Tuesday, November 21, 2023

bebe's first dressage lesson

Alrighty --- we're getting into that busy time of year when everyone is traveling for the holidays and lots of stuff keeps cropping up on the weekends... But I wanted to get this written out before it's lost from memory lol!

unrelated hacking with charles and his unreal mane <3 <3
Doozy had her first 'real' dressage lesson! This time, with yet another new name in the ever-evolving training landscape. Well, sorta. Long long timers might actually remember MP, who worked with me and Isabel during the infancy of this blog

Scheduling eventually became difficult bc life is like that, so those lessons dropped off.... But now with Doozy, this opportunity became available again. So we went for it! Eventually Doozy will travel off farm for lessons, but it sure would be nice to be able to train at the same facility where we board....

nosy ponies will be nosy
Anyway. I'm gonna try to keep the rehash brief and semi-staccato, bc it was one of those significantly tactical task-managing puppet-mastering type rides where the live action coaching was more of a feature than the lecture portions. 

Not bc the lecture portions weren't like, useful or important... But bc it's just been so long since I've been accountable for anything as a rider, I just really need somebody there telling me every few minutes to fix my shit LOL. 

oooh and then there's resident barn panther Icee! 
Michael was adopted by a boarder after one-too-many run-ins with other cats required vet care. he was so deeply beloved here, but i guess the feeling was that he was too nice a cat to be consigned to the hard fate of most barn cats. we miss him, but understand and are happy for him!
So! Let's dive in. MP's step #1 in improving my ride is to stabilize my elbows. But like, seriously. More. More. Almost feeling like they're behind me, and not moving. 

Be like side reins, creating a stable structured operating space in which Doozy is now expected to stay. But still be tall, still hold my hands up -- not down by my thighs. And also not necessarily with elbows pinned to my rib cage either --- feel like I make a "V" shape from elbows to bit. 

Doozy's small mare group grew by two more --- cute ponies!!
The tricky thing is to not tighten elsewhere as I work on reducing motion in this one joint. For example, MP reminded me to keep my wrists and fingers more supple. She wanted me to have softer fingers, particularly ring finger, with my thumbs (on top!) doing the job of holding the reins.

Her method for ensuring that softness through the wrist and communicating that suppleness to the horse is to do a little turn like I'm turning a door knob with my wrist, while maintaining that same straight stable connection from the elbow. 

cute, but still a busybody tho!
Long time readers know that this type of posture work is really hard for me, and goes pretty much counter to how I want to ride (ie, with my hands floated out in front, doing only-god-knows-what). It's also a bit of a challenge for me bc I struggle with adapting my riding style to different pursuits -- like with jumping when I know I need to get my hands more forward. 

But, eh, that's what lessons are for! And Doozy responded very nicely. Lots of concentration, lots of focus, and definitely trying to figure out how to adapt with me to this different posture. 

lol my aunt made the mistake of casually saying 'sure!' when i asked if she wanted to ride during her visit to town haha. maybe she didn't quite think i was serious ;P
Once I could more or less hold the position MP wanted to see, we started putting it to work in exercises and figures at the walk. Starting with Walk-Halt-Walk practice. 

This is not something I've done a ton of with Doozy yet, but felt like a really nice exercise. It highlighted a few key habits - like Mondeuse gets a little crooked and leans on her right shoulder. So MP wanted me to think of keeping her nose centered in her chest, even as I endeavored to accomplish a smooth step into halt using mainly seat and core. 

but she did it!! and charles was such a saint <3
This exercise was also useful bc it gave us a nice predictable routine into which I could start adding more leg aids, and Doozy could connect those leg aids with something other than just spurting off. 

From there, we moved to turns on the forehand. First from the wall, and then from the center line. Again, the key was kinda holding onto my position here (as in, not completely taking one leg off as the other went on), and starting to introduce the idea of moving Doozy off each leg individually.

and so was Doozy, omg!! 
There were a couple moments in the lesson when it felt like there was a bit of a translation error -- meaning I wasn't entirely sure what MP wanted, and so wasn't really sure what to tell Doozy. But the horse was super and never got frustrated or claustrophobic. She just kept trying, and I did my best to not be too rigid or stuck (especially when *I* was the one who didn't understand). 

We didn't do too much in trot, other than to work on recreating the same postural corrections even while working harder to hold Doozy's tempo and rhythm with my own post. I know that's a recurring theme around here, literally everybody who has seen me ride Doozy says the same thing, "Slow your post!"

