Second Lesson with Roz Kinstler – Part A

I had my second lesson with Roz Kinstler last Saturday.  I’d been having a mini-panic attacks the whole week leading up to it because I felt like we hadn’t made any progress. That and I was so uncoordinated all week. I was really worried I’d get up there and not be able to do what Roz asked.

The trip up was uneventful. Ava loaded with minimal fuss and rode well. She was very patient when we stopped for a bathroom break at a rest area (it’s a two hour haul one way). When I unloaded her she was excited and antsy, which I was thrilled with because I figured it meant she’d have more pep in the lesson. I let her take a good look around, offered her some water, and started tacking up.

I warmed up Ava briefly before the lesson started with some basic trot and canter.  I don’t have the issue with the heaviness on the right side like I used to (not since the Goodrich clinic), and she’s much more honest over her back since the last lesson with Roz. Ava felt pretty good, pretty straight, but still a little behind my leg. I didn’t want to push the issue though because I was concerned about using up a bunch of Ava’s energy during the warmup. In hindsight, I probably should’ve addressed it right then. It would’ve reduced some of the issues in the canter that I had. It also showed me that we’re not where we need to be in terms of being honestly forward. But it’s still better then it was.


We started off the lesson with working on haunches-in at the canter (since I said I was having issues with it). A few things off the top of my head:

1. Pick up the canter and immediately take my legs off so that there’s a clearer distinction between leg back for canter depart and leg back for haunches-in. Signal to her that something else is expected from her.

2. Rhythmic squeezes of leg on outside in time to the canter. Again, not just on with non-stop squeeze that will be ignored. Nudge, release, nudge, release. (I am still not remembering to do this, and when I do I get the timing all wrong, or my seat freezes up, or my arms freeze up. I need a lot more work).

3. Reward with walk breaks when she gets it right. Then try again. Reward frequently, but can continue to work on it during the same session. I forget this, and tend to drill it. Then Ava gets frustrated and quits trying. I need to keep this in the back of my mind at all times when working Ava.

From that exercise we worked on something that resembled a reverse rubber band exercise. Instead of lengthen to working canter, we did super collected to working canter.

The main points Roz was trying to convey were how to help enhance the gait through my seat aids. Roz spent some time explaining how to use my seat and thighs to help Ava understand that her shoulders need to elevate, and it also lightened my seat enough to allow Ava to use her back to bring her hind legs further under.

I’ll try to paraphrase her main points:

1. Lift your rib cage briefly like you’re trying to untuck your shirt from your waist band.
2. More weight in your stirrups.
3. Briefly grab the saddle with your thighs and lift it up.
4. Feel like there’s a piece of tape stuck to the middle of the saddle (on the seat). Don’t slide across it. Instead, lift your seat over it. (To give the feeling of lifting).

Do all this in time with the canter beats while also doing everything else you need to do to ride the horse. (She didn’t say that… but gosh darn this is hard to coordinate!)

I marginally accomplished a few strides of very collected, very soft canter. Then promptly lost it. It’s easy when done right, but hard to coordinate everything.



Not quite right, but definitely more collected.

We also worked on enhancing the quality of the trot. I’m really amazed by how much gait Ava can bring out when she wants to. I still feel like it’s like a hope and pray she does it type of thing, rather than and ask and receive type of thing. Mostly, that’s due to Ava’s strength. I’m sure it’ll get better and better the strong Ava gets.

Again, same concept as in collecting the canter. Lighten the seat, use the seat and thighs to momentarily lift the shoulders. Forward and energy comes from the calves (NOT the seat).

Trot1 Trot2 Trot4



I’ll write more later.

3 thoughts on “Second Lesson with Roz Kinstler – Part A

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Mia. I read so many blogs that are written as though dressage is so easy. It makes me feel like a sack of potatoes on a giraffe. I KNOW I am not brilliant, but I am a pretty decent rider when I am relaxed and not on center stage (and sometimes even when we are on center stage).

    I really appreciate your honesty in this post (and others). You admit when you’re not getting something right or when you don’t understand how to get something. Most bloggers write about how great their horse did in the lesson/clinic/show when in reality, there were probably a lot of sucky moments and fewer nice moments.

    I hate to sound like negative Nancy here, but I wish people were more honest. The silver lining to being honest about your shortcomings is that you’re probably more willing to take instruction to heart. Have a great time with PG! :0)


    • Thanks, Karen. Sometimes I feel like people dismiss me because I post fail moments too. Like I’m sub par because I’m not perfect.

      I think the biggest mistake the dressage industry is making is to project this sense of perfection in order to be in it’s ranks. We must all be 5’8″, skinny, blonde haired beauties riding 40k warmbloods without a hair out of place, never making a mistake or putting a foot wrong. It may be like that in wellington, but you can buy some darn good hairspray down there. 😉

      As my daddy used to say, “It takes an awful lot of sloggin’ through &$%# to get a sow”. Wait, that was my granddaddy. Dad used to say “don’t be afraid to make mistakes, it’s the only way you learn”. That and “who cares what you look like, you’ll never see these people again”.

      Not sure if you’ll check the responses on this post for a while or not, but if you haven’t seen this video then you need to:

      Maybe it isn’t a perfect FEI level performance, but they look like they’re having fun, and they’ve learned tons since they started. I have massive respect for them for not letting negative people tell them what they are, or are not, capable of!

      Plus, at the beginning of the video the horse kind of reminded me of Speedy when you first started dressage. 🙂


      • OMG! I loved the video and watched the whole thing. Maybe there is hope for Speedy and me. As I watched the first part, I thought to myself, dang that horse can TROT. And then when they show up some years later, I thought, yep – makes sense! :0)

        You’re right, the second part isn’t perfect (yet), but there really never is any perfection in dressage, at least not for us non-Olympic bound riders.

        Thanks for sharing the video with me, Mia. I might have to do a blog post and share the video. I think other riders of non-traditional breeds might enjoy it.

        I wish you lived closer. I think we might have a great time hanging out. :0)


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