Tuesday, June 16, 2015

the mare is fine. keep riding! (pics unrelated)

I finally made it back for a dressage lesson with C at TM!! This actually meant skipping out on a fun (and inexpensive) CT at our own farm... sad face... But after going from scoring 26.8 to 45.3 in the space of two weeks... well... we need help lol.

There is exactly zero media evidence from this ride, not even any blurry mirror selfies or shots of Izzy stuffing her face at the trailer... very sorry! So instead enjoy a bevy of creeper photos from a recognized dressage show I volunteered at doing gate duty a few weeks ago. Oh, and a cool rainbow from after it rained last night. 

is isabel my pot of gold?
Anyways there were no real big breakthroughs. But perhaps refining a few things and a new tool or two. I had given Isabel 3 days off going into the ride to help her feel a little fresher and loose, but it's unclear if it helped. My plan was to recreate that great feeling we had coming off of stall rest... but perhaps it's foolish to think we'll get there again with anything short of another 3 weeks. 

And, now that I think about it, Izzy was always kinda blah last winter when we only rode 1-2x per week. Almost as if it wasn't even worth it. Either give up and take the winter off, or find a way to ride more often. So... I may need to keep the 4-5x per week schedule, but just be diligent about variety - in what we focus on in the ride, where we ride, how hard we ride, etc, to avoid any undue sourness. Then maybe a 2wk break in July?

gate check gear: latex gloves for bit checks, walkie, clip board, and water for whoever looked ready to pass out
Of course, the flip side is my borderline hypochondriac issues wherein I'm always worrying up imaginary woes for the mare. Bc really the mare is fine. She just has my number BIG TIME. Lol

When I have a trainer talking me through every step, I can ride through the sassy snarky 'idonwannas' no problem. But on my own? Oooh boy it's this whole cycle of self doubt. "Is she fussing bc I'm messing up?" I mean, yea probably bc I mess up a lot... but really Isabel can do the thing without fussing. She knows how. She just also knows that if she fusses enough I'll back off... oops! 

The real trick then becomes not getting mad or pushy about it. I need to just focus on what I've learned, play my trainers' voices in my head, and ride out whatever she gives me with the expectation that we will get to the good stuff. And it works! (shocking, I know...)

this Fjord was very cool
But yea, back to the lesson. We had to work through some initial sass to start. I mean, it wasn't anything terrible, but it also wasn't the 'straight to work, all business' that I've been so very very spoiled with. Which I guess had to happen eventually, right? 

C's directives were to get that mare GOING. We started out WAY more forward than I think I've ever ridden with C. Like, really trot trot TROTTING. And Isabel's shoulders were popping every which way - especially outside. C wanted me really riding those outside aids - especially the outside thigh blocking her shoulder. And when we turned she really wanted me riding Isabel's shoulders and keeping them square in front of me. She even had me bump Izzy with the dressage whip on her shoulder a couple times just to say 'move back over where you belong!'

like, it seriously caught my attention, and not just bc it's an exotic breed
Mare was, uh, a little chagrined at this change. Some head flinging reappeared, and fussing... But I guess we just had to work through it. All this forward had activated the hind end so then I was able to reel it back in again and reorganize on the slower rhythm that C typically wants from us. Which is I guess where things went south for Waredaca. I was so worried about that rhythm that I let everything else get dull. Remember what Dan said last week? About getting stuck in the same rhythm at trot? Yea, another oops...

Anyways C's most frequently repeated comments this week were about my arms/hands - she wanted that outside elbow stable at my side (how often will I have to hear this before it's just a thing I do?), and she wanted my inside hand lifted out and open. Definitely higher than the outside. She had to repeat this almost every few strides...

