I had my first lesson with my new, Western trainer last Thursday. As a reminder, I am a dressage rider. Although there is Western dressage, traditionally dressage falls under the “English” riding category. Of course we have our own saddles and other various equipment that should not be confused with the other English disciplines; however you can easily ride dressage in any typical English saddle.
Back to my lesson. (I have a saddle problem, enough said.) I work as staff at a very nice local non-show barn. They specialize in gaited horses. Most gaited horses do not trot. They move both legs on the same side of their body in the same direction at the same time as opposed to diagonal pairs. Google it.
Gaited horses are supposed to be quite comfortable. They are not used in traditional dressage because there is trotting involved in traditional dressage. A lot of trotting.
I’m having a really hard time sticking to my post theme.
The point is, the barn where I work and where my new, Western trainer works, specializes in gaited horses. They have one trotting animal/equine, and that would be a mule. A mule. A long ear. Her name is Strawberry and she previously was a national Western Pleasure champion. She will do anything you ask, including dressage. And her ears are glorious. I will post a photo soon.
During the lesson, I mostly worked on relaxing myself. I had been taught to use my inside leg on turns to push the back end of the horse/mule to the outside and use the outside leg and rein as a guard rail. Not saying this was correct or not, it just was what I was taught. This was the first thing my new, Western trainer had me change. He had me take my inside leg off of her completely and turn her instead with outside leg pressuring her shoulder to move her in. This wasn’t altogether a new concept for me, so I managed to do okay with it. We talked a lot about riding with emotion and connecting with the horse. Mule.
If you have the chance to get on a highly trained mule, I highly recommend seizing that opportunity. If nothing else, you get to look at their glorious ears.