Wednesday, January 13, 2016

first level type sh*t

All the DQs out there might laugh (hard) at this, but I think I *finally* get what all the fuss is about.

return of the mirror selfies! and *real* riding boots!!!
Let's back up for some context, recalling that I only truly began dressage in the summer of 2014.

My first trainer (childhood through high school) believed in a traditional balanced seat philosophy and laid a solid foundation for riding from seat and legs. But with age, she became increasingly protective of her horses, wanting riders using less and less contact. Meaning everyone wore a hackamore (you needed 'approval' to ride in a bit) and the word "pull" was verboten.

So I never learned about true contact and connection there, nor did I pick it up in the h/j world, where I stayed for the next 10 years.

Isabel has demonstrated that she's got the talent and affinity for dressage tho, and I'm figuring out that with a good enough ride, she should be very competitive at events based on dressage score alone (we'll leave stadium rounds for another day lol).

how to prepare for an epic dressage lesson. white boots optional, cat is required tho
Plus it's easy to get excited about Izzy's dressage potential when I ride with a trainer who's absolutely BONKERS about the horse. Seriously. Every time I see trainer C, she reminds me that she wants Isabel for her breeding program when she's done as a riding horse. And she loves Isabel's lengthenings and always has me do them when her people are around to watch.

Which gets us back to the point (finally lol). There was a dressage show near Frederick over the weekend so I took another lesson with C. Sadly the show was canceled due to the EHV outbreak in PA (that has Alli and Dino on lock-down, scary), but we carried on with the lesson anyway.

I told C that the plan was to ride Training 2 & 3, since we went through all the movements last week. She thought that was all well and nice and all, but actually said we should aim for first level instead. Why? Because Isabel's lengthenings are fantastic.

ignore than i'm getting thrown out of the tack, just look at her! (also pic was from last week, no new media this time)
Thus began what I believe was our first *true* dressage ride. I have understood dressage as 'trot on a circle with the horse's head down.' Honestly, that's kinda how the eventing dressage tests go anyway. Trot a circle in balance. Check. Canter a circle in balance. Check. Walk with nose on ground. Check. Boom, nice test, you win.

And as such, Isabel and I would dutifully trot around on circles, nitpicking each other and fussing about connection and head position.

But in this lesson we actually did THINGS. Like even *smaller* circles!!! Haha, just kidding, that wasn't the exciting part.

"things. i like doing them" - isabel
What made it exciting was the technicality. Trot up the long side and at a predetermined point, turn in for half a 10m circle, then take the diagonal back to the wall, changing rein.

Or, free walk across diagonal, then medium walk, then working trot, then canter, bam bam bam. But wait - no rest for the weary, lengthen that canter up the long side then reel it in for a 15m circle. Then canter across the diagonal, transitioning to trot promptly at X.

Imo, that's kinda a lot of stuff all at once, and requires a certain balance and focus that isn't just "put your head here." Plus it turns out that Izzy's canter lengthenings are there too - and she's incredibly easy to put back together again (thank YOU, Dan lessons), meaning that preparing for that trot transition at X is very doable.

And while riding through this test, Isabel and I didn't really fuss once about connection. She was just right there, ready for whatever came next. It was almost like this was what she's been waiting for all along - plainly trotting around connected and balanced is boooooring, she wants to DO something.

This test (2015 USEF First Level Test 1) fit the bill perfectly. It almost felt like a jump course - as soon as you made it through one bit, the next piece was right there. I totally get it now, you guys. This stuff is FUN (never mind the fact that I was *exhausted* after riding the test haha).

"you want fancy? i'll show ya fancy!" - isabel
So yea. Dressage winter boot camp starts now. Pretty exciting!!

