trot” that was his particular proclivity. I did such a good job that I absolutely killed his expression. (Naturally, by the way, this process finished up right as I was entering my first CDIs. Oopsie.) I focused so hard on keeping the hind legs quick that I quickened him right into shuffling.

I got some good help in Florida about reintroducing the idea of expression in a more correct way, but then I panicked again when at home on my own and overdid it, creating a lot of loft but too much slowness. I knew I was going askew, and I started letting my own emotions into the training, which did not help.

Enter my assistant trainer Jess Idol, watching quietly from the side, who pulled me aside and, with exceptional politeness, said “So… can I have him for a few days?” Elvis doesn’t belong to her, and she feels no urgency to get it done. She quietly set about re-establishing the rules and Elvis’ understanding. And in two days, she’d done more than I’d done in a month. Does she have superpowers? Am I a bad rider? Of course not. But he doesn’t belong to her. And her perspective isn’t tainted by years of time together.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!