Monday, September 8, 2014

dressage lesson + week wrap up

So naturally, after I posted about my big 'freely forward' epiphany and letting Isabel make some decisions and figure things out for herself... naturally we'd have a couple back-to-back crappy rides. 

womp womp

Wednesday night the ring was kinda soupy from recent rain, and Isabel just didn't seem really comfortable with the footing and was quite tense. Thursday... she just wasn't on her A game (the same can probably be said for me). I felt like she wasn't really 'with' me or focusing, not really trying as hard as she usually does. She wasn't bad... just not really good either.

Plus, I did that thing I said I wouldn't do: namely, just running Isabel at the fences instead of balancing the canter. So we got a few pretty crappy distances, knocked down a few rails (super unusual for her), and I kinda wanted to scream. Maybe that's just part of the process of her figuring it out for herself? Idk... it just wasn't particularly awe-inspiring. 

'focus'?? nope, never heard of it

Anywho, I finally managed to get a dressage lesson with MP scheduled - tho I nearly cancelled bc of aforementioned shit rides and the fact that it was 95 degrees and super humid... 

But we stuck it out and I'm super glad that we did. It was a really great ride. 

I had a long talk with the trainer about my concerns with Isabel's general maintenance (her back and hocks in particular), and MP managed to back me away from the ledge. 

She believes that the first step of ensuring a horse's longevity and physical well-being is to focus on getting the horse to consistently go *correctly.* She compared it to the folks at the gym doing 50 reps fast-n-dirty vs. the folks doing only 5 reps, but slowly and with perfect form. 

This translated into her vetoing parts of my current warm-up routine. I had been cruising around the ring for a lap or two at walk and trot in each direction before starting to draw in the contact. MP says that trotting around with her nose in the air is comparable to doing the 50 fast-n-dirty reps, and that it accomplishes nothing. 

Instead, she thinks we can take a lap or two at the walk - just enough for Isabel to take a looksie at her surroundings. Then it's straight to work with slowly (and calmly!!) establishing contact at the walk, resulting in a medium walk with Isabel soft through her jaw, poll, neck, etc and over tracking with her hind feet. 

Meanwhile, as I worked on this, it was pretty immediately apparent that Isabel had shown up ready to go. She was listening and reacting and just generally being her usual rock star self. 

unrelated photo is unrelated

MP focused on getting *me* correct, which then allowed Isabel to move out properly. It's always the same old issues for me, but I'm making progress. 

She wants me to:
  • stabilize my core and sit up + back
  • 'stand' on my seat bones
  • stabilize my elbows at my side and connect them to the bit - leave my hands soft and my wrists unbroken. changing the bend in my elbows is enough of a signal for Iz
  • leave my leg long - don't nag
  • sit lightly - the saddle is lava when we trot

We did a lot of work on asking for the inside bend with my inside elbow and leg, then straightening and supporting with the outside rein. Also lots of leg yields (if they can be called that at this point lol). Once I was able to get consistent contact at the walk and trot, we started throwing in transitions, trot poles and canter work. 

My canter *is* actually coming along. At the moment it feels like one big huge sloppy pile of mush... but the problem is rooted in me not really being able to find my seat. It's crazy - I just can't sit the canter. But we're working on it. I had a few moments in the lesson when I really felt where I needed to be. Once I can keep myself there, getting Isabel packaged together better will be easier. 

We finished the ride with rapid fire walk-trot transitions stirrup-less. Transitions have been pretty high on my priority list in the last few weeks, so it was good to see improvements here. 

It's kind of silly - our whole ride right now would barely constitute the warm-up for most dressage riders. But I'm still super excited about our progress and the visible difference it has on Isabel. 

good pony

Will probably get one more lesson next weekend, then back-to-back show weekends at the end of the month. 


  1. I'm going to steal your warm up routine... :) I dont' really have one haha

    1. definitely let me know how it goes!

      our work is so focused on the fundamentals right now that my trainer doesn't want me searching around for 'new' ways of doing things - she just wants me to focus on being *correct* 100% of the time - not looking for quick fixes or magic potions or gadgets etc.

  2. Think your trainer has a great plan. Having them move properly is SO important.

    1. thanks - i'm just starting to learn this and actually see the evidence