I'll just say.... easier said than done lol. And this is why I need the lessons, to just have that repeated again and again. That, and all the other little reminders haha. 

obvi bc the two ponies are doing so well, something had to go wrong. sweet OG drew the short straw this time, apparently.... poor guy. he'll be fine too, just a week or two of cone indignity!
Bc maybe that's my favorite thing about lessons -- it takes some of the pressure off me, ya know? Like, I don't have to remember every single little thing. Don't need to be thinking about all aspects of my position while also trying to think up and execute helpful exercises and figures etc, all at the same time. It's nice to just outsource some of that work sometimes LOL. 

And again, really can't say this enough --- Doozy was so so so good for this lesson. We were alone in the indoor, tho a pony at one point came in then immediately left again (we welcomed them to stay but they had planned to set up some jumps so they relocated). And Doozy was fine. 

I think she felt reassured by having MP in the center of the ring, coaching us through the ride in a steady and resolute voice. Plus ya know, I think the mare just 'gets it' now. Maybe it would have been a different sort of lesson 2 or 3 weeks ago. But on this day, it felt like the mare really showed up and was totally on board with the agenda. 

It's a good feeling! Esp bc our next lesson is already scheduled -- yesss!


  1. Sounds like a great lesson! I too have wild and willy elbows so I understand the struggle. And what great photos of you and your aunt enjoying a ride together. Such a good feeling to share horses with family. I know I've mentioned this before, but it warms my heart to see how your barn cares for its barn cats. Wonderful when animals can thrive in that environment but also have folks who are willing to provide a more traditional home when needed.

    1. it's so nice to be able to share charlie now!! like, i always could before, i guess, but now obvi it's easier than ever! charlie is such a special dude, he's so easy to enjoy and so pleasant to be around, so even tho he's huge he's just so reliable and safe <3 <3

  2. I love that you're able to find on farm lessons!! And definitely know what you mean on out-sourcing some of the responsibility. It is nice to be able to just listen to direction without having to focus (or over-focus...) on every single aspect all at once (which in my case almost always means missing the forest for the trees).

    1. dude yes haha --- i get so easily baited into chasing down one feeling at the significant expense of other, probably more important, details... plus a lot of my 'instincts' are.... a little wrong, LOL, bc i'm so much stronger on one side of my body than the other, it's easy for me to miss some things -- especially if i'm creating the same one-sidedness in the horse without realizing. much easier to have somebody external managing all that noise!

  3. So glad to hear you had a great lesson! But omg I'm going to miss barn manager Michael!

    1. i knowwwwwww :'( like, i know it's for the best and that he'll be likeliest to have a long happy healthy life this way, but i really miss Mikey <3 <3

      resident barn panther Icee is nice too, and i'm hoping to make him nicer by making sure he always has food... but he does have a history of biting that makes him not super trustworthy. i guess that's good for his survival at the farm, but not so good for snuggles!

  4. One of my tricks to slow down my post or to establish a canter rhythm is to pick a song with the tempo I want and sing it in my head (or out loud) while I ride. For a long time I jumped Hallmark to "One Two Freddy's Coming for You" 😂

    1. ooooh yessss - love that! that's a good one too haha! one of my former coaches always used to suggest 'yellow submarine' for a good jumping canter lol. for trot, honestly i probably just need to break out the metronome app on my phone again. i tried it once a few weeks ago with Doozy and we were just like, wayyyyyy too erratic. but maybe now that we've got a bit more reliable communication, it's time again?

  5. The elbow struggle is real. So is the ‘slow your post’.

    1. the realest struggle, forever and ever haha...

  6. It has been a minute since I popped in here. (You know... life.) I have been catching up on your posts this morning and I have to say it's SO COOL to see how far Doozy has come in the three months you've had her. You have accomplished so much already and she looks like a different horse physically. I am delighted for you. Jumping lesson AND dressage lesson? I'm jealous. I need someone to stand in the middle of the ring and remind me to stop breaking over at the wrist, stop collapsing left, stop LOOKING DOWN.

    1. ha thanks!! omg it's such a good feeling to finally be getting into lessons again... and like, i'd gotten so protective with charlie that i've developed habits about sorta filtering what instructors tell me to do .... that now i'm trying to unlearn those habits and be more open minded and just sorta go for it, ya know? doozy certainly seems totally game, kinda out of nowhere!! it's a good feeling!

  7. Don't get mad at me for saying this, but can I ask what happened to Michael?

  8. Yay!! Another lesson! Totally agree with what you say about outsourcing some of the "stuff" we have to keep on a loop in our head every ride. It's not easy to do 1 million things while making it look like you're doing none. And trying to teach your mount about those 1 million things...


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