The Basics

Last night was one of *those* lessons. The ones you don’t want to have. One of those we’re you’re frustrated, the horse is frustrated, and even your unflappable trainer is frustrated.

We were working on turn on the forehand to the left and nothing felt right. Nothing felt good. I was flustered. Gus was threatening to cause problems. And even LT didn’t know what to do for me anymore. I think we had all reached a point where none of us wanted to be in that lesson anymore.

I don’t blame LT for being fed up with me. Dressage lessons have been hard recently. I used to enjoy dressage even if it was not quite as entertaining as my jumping lesson but lately they have felt like a chore. It felt like we had stalled out. LT felt it too and eventually last night she let me have it (in a totally deserved way of course). That brought me over the brink too and I felt the tears come as I tried to explain why I was frustrated.

All I could think of was “I don’t know how to do this.”

“Well of course you don’t know how to do this, that’s why I’m teaching you.”

But I realized that it wasn’t this exercise that I had meant. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to do a turn on the forehand. It’s that I don’t know how to do dressage. I don’t have enough natural talent to feel when I’m doing something correct but have just enough to fake it through the lower levels. I’m a fraud.

For years I’ve been in dressage lessons and trainers will tell me to do this or do that, open the inside rein, move the shoulder out, spiral in, put his haunches on the inside track and I will shift my aids until they say “good!” And I will leave my lesson happy thinking how cool it is that we’re working on trot lengthening or some other fun thing. But then I will climb into the saddle to practice this and I can’t repeat the feeling. I can’t figure out when I’ve got my horse forward versus fast or if we’re riding a little shoulder in versus his shoulders just falling in. I don’t know what I did to get it the first time and, with no eyes on the ground to tell me I’m doing it correctly, I can’t feel it.

And even as LT was trying to not let her frustration with me show, I realized that I didn’t know how to even explain all of this to her. I didn’t know how to explain that no one ever taught me the basics of dressage. Yes I grew up riding the hunters but put me in the sandbox and everything feels very different. I almost never have a problem getting my correct lead in the jump field but ask me to do it on a 20 meter circle at B and it’s a 50/50 shot I’ll get the wrong one.

So when LT put me back on a 20 meter circle and asked me to spiral in, I swallowed my pride and said told her I didn’t know how. That seemed to surprise her.

Oh, I know what spiral ins and outs are. I know what they accomplish. And, I guess, I’ve been doing them (sort of) for years. But until last night, I never knew how to do them correctly. Meaning, I never knew what the right aids were. I didn’t know where to put my legs or how much pressure I needed on the inside versus the out. I didn’t know what to do with my reins or how to use my seat. Maybe I was doing some of the corrections naturally but I couldn’t have told you what I was doing.

We walked through the aids one by one and, as it turns out, I did know more about doing a spiral in than I thought. But there were also pieces that I was not doing or even knew to do, like bringing my outside hip to my outside rein  just as I was bringing my outside rein to my outside hip to form a wall around the outside shoulder. And when I put all of those aids together, they were the best spiral ins I’ve ever done. I was actually spiraling instead of feeling like I was dragging Gus into a smaller and smaller circle.

LT has always been great at explaining how to accomplish things but she didn’t know that I was missing some of the basic dressage fundamentals and she can’t fix what she doesn’t know is a problem. To be honest, I’m not even sure if I knew it was a problem myself. All I knew was that dressage was becoming more and more frustrating as LT was expecting more. It wasn’t fun. I had reached a point in my dressage journey where I could no longer fake it, even if it was happening subconsciously.

Knowing what the problem is now isn’t a magic fix, of course, but I do hope it’s the first step down the right path.

Pax

New Kid now has a barn name: Pax!

And I LOVE this guy so much. He is so sweet and has been, so far, very willing. He definitely has baby race horse manners meaning he is just a little bit pushy and doesn’t know anything about how to behave like a grownup horse but all of these things are fixable.