And because it can't be a 'Fraidy Cat Eventing lesson recap without some nitty gritty takeaways, here they are:
  • Start thinking about slowly changing Isabel's balance to a slightly higher frame.
  • I should aim to have Isabel's nose poked ever so slightly in front of the vertical, rather than right smack on it (and definitely not behind).
  • It's ok for our leg yields to lead with the shoulder for now, and that is definitely preferred to having too much right bend.
  • For the 10m half circles, it's very hard for judges to tell if the circle is a little longer than it is wide. Meaning, I can turn in ever so slightly late and give myself a little more room to ensure that my half circle ends exactly on the center line at X. Strategy, y'all.
  • For lengthenings (esp canter), ONE leg signal at beginning then let her go. To bring her back together, close entire leg. 
  • While schooling the first trot lengthening or two, don't go all out - wait until later when she's really cooking. 
  • Halts were ON POINT, as was the balance of our canter immediately preceding trot transition at X. Remember that feeling!
  • Watch out for Isabel's right shoulder - especially tracking right I need to avoid exaggerating the bend such that we actually get into shoulder-in (unless that's specifically what I want). 
  • Work on being straighter with my body - hips shoulders weight etc. I'm currently sitting too far right, probably compensating for my broken left leg. 
  • In a test, don't worry about switching whip as we change reins - just carry it in left hand (given my current weak left leg).
  • At some point, we'll work on sitting trot such that the brief corner of trot between walk and canter in First 1 can be sat; C thinks it makes for a more elegant picture. 
  • Holy hell I will never be able to sit that trot lengthening tho. I can barely post it!

49 comments:

  1. Exciting Dressage Diva'ing to come!
    Squeee

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  2. This post made me so happy! I think more people should appreciate dressage :)

    Plus I'm with C and think Iz doing dressage is awesome!!!

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    1. izzy is really doing super well. and i do really truly honestly appreciate dressage - it's just that my limited experience makes me feel like i don't know how to do a 'proper' dressage ride that doesn't devolve into fussing about contact, ya know? luckily that seems to be changing now

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  3. Arabs are quite clever as a group. They get bored pretty easily. So, if you're saying "Horse, come up into contact so that we can cruise around in pretty balanced trot and canter circles", that's not got a lot of interest for you or your horse. Boredom happens. Fussing and nitpicking happens. (I'll say here that doing pretty balanced trot and canter circles is important foundation work for you and your horse. It's just... boring as hell and I say that from aboard my 4 1/2 year old over here in remedial topline building land. I am Living The Dream of boring trot circles, trust me.) When you can do "Okay, come up into contact so that we can Do A, Then B, Then C, and see, horse, I need you to be Right Here With Me because D and E and look, these things keep coming, they're different all the time, F and G and H, Stay With Me..." then she's like "Oh, hellz, there are Things To Do here. I gotta stay on point!" Also for you the rider, the higher tests have more stuff to do and more planning and that keeps your interest and focus high and probably helps you be a very on-point rider for Iz. And I agree with C -- she looks damn sharp in lengthening. :)

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    1. haha yep, pretty much! she loves being kept busy and feeling like she's doing a good job. and yea those lengthenings... what an incredible feeling!

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  4. WOOHOO! What a blast, I'm glad you are finally having FUN in the flatwork!

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    1. learning how to do actual movements that the horse seems to really like is definitely a game changer!

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  5. Yay! I never did dressage either until 2014, being a reformed cross-rails hunter rider, and I've always found it fun.

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    1. ha yup we perhaps have similar backgrounds, then. i never specifically *disliked* dressage... just didn't really know what to do with it lol

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  6. Ooh, you and Isabel and going to have fun with this! Don't forget us little people when you're all shadbelly this and piaffe that..lol :P

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    1. ha now that's a thought!! isabel actually has a "piaffe" (especially evident when you would like her to please walk home like a lady, but she'd rather not thanksverymuch) but it hardly counts as something passable for the show ring, and is definitely not available on command lol

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  7. Ahhhh, welcome to the dark side! We have wine, cheese, bling, and fancy-ass fun movements in the tests. ;)

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    1. ha i love allll theeeeese things!! (esp the cheese haha)

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  8. Love dressage! And yes, you will be able to sit that lengthening one day! I could barely post Bobby's when he first found his, but...two years later? I can sit it pretty easily lol. It just takes time. And a core of steal. :P

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    1. that gives me hope! and maybe one day i'll be able to sit the canter too?!?

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  9. Ugh.... how do you get those lengthening's.... I struggle with those... Very jelly!

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    1. i seriously have no clue how to 'find' them, they are just right there on isabel. like, all i do is ask for a little more and she just ... woooooosh she goes!

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    1. so fun. we're not necessarily very polished yet but that's ok :)

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  11. YAY! Don't worry about not being able to sit the medium, posting makes it feel less sitable- when I post the medium, I can't believe I can sit it! When you can easily sit the collected trot, you'll sit the medium just fine.

