If I thought my last ride was swoon worthy, I thought too soon. Today’s lesson was amazing. Or maybe I’m swooning because I can’t physically stand up anymore…

Riding with a new instructor is always nerve wracking for me. It’s an evaluation for both me and the new instructor and I’m always worried that I’ll do something silly. Today I was even more nervous because this is the first horse I’ve brought up from scratch, even if I did have help. I just wanted Dandy to make a good first impression. I think it went really well! Kristen immediately saw what kind of horse he was and got a feel for his personality (anxious but an overachiever). I got the impression that she wouldn’t have a problem working with us.

Kristen started us at a walk on 20 meter circle. We worked on several things but the goals were to get Dandy to bend, round and use his hind end. An outside goal that would come from getting these three things was to get all his attention on me so that if a random horse came in he wouldn’t even care. I had to use a lot of my inside seat-bone to get Dandy to bend the direction we were going and I was constantly pushing him into the rein by moving my belly button. Wait, what? Yes, my belly button. Kristen showed me how moving your belly button from side to side opens up your hips. Using this trick let me encourage Dandy to move into a nicer walk and even engaged his hind end. The roundness came in bits and pieces as I got my act together and it was beautiful. I could feel his back open and his legs flow. Kristen even said that the few moments I had brought his walk from a 6 to a 7. How cool is that?

Even the bending went well. I have never really been able to get Dandy to move off my leg like I thought he should but with Kristen’s help I did. I think it might be even better if I put my spurs back on but I want to make sure my leg is a bit steadier first.

We moved on to the trot, working on the transitions and keeping that nice roundness through them. This was really hard for me as I like to tense up coming down from the trot to the walk. Kristen is having me work on my breathing to help with that. I’m supposed to exhale when driving him forward into the walk, sort of like yoga.

While we were working on getting the roundness at the trot, I also had to teach Dandy to move off my leg and bend. This wasn’t so bad to the left but it was very hard at the right. The first few times, Dandy did not get it at all and was starting to get anxious that he wasn’t finding the right answer so we slowed to a walk and went through bending again. This time, when we went back to a trot, Dandy figured it out. What a good boy!

What Kristen explained to me, and made perfect sense as soon as she said it, was that I need to teach Dandy that it’s okay to make a mistake and not be anxious about it. That he’s not going to get in trouble for trying but being wrong. Basically, I have to build his confidence so we both don’t get frustrated.

One thing I noticed after the lesson while watching video, that is not so good, is that I was so focused on Dandy that I let my posture out to dry. My elbows are locked, heels up. It will all come together eventually. I just have to be conscious of the problems. The other issue I’m having that was noticeable while I was riding, and that Kristen pointed out several times, I’m letting go of the reins. I’m letting Dandy pull them from my fingers or just letting them slide out and this has got to stop.

The hardest part of the lesson, for me, was asking for the canter not only from a walk but using only my seat to scoop Dandy into the canter while my leg is just used as a guide. Now, I know this is a standard of good dressage riders, and big time riders, but I have never been asked to do this before and now I’m being asked to do this from a walk?! There was a brief moment of panic as I gawped at Kristen but I tried. And sort of got it. I keep looking down which of course screws everything up. Didn’t drumline teach me anything? The ground horse isn’t going anywhere…

It’s a really cool feeling when I did get the transition though because I feel like he’s “popping” into the canter instead of running. What was also cool to  learn was that I’m the one making him drop back into a trot. The minute I stopped riding, aka got tense or distracted, Dandy dropped back down.

Once we were in the canter, we worked on getting roundness. Again, it was a lot of pushing him into my hands but Kristen also had me ride with my hands down by my thighs so I was acting like side reins. The difference in him was insane! Again. While the roundness was not nearly as good as it had been at the trot or canter, for the first time, I felt Dandy collect for just a few steps. I’ve got to work on my strength just so I can keep up with him. Pushing him over and making him bend at the canter was even harder than the trot.

Finally. Finally! we were done and I got a break. Except we weren’t quite done because Kristen wanted to teach me how to get Dandy to go long and low. Remember my horse that I’ve never really been able to get to stretch? Take a look!

I am so so happy with all the work LG put into him. Without it, I’d never be able to take him to the next step like this.

Also, a big thank you needs to go out to the boy who agreed to dvr the Eagles game so he could come and get all these awesome videos of me and Dandy. He pretty much recorded my entire lesson just so I could go back and watch them and learn more. LOVE YOU!