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Moiya Jumping with Cute Knees

Stretch Up

Ever since I can remember, my upper body position (especially over fences) has been horrible. Every coach I worked with from high school through college told me to keep my shoulders back, stop rounding my back or some variation thereof. It was really frustrating for me because I tried. I tried so hard to do this, and it usually just didn’t work. When I started riding with my current trainer, we didn’t talk about it. We talked a lot about many other things, like using my hands independently, strengthening my legs and keeping my eye up… but we didn’t really talk a lot about upper body position.

Moiya's Fancy Trot

I think in part that it was easy for her to see how flustered I would get over the subject. Looking back, I also think my trainer realized that other things needed to come first. Recently in lessons we’ve started talking about upper body position, although Trainer is sneaky and doesn’t call it that. In fact, she never tells me to “keep my shoulders back” … or anything to do with my shoulders. Instead she uses other phrases like “stretch up” (which she probably says at least 15 times a lesson), or “hold yourself.”

Moiya Rockin and Rollin

Moiya has been awesome for these exercises for me, because I can trust her to keep doing her job regardless, but I can feel a difference when my upper body loses some balance. For a long time I’ve focused on riding to the jump and over the jump… but not what I do immediately after the jump. Moiya is teaching me to react more quickly, recover, and keep cantering on the second, third and fourth stride after we land.

Moiya Jump Oct 2015

In our last lesson we jumped a “gymnastic” (a gymnastic exercise is a series of ground poles and jumps with no more than two strides between that are commonly used in jump training for both horses and riders. They can be set up a million different ways: different number of jumps, ground lines, verticals, oxers, and bounces to different degrees of difficulty). I use the term loosely here because our gymnastic was a crossrail and then four or five strides to a vertical. Not exactly a gymnastic, but I have a huge phobia of these exercises, so that’s the Tracy-friendly version of a gymnastic. Anyways, we started out small, and the second jump got progressively bigger. I was extra nervous the first time Trainer made the second jump into an oxer because I’d never jumped Moiya over one before. Obviously she’s done them a million times, but I know she can jump hard sometimes, so I was worried I might get popped out of the tack.

Moiya Jumping with Cute Knees

I shouldn’t have worried. Even with all the jumps set at 2’3″-2’6″, Moiya was a rockstar. We sailed over the oxer no problem, and I improved over every jump. It was a great feeling to find my rhythm and let my doubts and fears melt away as I jumped around. I got off feeling like I’m really getting somewhere. Have I mentioned yet how much I adore this mare?!


Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

15 thoughts to “Stretch Up”

  1. I’m so glad you have a great partner while Miles is healing up!
    My two cents: form always follows function. So while you’re learning to keep your hands independent, and working on strengthening your leg and core, that whole upper body issue will work itself out too.
    Keep up the great work!

  2. If I am struggling with the theory of something, sometimes I just need to hear it worded a different way. And that can be so frustrating, because you know what to do, you just can’t do it! Either way, you are looking great on that little bay mare.

  3. i kinda love a trainer that can be sneaky about getting me to work on things that are hard for me, but somehow getting me to do it without even realizing that i’m doing it. tricksy trainers!

  4. Gymnastics are so hard…but so good for horse & rider. I need to learn to “stretch up” too, I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders and start to fold into myself too easily.

    You two look great together! 😀

  5. Here here on struggling with keeping me shoulders back… life time struggle lol!

    Love that you and this mare are getting along so well and that she is enabling you to really work on some great things!!

    Keep up the good work girl!

  6. So fun! When you do get to jump Miles again I think you’re going to find yourself a much stronger rider. Getting the chance to ride/jump other horses is such an invaluable experience.

    Also gymnastics are like ground poles. Torturous but necessary! LOL

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