Wednesday, December 6, 2023

stayin' in school, kids

Doozy and I had another dressage lesson over the weekend (the day after her awesome jumping session!!) and it is exciting to feel like we're 'settling into the work,' so to speak.

It feels like we're both getting the hang of this new posture. Honestly maybe I shouldn't even call it "new" lol. It's not like I haven't had these lessons before, or like I've never managed to sit up straight on a horse before haha. Rather... I've just kinda receded into the safety and comfort of the familiar with Charlie in recent years (remember our whole "gave up on dressage" thing?).

But eh, Doozy is a whole new chapter, and a whole new opportunity. And at least for now, I'm embracing it! 

we've had pretty damp weather lately, tho not too cold at least!
The nice part about having so many lessons so frequently is that Doozy is definitely figuring out the expectations. At first it was really hard to try to change her posture bc she straight up didn't understand what we were trying to do. 

Now, tho, she is recognizing the pattern, understanding the process, and we can get from the point of "over flex to release the base of the neck" to "steady on the bit and through" more quickly. Or at least, we can when I have real time instruction LOL. It's still a bit hit or miss in our solo rides, but that'll be true for probably a while.

tried to get a photo of the dressage saddle, foiled again by the dust womp. thankfully, charlie toted me around later in the day to wipe all the mirrors down haha
For me, I'm continuing to work on shifting key elements of my posture. MP wants me to think of "standing on my seat," as in, being tall and upright from my position in the saddle -- not from my legs, which are draping down separately. 

This is much easier to do in Isabel's old dressage saddle. But, alas, I suspect Doozy doesn't love the fit. She's not porpoising in it like she did with the Pessoa we borrowed for our first few weeks of riding life.... But there are signs, ya know? So we'll see.

trainer MP snagged a quick shot too, mostly bc we were practicing halts and doozy stopped so nicely square haha. 
The other key positional change I'm thinking about right now has to do with my contact. Always and forever. We've already talked about stabilizing my elbows -- which basically means activating my triceps -- the back of my upper arm. And we've talked about adjusting my hands on the reins so that my thumb is doing the work of holding the rein, not my ring finger. 

What I'm figuring out -- in lessons, schooling alone, and from reviewing photos -- is that essentially my habit is to use the whole bottom muscle of my forearm from elbow to wrist to ring and pinky fingers for contact. That I'm basically way overdeveloped in that area, and that all of it has to release and soften. 

Instead, that muscle tone needs to move to the back of my upper arm, the place between my shoulder blades, and to my core. And everything else needs to stay softer (fingers still closed tho!). The trick to softening as I go is to occasionally rotate my forearm from the elbow like I'm turning a key in the door.

back in with charles!! we don't normally ride in the indoor but some of our riding friends wanted to do in-hand work within the safety of 4 walls
Anyway. Our lesson focused mostly on the walk, with a little trot. MP didn't feel like it was our best work bc.... Well, she WANTS our best work. She doesn't want me to be satisfied with close enough / good enough. Which is kinda refreshing bc y'all know that's how I tend to be. 

All the same, tho, I was really happy with the ride bc it felt like we've kinda moved on from 'pouring the foundation' and started getting into 'framing,' if you're into analogies about building a house haha. 

back again with charles <3
this time with festively lit friends for the long dark walk to the dressage ring
We also managed, almost out of nowhere, to bang out an awesome leg yield at walk. We were just in the zone, Doozy was on the aids, everything was clicking, and MP just sorta suddenly coached us into it --- without any warning, and I think without even really planning it haha. 

And Doozy did it very nicely. Good girl. 

barn panther Icee again. he's not as popular as Mikey bc... well, he's bitten a lot of people lol...
Sadly we didn't have a chance to try a second time bc a group of kiddos on lesson ponies came into the indoor soon after... And since it wasn't MP's normal teaching day, we had to end the lesson -- she's not technically allowed to teach on other instructors' days. 

Which, if you're curious about why getting lessons at home has been a struggle, lol, here's a prime example. The person who teaches on Sunday doesn't really want to teach boarders - she prefers kids. But she doesn't want other people teaching on her days either bc she wants first choice of the rings. So.... It ends up being that boarders can't really get lessons on certain days of the week. Doesn't make sense, isn't logical. Life's like that sometimes. 

speaking of animals that might bite LOL
Anyway, tho, I was still really happy with the lesson. I care more about the 'feeling' I get from a ride than the duration. So getting such good work was more than enough to satisfy me. 

And I've been able to keep working on practicing some of the feelings and postures in my rides since then --- esp with trying to leg Charlie up in advance of his next farrier appointment. Ideally, if he's going to get sore from being ridden, I want to know that before the appt so I can talk to his farrier about it. If, alternatively, he stays sound after a ~week of regular work, then maybe that bodes well for staying sound through the trim / shoeing?? I dunno. We'll see. 

charlie demands love tho, and won't take no for an answer!
Regardless, it's been so nice to ride both -- bc Charlie is so good and so easy, I can really just focus on myself. Which, naturally, he appreciates significantly too LOL. 

Doozy is not so easy, so there's more opportunities for me to get distracted and revert to my habits when she gets tense or does something unexpected... But eh, progress is progress. 


  1. I love reading these progress updates. Frustrating re scheduling lessons, that's an interesting system. I am super spoiled by the GYs and their openness to anyone coming out.

    1. there are reasons and stuff why the lesson / instructor schedules are the way they are... but those reasons are kinda more based on how things used to be at the farm 10-15 years ago, and don't really make sense with how the barn operates today. doesn't seem likely to change any time soon, tho so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  2. I'm sorry the lesson thing is complicated and makes it harder than it should be. But it sounds like you're getting really good moments and piecing those together into bigger stretches!

  3. The lesson thing sounds complicated and frustrating. But things sound like they are clicking.

  4. Can I just say that Doozy's condition is looking FABULOUS?! I envy your thoroughbred-fattening skills lol

  5. Logged in to echo Firn - she looks incredible! And so shiny! We have similar issues at our local area...mostly everyone is good at sharing but there are a few instructors that teach out of there too and it gets complicated to figure out who's doing what when (and whether I will feel welcome to also ride/have a lesson)

  6. Look how shiny she's getting!

  7. Ugh. Boarding is HARD sometimes. Glad you were able to fit in a partial lesson anyway, and it was a good one!


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