…condition better riders.
I said this somewhere in a previous post (I was like, omg, quotable much? but now am too lazy to link) but it definitely applied today. It was chilly, a little windy, on-and-off rain, C was a little sore through his rear, and it was very busy at the barn. Perfect for a dressage lesson, right?
You know how some rides go really smoothly, and then the thing happens. Whatever the thing is, it’s usually something pretty inconspicuous, or if you know your horse well, you’ll look at the Silly Thing and think, “Oh, crap,” because you know what’s going to happen. So after a pretty ‘regular’ warm-up, we were just starting work on trot transitions.
Something N has been really working with me on is staying strong and tall instead of leaning or hovering forward. I am a chronic core-collapser, and we’ve definitely been working on that over fences, but it is equally important in dressage to not be angled like that. I bobbled back and forth between lean-y and semi-correct in the warmup, with N reminding me (very patiently) every couple of minutes. Shoulders back, let him carry me. It’s not hard for him to carry me at the walk. Basically, it was your average ‘this is hard so I’m half-assing it’ moment.
Aaaand then a horse being led to turnout starting making a fuss (read: rearing) right next to the arena we were working with, and C lost his goddamn mind.
In some fairness, there were also trailers going by, a horse working in the arena next door, a few cars driving past, and more horses being led to turnout. But that one horse opened the floodgates and off we went, with little rocking-horse rear-and-buck combinations, with N yelling “Forward, forward!” at me while my 4-year-old let out mare squeals.
I’m not going to lie, I was a tiiiny bit terrified. He was pulling out all the stops on this one, I swear, acrobatics he usually does once or twice, but all in a row, sometimes in combination, and some at high speeds. Every time something moved outside the arena he lost his composure again, shooting forward or sucking back; if he reared I pushed him forward (while clinging on for dear life) and sat. Hard.
My butt may as well have been glued to that saddle. I kept my shoulders back, my core strong, and my back straight not necessarily because I wanted to, but because if I didn’t, I was definitely coming off that horse. And I did come close once, having lost both stirrups and I started bobbling to the inside. N was like “Go forward!” because C was thinking about … doing things… again, and I was like “Okay, one sec!” while I scrambled to right myself and find the ultra-light Compositis I’ve been riding in (note to self– splurge on heavier stirrups).
I seriously wish there was video so I could see exactly what happened, because obviously I can only describe what I felt under me– which felt like air 50% of the ride, honestly.
Here’s the kicker. Past all the naughty sillies, once I finally got my body into gear and got firmer and started really riding him like a dressage rider, I was able to channel all the energy he was pouring into those stupid airs-above-ground acts and put it towards a canter. If he wanted to use his body that badly, he was going to use it my way. If he wanted up-and-down, it would be in a round canter and not bunny hops. If he wanted to use his rear, it would be tucking it under himself instead of flinging it up. And it worked. By the end of the lesson, I felt so much more confident when the next truck rolled by, because it brought with it even more impulsion to work with.
Tomorrow, I predict a very sore and exhausted C, and honestly, he picked that route– we were planning to do whatever he told us he was capable of. N said if he was capable of flying, hell, let’s take it and run with it. When we finished, she said the end of that lesson was some of the best canter she’d seen out of C, and the first time she’d seen me actually ride like a dressage queen.
My core and arms hurt, my calves ache, and I am tired. N helped me turn what could well have been a very frustrating ride into a lesson that was productive and informative for both me and C. I realized the importance of what she’s been trying to teach me, and he found my boundaries firmly reinforced.
Guys, this horse makes me a better rider, every single day. Sillies and all!