Friday, March 17, 2023

dressage lesson: take 2

Whew, so after a bit of a false start last week, Charlie and I made it to our first dressage lesson in.... forever. Like, I know I always say "it's been forever" but... Guys, wow, it really has

doesn't he look excited??
We had a few (ahhmazing) flat lessons with Molly K throughout 2021, both at our home farm and shipping out to other local farms... But then she got an exciting new gig and relocated to Phyllis Dawson's Windchase Farm down in Virginia. Happy for her, sad for us, and so it goes. 

stampede!! it's only 6 of 'em, but feels like a LOT of OTTB lol
Long-time readers might remember when I "kinda gave up on dressage" with Charlie. For a lot of rational reasons, really, and not worth rehashing or getting back into at this point. The difference now, however, comes with the introduction of Equioxx, which you may recall Charlie started in November on the advice of his vet. 

just kidding, they calm right down when the fresh round bale goes out!
My sense is that Charlie has responded incredibly well to this systemic NSAID. Obvi we've had a limited runway for 'testing' since Charlie wrecked himself on a piece of gravel shortly thereafter... But honestly... Guys, the horse feels great. He feels like a horse I can take to lessons again and not worry so much about 'protecting' him, if that makes sense. 

looking as spiffed and polished as he ever gets <3
There's a second reason why I'm so excited to get into lessons at this exact moment (and why we were so quick to reschedule after Charlie's choke). And it has to do with the saga of lamenesses over the last 6 months. 

Between Charlie getting tangled in the high-tensile wire fence last summer, to the general malaise preceding the Equioxx prescription, to this recent abscess, Charlie and I have literally been out of work for 4 of the last 6 months, in total. 

still LOVING this little workhorse of an air compressor!
In other words, we are WEAK. Both of us. Or, to say it another way, we're in a prime position to rebuild better. We lost our 'bad' habit strengths right alongside the 'good.' My hope is that by getting immediately into lessons (ie supervision lol), *before* we're particularly fit, we can focus on rebuilding strength in a healthy, balanced and sustainable fashion. 

such a professional at the trailer
And who better for this mission than Trainer C, the puppet master extraordinaire herself!!!!  

Long-long-time readers will remember that Trainer C is one of the original three pillars of my eventing education, as written here on ye olde blogge. She's responsible for starting my dressage journey, and shining a bright light on the latent raw dressage talent within Isabel. She also was a key resource in starting Charlie.

gosh, it feels like forever since we saw this view
So. We are back at it. And I'm really excited. This particular lesson wasn't like, ground breaking or earth shattering or anything like that --- and it wasn't supposed to be, obvi. But it was good, and exactly what we need. 

I asked C to be relentless in her guidance of my position and style of riding, while basically treating Charlie like a good boy who knows how to do the things, even if he's a little weak right now. No picking on him (that's not her style anyway), but no holds barred on me. 

and this view!! lol tho... not sure i could take a less flattering pic of my elegant brontosaurus if i tried
It obvi won't surprise you at all to hear that this provided ample fodder for her instruction throughout the ride lol. 

We started with a TON of walking, including leg yielding off both reins down the long side. She encouraged me to really study myself in the mirror and focus on being straight an even on both sides of the horse.  

just happy to be here <3
One big takeaway is that I'm (*still*) sitting more on the left side, and probably need to literally feel like I'm 'sitting more on my right seat' for a while in order to actually be centered. This is especially true in trot.

Once, in trot, Trainer C coached me to 'use my stirrups' more, as a way to continue progress on getting my leg off the horse. I made significant headway on this issue back in 2021 with Molly K, but as always, there's more to do. 

lol congrats for making it this far in the post. your reward is my very bored cat
She also generally wants to see more softness and following in my elbows, particularly in walk and canter. Interestingly, I haven't been able to really 'sit' the canter at all since coming back into work after the abscess... But, as if by magic, it was no problem in this lesson. Amazing what good instruction on position can do! 

Related to this, I probably need to bring my legs (particularly inside) a bit farther back in canter, more bend in the knee, than I think. Not clinging to the horse, but not braced out in front either. 

'no no, go on, this post is fascinating, i swear' - OG, maybe
So lots of good little 'micro-feelings' to hold onto and aim for in our solo schooling at home. Feels good

Charlie, for his part, was an absolute saint for the whole day. I'll probably write more about this later, but I'm still working on the 'next evolution,' if you will, of my mental game when it comes to anxiety etc. Bc let's be real, I've said it before and I'll say it again: this blog is called 'Fraidy Cat Eventing' and not 'Totally Got My Shit Together Eventing' for *reasons.* 

But I'm working on some new approaches, and this day -- complete with how Charlie responded to my approach -- was a solid proof of concept. So. Here's to it not being 'forever' until the next time, lol...


  1. Lol, ‘totally got my shit together eventing’. I am so happy for you.

    1. Thanks! One step at a time, I guess! Here’s hoping Quaid comes sound as quickly and thoroughly as Charlie !!

  2. Yay!!!! So happy for you guys!!!! I wish I had mirrors somewhere, I can only imagine what they'd show with my left to right unevenness. I guess I could set up the pivo to capture, but there's nothing like in the moment feedback.

    1. Dude there is nothing like mirrors…. We do have them at our home barn but only in the tiny 20x40m indoor that I basically avoid like the plague.

  3. I'm glad y'all are back at it again. The anxiety is REAL and I feel it. A lot. Someday I'll have to do a deeper dive into it on the blog

    1. Honestly I think it’s something we all deal with to a certain degree. I’ll look forward to something for so long that I’ll end up telling myself all these little stories and narratives about how it might go, what could go wrong, how to orchestrate every single little microsecond, that by the time the moment actually arrives, I’ve twisted myself into knots lol. Sigh.

  4. I read a recent study that said the majority of riders (myself included) sit to the left. A suggested exercise was drop the left stirrup and trot posting going counter clockwise. I haven’t tried it yet.

  5. What an awesome day for you and Charlie! It's a great feeling to be back at something that you love doing. Hope you have many more days just like that. And I enjoyed the cat photos too. :-)

  6. So happy to hear you back at a lesson!! I totally agree, it sounds like a great time to regroup and build back up the right way. Anxiety is for sure always something most of us struggle with, it's there for a reason, because what we do is both potentially dangerous and we put so many hopes and dreams on being successful- so there's lots to be anxious about!

  7. Yay for Trainer C! I always enjoyed her Isabel posts. How absolutely awesome to see you and Charlie back at it <3

  8. So good to see you two back at it! I read through Charlie's hoof saga since I haven't checked in for a while, and I'm so glad to see he's doing so much better! Also glad the equioxx is helping! It's been a difference-maker for Amber as well. Hopefully you can continue to get more lessons and ride time!

  9. YAY!!! You got to do a thing! Finally! I'm loving how you're looking at the bright side from the down time and using being a bit weaker as an advantage to building back stronger. So excited to follow along!


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