Posted by: shannonc | February 5, 2010

Pony Club kick

I mentioned in an earlier post that the DraftX mare I’ve been taking classical dressage lessons on at Apple Valley Farm (also known as getting my butt kicked once a week) makes a productive match – her default place is behind the leg, and any amount of nagging causes her to move more and more slowly (it’s quite funny actually – she’s smart!).  You must get her out in front of your leg with proper shouts instead of bitty little constant whispers, and before you start shouting, you must make sure she is absolutely straight because if she isn’t, no volume of forward plea will work.

So lots of practice for me in feeling and correcting straightness issues, insisting on forward, and not nagging.  It turns out that nagging with my leg may as well be my middle name, so the mare has spent a good amount of time snickering away at my expense.  The whole concept of “let her carry you” is very weird for me.  I feel I must be doing something all the time, even if it is a small something.  Devon the mare is very reliable and consistent when it comes to giving me negative reinforcement, though, so the reprogramming is hopefully well under way.

The reason I like all this so much is that I think in my efforts to further my dressage education, I fumbled upon the giant, trained version of my pony.  Because the pony began with such a tendency toward explosiveness, and I spent so much time settling him, I have put his training in sensitivity to my forward aids too much on the back burner.  But this season that’s something I need to fix.

I strongly suspect that once I have him moving correctly in front of my leg, those train wreck upward transitions to canter are going to become much less train-wreck-like.

Devon likes to sludge the most at the walk, so we have spent lots of time getting her on my aids in that gait.  The shouting tactics include good whacks with the whip and thigh-lifts followed by whomping kicks.  I was not a Pony Clubber, but my Pony Club friends have informed me that the proper name for the latter is “the Pony Club kick.”

Yesterday, we were cantering and Devon fell behind my leg, so I gave her a Pony Club kick.  I thought it’d worked just fine until I picked up the hysterical noises coming from the direction of the instructor.  Devon is her horse, so my first thought was that I’d done something terrible, like the time I whacked the mare with the whip by the mirror (I learned this is a big no-no since if they kick out at the whip, they could hit and shatter the mirror).  It turns out she was just doubled over laughing.

Wiping the tears from her eyes, she giggled out “I can tell you’re an event rider.”

I guess Pony Club kicks at faster gaits aren’t the norm in fancy dressage barns.

Makes me think all classical dressage trainers need to teach an event rider now and then for comic relief :)



  1. Love it. Maybe this will leak through and help me and the big red boy too?

  2. Ha! I definitely laughed when I read about your instructor’s reaction to the Pony Club kick. I imagine it got its name from little kids trying to get their ponies to go when they just don’t have that much leg strength…

    I don’t use it very often, but sometimes a big boot in the side gets things going forward again!

    I am grinning when I imagine doing this at the dressage barn I take lessons at, though. Definitely more of an eventer thing.

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