Student Spotlight: Kymmy Pullen on Riding with Michael Barisone

Barisone Dressage student Kymmy Pullen has been riding with Michael Barisone for a couple of years now. Previously she trained with him a few times a year as she was working for Silva Martin, but since starting her own business earlier this year she has been traveling to New Jersey to work with Michael on a weekly basis. Next year Kymmy plans to move her gelding Hot Date up to fourth level and her young horse, Sir Eastwood, up to second level and he will compete in the FEI 6-year-old tests. We caught up with Kymmy after her final lesson before everyone heads south for the winter:


“Michael really focuses on the basics. We’ve had lessons where we worked only on trot and canter circles, or we’ll make sure our transitions are perfect. Focusing on these really basic things can make riding the tests a piece of cake.


This past week he helped me teach my young horse flying changes. We were basically working on a simple canter circle, then we did a bunch of simple changes on the circle. We did counter canter and regular canter, changing the horse’s balance. We really drilled the basics and once we asked for the flying change it was easy. When I used the new outside leg and tapped him on the side, he jumped right into the flying change.


For the 6-year-old tests the changes have to be really smooth. He’s a hot horse and his changes can get a little frantic. He also needs to learn half-pass for the test, but he’s still young and I don’t want to drill it too much. He’s tried it a couple times and I know he can do them but we’re still focusing on make the basics better.


With my other horse, Hot Date, we started working on half-steps, the beginning of piaffe. We had struggled with simple walk-trot transitions; Hot Date wanted to canter out of the walk and Michael said this is a problem that we need to address now, or it will be a big problem later in his training. We worked a lot on straightness, because sometimes I bend him too much going into the canter. After he understood the transition I was able to send him forward into a big, fancy trot. It made a big difference just to get that transition.


We’re doing a lot of five-loop serpentine at the canter with a flying change at the center. That’s similar to the Developing Prix St. George test. I don’t want to push him too fast so I’m not sure if we’ll do that test this year, but in training he’s figuring out the balance and getting stronger, and learning the control necessary for the changes of direction and flying changes.


As far as my riding, Michael works a lot on my hands and trying to get me to carry them closer together and more still. My legs and feet are good but my hands get tense. I need to relax my arms without giving, so we work on that.


Michael’s wife Vera also watches my lessons and gives me pointers, which is amazing, it’s like two lessons in one! It’s so helpful because their styles are complimentary, it’s not confusing at all to have them both giving me advice. A lot of times she will see something in my position while he’s focusing on the horse, or vice/versa. Michael’s amazing, he was teaching me until about 8:15pm. I like his style and it seems to click really well, especially with my two horses.”