C has been such a God send for me as a dressage instructor. He does a great job of a) explaining things in ways that make sense and b) making the connection between what I know I need to be doing and my lack of knowing how to do that.
Gus has been really resistant lately. I didn’t know if it was because he had been off so long, because we were riding at night in the jump arena with jump lessons going on, because it was getting cold, or what. Maybe a combo. But it was getting frustrating because I didn’t know what to do to help. So I was really looking forward to this lesson.
C did not disappoint. While he was happy with how Gus was looking despite not having a lesson since July or August (!), he told me that basically I’ve been driving Gus to the gym and then letting him sit in the parking lot and text instead of actually working. Oops. The big thing I have to do is actually go in to the gym and work out.
The two big things that I am supposed to be working on are building the correct muscles and getting Gus to carry himself there. Part of that, at this point, might mean that we are riding a bit lower than we should or that Gus is behind the vertical but we’re not worrying about the headset, we’re worrying about the muscle.
And to get all of this fancy lovely muscle, I need to be riding and asking for control of every step. In fact, one of the things that C helped teach me on Saturday was that the resistance was coming not because Gus’s head wasn’t down but because of something else in the body. Either he was resisting by drifting out or drifting in with his shoulders and I had to work on straightness, or he was falling behind the leg and I had to keep the motion moving forward, or he was hanging on my reins and falling on his forehand.
This is especially noticeable at the canter where Gus has been conditioned to curl his neck in and pound the ground like a good racehorse. But good racehorse manners are not good dressage horse makers. I really had to work on getting his pole up at the canter and getting Gus to rock back on his hind quarters.
The best thing was that I could really feel the few moments where Gus got loose in his back and was swinging. That’s the feeling I want all the time, but we’ve got to build the muscle to get there.