    I like starting at First vs Training for some horses, especially those like Izzy. She seems the sort where you can really get caught up in the connection on big/simple figures, but if you just start challenging her and doing more stuff, she settles into a better connection without having to directly work on it. I have a client who is going to skip Training for the exact same reason.

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    1. yes - that's exactly it! when we're just plodding around suddenly it turns into this whole big to-do about headset and softening to my hands. so much of it me, sure, but i also think she just gets bored and fussy.

      that's also great to hear about how it might not be as difficult to sit that trot as i'm thinking. i'm still gonna reserve judgement until it actually happens tho lol

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  12. Yaaay dressage! It really is fun and a good workout! It's funny that Izzy seems to have been waiting for the fun stuff lol

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    1. it was super eye-opening for me - i'd always known that she's got some talent and ability, but really was very surprised at how enthusiastic she became about the work when it got more "interesting" lol

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  13. I feel like some exciting times are on the horizon!

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    1. to be honest, i left this lesson feeling excited and inspired in a way that hasn't happened in a while :D

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  14. Mwahahaha you've learned why we love being on the dark side (i.e. dressage land)!!!! My dressage nerd self is geeking out right now.

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    1. haha i mean, i figured you all had to be so excited about it for reasons, right? now i just finally understand it from a more first-person perspective lol

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  15. Mwahahaha you've learned why we love being on the dark side (i.e. dressage land)!!!! My dressage nerd self is geeking out right now.

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  16. I've never quite heard of a dressage test explained that way, but I think your enthusiasm is wearing off on me! Thinking of each movement as an obstacle sounds kinda fun! :)

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    1. it definitely felt like each movement was an obstacle - at least for my jumping brain. i already know how to leave things like dropped rails behind me and focus only on what lies ahead in a course, but somehow struggled to do the same with dressage tests. so the metaphor helps me with that lol

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  17. I can relate fully I never really understood what dressage was until about 7 years ago and even showed Yankee locally at 3rd level....its harder than it seems haha, Not for me competitively but I do love the ASPECT of it for eventing

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    1. i always knew it was hard... just never knew it could be so fun too haha. and i might actually be considering pursuing it competitively too.. but only as a side gig to our beloved eventing :)

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  18. Emma! Email me over at xniamhx (at gmail dot com) so I can share my super secret Jimmy Wofford info with you! ps. I had no idea you were so close by, we'll have to meet up (we were at a bunch of the same events last year!)

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  19. you MUST post video of the trot lengthenings! or link to it if you haven't already posted it!

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    1. haha ok i will see what i can dig up - we are having some of the MOST annoying types of technical difficulties wherein a video exists (see scree shot) but i can't for the life of me figure out how to actually download the digital version, and my friend already deleted it off her phone.... the struggle is REAL!!

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    2. Android or iPhone? The google cloud system can be a hobag sometimes but I have figured it out. Apple cloud system I do not understand at all.

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    3. Apple. Blargh. It is seriously driving me crazy. I'll just have to get fresh material, I guess. Hopefully soon!!

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  20. Woohoo! I remember when I realized dressage was actually fun instead of "that thing you do before xc" ;) It helps having a horse that can do fun things like lengthenings and enjoys the work which it sounds like Izzy does!!!! You guys will be a force to reckon with at the dressage shows!

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    1. thanks - that's the hope! she's just generally so game for everything, it really makes a difference in enjoying the learning process :)

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  21. Hahaha. "Boom, you win".

    Can't wait to see videos of the lengthenings!

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    1. hopefully i can deliver!!! i got a new phone that will hopefully not piss and moan (and then die) in cold weather, so friends can take videos on *it* and not their own phones, which led to the whole disaster of not being able to access media int he first place... (first world problems, i tell ya)

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  22. I was like "hey I'm gunna start first level lemme take a look at that test!" got through like two parts and freaked out.

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    1. i did the same thing, but actually running through it was fine. you never know til you try!

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  23. Sooo... totally thought you'd replaced your leg with a cat. Cat-leg. Totally your style. High-maintenance, though.

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    1. lol, more effective than a broken leg tho! ;)

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  24. Yay! I look forward to hearing about the dressage boot camp progress.

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    1. ha me too! next lesson is in a couple days, i'm sooooo pumped haha :D (such a lesson junkie lol)

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