Have some news to share with Ike’s friends – we did not head down our first centerline this past weekend. It is not through any actions we took or because of any injury. We received an e-mail last weekend that let competitors know that the show was cancelled for lack of entries. Say what?! We attended this same show last year and while it was not full, it was well attended. The dressage chapter that organized the show did a wonderful job and had nice prizes and ribbons, so I’m flabbergasted that they didn’t get enough entries to hold the show. So what to do, what to do?
So of course I was bummed that our show was cancelled, but the money that was going to be spent on the show was used for an extra lesson with Ms. C on Thursday and a clinic with Rebecca Langwost-Barlow on Saturday. It turns out that sometimes the unexpected can turn out to be just what you need to feel good about you and your horse and the progress you have made over the winter. To hear from both these ladies that Ike and I are working well together and that they can see the progress that we’ve made, gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that perhaps I am starting to “get” what dressage is all about. There is a glimmer of hope that we will succeed this season AND even more exciting, make it out of Training Level.
During the lesson with Ms. C, my issue of the day was rein length. Why is it such a challenge for me to keep my reins at the correct length? Can’t blame Ike since he has become stronger and much more stable with the contact. Guess that leaves me as the culprit. Grrr. Years ago when I taught riding lessons, I’d kid with students about having spaghetti fingers holding the reins – basically no grip or feel at all with all fingers dangling like noodles. I’ve heard the advice to imagine that you are holding a baby bird – not too loose and not too tight. I’ve also tried the trick to press your thumb down on the rein while your hands are closed around them. Despite knowing all this useful information, I still find myself with little feel in my hand because I have allowed the reins to get too long. This isn’t going to help our efforts to escape Training Level. Perhaps some tacky glue applied liberally to my gloves? Probably not a good idea. I’d end up with my glove stuck to Ike’s mane and end up having to roach his mane to remove the glove.
Besides correct rein length and the half halt that I talk about incessantly, one of the other necessary dressage skills is (ugh) the sitting trot. That was my nemesis at the clinic. OMG! I do believe that it is going to be harder to master than the half halt. I either lean too far back, or shoot my lower leg out like a water skier, or pinch with my knees, and most frequently, tense my shoulders. Meanwhile, I’m also huffing and puffing and trying to move my seat with Ike’s trot rhythm. It gets even more challenging when I try to down transition from canter to trot. Ike’s trot as we come out of the canter is very forward. Whoa, that is a lot of motion to absorb and keep my tush in the saddle in a somewhat relaxed fashion. By the end of the clinic I was doing it, but so very glad that there is no video evidence of my less than masterful skills.
I find it interesting that there are so many things you can learn to do proficiently from reading a book: baking, cooking, gardening, and bike maintenance are all things I’ve learned from reading books. In my humble opinion, riding is not one of those skills that can be learned from reading a book or magazine. Sure you can read the concepts over and over, but to truly be proficient, one must ride. Not just once, but over and over and over again. But wait, if you truly want to master a riding skill, you must ride many different horses since each one is unique. No wonder so many of us struggle to progress. Who has limitless time and a barn full of horses to ride? Not this girl. So it means that much more to earn the complements from those skilled trainers…almost better than a blue ribbon.
p.s. We have ride times for this Sunday, so the countdown restarts to our first centerline.