Last night we had our first ground work lesson with LT. I’ve done some ground work before but have been largely self-taught which led to some mixed results. Dandy always reacted well but I’ve never been able to do much of it with Gus. He is very resistant and I just didn’t have the knowledge to get past it.

That’s where LT comes in. She is very good with her ground work and already just in working with Pax last night she has made a huge difference in how I handle the rope when asking for backing. LT noticed that when I was “marching” I was pulling, just slightly, the rope towards me and, since Pax is so sensitive, this was actually telling him to come towards me. Instead I need to be very deliberate in throwing the rope towards him. This little detail made a huge difference.

We worked on three things last night: the first stage of backing, disengaging the hind quarters, and desensitizing to the stick. I was very impressed with how Pax did although we did come to find that he’s very very sensitive. This could be a problem under tack but it’s a problem for a different day.

For the next week or so, my continued goal is to keep working on Pax’s ground work and give him all the love. I’m really liking this little horse.

What Was I Thinking

Literally right after I had written a long post about how stressed I was trying to find a shipper to get New Kid here and how I was going to have to scratch my horse trial this weekend, my prayers were answered and the track trainer found a rig to pick New Kid up on Thursday. Hallelujah!

So that takes relieves at least one point of pressure. It still doesn’t change the fact that I’m right in the middle of Open Enrollment at work and I thought it would be a good idea to go to Poplar to compete this weekend. And of course, someone still has to be there to receive New Kid, but details. Seriously, what was I thinking?

This is kind of not my fault though since I signed up for this show when Open Enrollment was scheduled to end on November 6th. They kept pushing around the dates and suddenly I realized the show and the end date of OE coincided. Oh well!

I am feeling good about Poplar though. I had a random mid-day lesson last week where I actually got to jump and it was both productive and fun. The big goal for me is that I have to get that perfect canter every time. None of this Goldilocks bullshit of it being too big or two slow. It has to be just right.

Also, I like Poplar and we’ve ridden there the most out of any other location down here. I feel very confident that we can handle the courses.

This should be a fun if crazy weekend though. Poplar with Gus. New Kid coming to town. And OE finishing! I don’t know which one I’m more excited about.

And Then There Were Two

I have somewhat seriously, somewhat casually been searching for a second OTTB for the last few months. And yesterday I found him.

Meet… well, to be honest, he doesn’t have a name! New Kid is a two year old by Courageous Cat (Storm Cat) and out of a Red Ransom mare named Taken by Storm. He’s been on the track and been training but he’s had no published works.

Here’s his pedigree for those who are interested:

I was personally really excited to see the Roberto line in his dam as they usually make wonderful jumpers and my husband got a kick out of just how old the dam lines were. Rahy on his sire side is also a nice turfy influence.

New Kid definitely needs a good trim and some growing up (oh my gosh, did I really buy a two year old?! am I crazy?!) but I see a lot of potential in him.

Right now we are working out the shipping but I am officially the owner of two horses! Time to buckle down the budget and get lean.

2017 Tryon Riding & Hunt Club – Stadium

After successfully getting around XC the day before I was not all worried about stadium. In fact, the jumps looked a little on the soft side height wise though definitely decorated to the 9s.

And then I promptly had a stop at the baby cross rail in warm up. Go figure.

However, except for that little bauble, we couldn’t have had a better warm up or a better round. For the first time, I felt like I had a horse that was responding and adjustable.

Was it perfect? Hell no. But it was the best stadium round we’ve had to date. Gus only barely looked at the decorations and if he jumped over his shoulder it was because I burried him too deep to the fence.

We jumped clean though and managed to hold our sixth place spot.

I loved being able to do the victory lap versus picking up my ribbon in the office. It felt like much more of a celebration.

I also have to give a shout out to The Farmhouse which supplied prizes for all top eight finishers in every division. It’s not common around here to even have prizes for the top places so this was extremely generous. I won a schooling helmet which is always helpful!

This show was full of ups and downs but it ended up being the perfect introduction to the novice division. I can’t wait to get back out there!