But it really worked when I did it - especially at getting Isabel's head back up again from her favored BTV stance. The trick was allowing my hands to do this thing, while also using my thighs and legs to keep Isabel's shoulders in line. She wanted to go EVERYWHERE with her shoulders omg. 
he was actually pretty fancy, with quite a few onlookers. tho honestly i felt pretty creepy snapping pics.... is that bad form? 
So another repeated comment was 'more weight in the stirrups.' For some reason this actually helped click a little for me, as did C's follow up comment to try and feel my big toe in the stirrups. That's definitely one for the memory bank haha. 

The canter was pretty typical for us... meaning still not great. C said I was sitting better, which was heartening, tho I'm still 'driving' too much with my seat. I must find a BALANCE. Eventually lol. She also wanted me to stop carrying Isabel so much. I'm keeping the mare going with every.single.stride and she wants me to allow Isabel to make the mistake of breaking so I can correct it. Makes sense in theory, but hard for this micro-manager to actually do...

We then ran through test BN-B too for good measure, and it was fine aside from Isabel trying to check out by spooking at the horrifying gardeners outside the window. 

maybe the gate judge snapping pics of competitors during their test is worse? whatevs, this pair was a pleasure to watch
So yea, not really a pretty lesson, but actually fairly empowering. Isabel really is so good - so so so good, but it's unrealistic to expect her to do all the work for me and I need to learn how to cope when she's maybe less eager to please. 

In keeping with the idea that too many days off might actually work against me, I went right back out last night for another dressage school. Some of the same resistance was there, but I stuck with it. Again it's tricky when I don't have someone there reaffirming my choices... but I tried to just stay patient and keep up the conversation with Isabel. 

It wasn't anything brilliant... no. But I managed to end the ride with canter transitions and quick circle in each direction for which Isabel got a LOT of praise (tho no, really they weren't anything special but she was very obedient and was trying... just seemed like her confidence needed the praise more than anything) and we called it a night.

Really tho, if I could just have a professional walk me through every movement in our tests we'd be golden!


  1. OMG I feel stuck in the same place with dressage!! I have a lesson tomorrow, hopefully we'll get a good tune-up and some insight into how the dynamic has changed. Can we start a club? Micro-Managing Riders Support Group? But I think a lot of getting out of this kind of slump is being confident in your knowledge and ability to ask correctly, and just expect your horse to be good and listen and do their job, instead of constantly thinking about how to 'prevent' them from making a mistake.

    1. omg MMRSG forever! seriously tho, i think you're right about needing that confidence in our own skills in order to make it through to the horse and past any slump. i'm so quick to back off tho, but i just need to stay the course... and perhaps this is why i've avoided any dressage schools on my own in a little while... but if we're going to have any semblance of luck in the dressage court this weekend and next i need to really stick to my guns!

    2. I would be in that group too hahah

    3. lol i think we need t-shirts or something :)

  2. It's all about those small steps forward :)

  3. Having someone on the ground is SO helpful, but I think the best thing when you're up there and have no feedback is to do like you are -- keep with one strategy and not change things up all the time. That's how I always seem to confuse my ponty. I'm glad you had a productive lesson!

    1. i totally agree.. it's hard sometimes when i start to think i'm strategy, or the application thereof, is wrong.. but i guess that's just a part of the process!

  4. i totally struggle with the same doubts when my instructor isn't there! part of it is because i can't see what i look like but it's probably also a sea of doubt welling up when things don't go well...

  5. Oh dressage. Why are the so difficult? At least it feels like you've got some great things to work with!

    1. sooooo difficult wth!!! but yea, having tools is always helpful i guess lol

  6. It's definitely nice having a trainer, some days I feel like I really struggle with not taking regular lessons anymore. And then I have this weird identity crisis where I remember that I'm a trainer and there are people who want ME around them when they ride and it kind of freaks me out. I imagine that's what it's like to have a kid or buy a horse for the first time, like "you're going to trust me with this thing? I can barely function on my own!"

    1. haha it's oddly reassuring to hear i'm not the only one that feels this way. eyes on the ground are so reassuring, so *safe* feeling... but i guess i better figure out how to get it done on my own too!


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