Holy Moly. What an amazing, overwhelming, humbling, inspiring weekend. I am not even certain where to start to capture all the details. Amazing to have met one of the legends of dressage, Hilda Gurney. Overwhelming to have been selected even though Ike and I were the least experienced of the rider group. Humbling in so far as I realized that I know next to nothing about dressage. Inspiring to see the upper level riders and their talented mounts.
If you want to know what I looked like, feel free to ask any of the 200 auditors. Yes, 2-0-0. I have never ridden in front of that many pairs of eyes; not even at the Region 1 championship last year. I unfortunately cannot publicize the videos of my ride, but suffice to say that Hilda pretty much pegged me after about a minute. Now, so can the 200 auditors. They will now have no fear when they see the name spastic rider getting hauled around by her larger than average pony when they are in one of my classes. “Don’t be afraid to use your hands.” “Relax your back.” “You are not sitting.” “Move your legs back.” “Where were you to help your horse?” “You forgot your corner.” She said nothing that Ms. C hasn’t told me before, and that I haven’t been working on for the past two years. I’m back to feeling like a beginner rider entering the arena for the first time.
The nice thing is that I have learned that I’m not alone with my struggles to grasp the intricacies of this sport. So many of the auditors approached me after my ride to share with me their impressions of my lesson. Many said that they thought I handled it wonderfully and that it was great to see someone working at their level bravely attempting to follow Hilda’s instructions. I don’t know the names of these kind souls, but they helped me to rally and do it again on Sunday. My fabulous friends from my local chapter also gave me a shot in the arm to bolster my confidence to face the crowd for a second day.
Sunday dawned a gorgeous spring day. My dear friend Ms. L again made certain that Ike and I were impeccably turned out. What we lacked in dressage knowledge and skills, we made up for by looking marvelous. Ike and I were definitely more relaxed – not surprising given that we worked our butts off the day before. We’d each had a chance to dwell on what we’d learned the day before and hopefully improve our performance.
I think I can confidently say that we showed improvement in our second lesson. Can I give myself a pat on the back that Hilda complemented me on being a good student? Awesome! She was a special education teacher for 14 years, so she knows a thing or two about teaching. Ike showed clear improvement in his right lead canter – he was kind enough to not lean so much on my inside leg. I demonstrated better following hands at the walk and canter. I did some passable sitting trot work. We even attempted some centerlines and leg yield. Our turns onto centerline were squirrely, but Ike was supple and responsive in his lateral work.
The videos Ms. L recorded will help me to see for myself my errant ways (eek, what a funny face I make while concentrating and will you please stop doing THAT with your hands!). They confirmed with Ms. C that we are on the right track and that I need to be a better leader/rider in order for Ike to progress. The clinic helped me to realize that I should not be afraid to take chances. Yes, you will make mistakes when you take yourself outside of your comfort zone, but it is at that point that you will grow as a rider and the path up the levels will become just that more clear.