Dressage is an exercise in patience and diligence. It is not for those that require immediate results as it takes time, planning and loads and loads of patience. The training scale shows us exactly what we should concentrate on, and the levels and tests give us detailed instructions. But learning for both horse and rider takes time. Getting the muscle memory takes time, and even building those muscles take time. Getting that “upside down neck” on your horse fixed takes months and months of work. So it’s no wonder that at times we can feel a bit boggled down, and wondering if progress is even happening. Ride after ride of asking for a staccato beat of hooves, and bend, bend, Bend, BEND! And lower that head, and relax that jaw but don’t slow down, and forward and sit up, and lower those hands, look ahead and don’t clench your knees, and drop the heels, and relax, be forceful and assertive, but soft and giving, but don’t let your horse think she is in charge….. and on and on…. Am I getting anywhere? Are we progressing at all?
I was looking for a fun video I recall having of Pippi cavorting in the snow, and came across the video of my first and only Hunter Jumper show. If you recall that is the discipline Pippi was doing until she bowed that tendon, and became a dressage diva. I had been a superb passenger on Pippi from time to time, but had decided it was time I learned to ride. So Miranda, my daughter, gave me a handful of lessons, and at her next show I was signed up for ground poles and cross-rails. This is the video:
Notice anything? It was such an exciting course to watch right? Thrilling I know! If you didn’t watch the whole thing I don’t blame you. Snoozefest! But at the time I was so excited and nervous I think I went to the bathroom about 80 times. I had a bunch of friends on the sidelines watching and cheering me on, for that! Doing that class, the cross rails class and a flat class was a big deal for me. Pippi kept trying to walk out of the arena each time we passed the gate, and during the flat class she was totally non-compliant. We were all over the place, and I ended up making her work after the others lined up for placings just to make her listen to me. At that point I decided “Oh we are gonna do this little mare!” I learned a lot that day. However one thing that becomes abundantly clear after watching this, is how far we have come, and that Dressage was clearly more suited for me.
Could I sit any more straight? It looks like a tin soldier that stumbles over ground pole, only to sit rod straight again. It looks like a future dressage rider with a lot, and I mean a lot, to learn.
With Dressage I have learned that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. And the more I realize that I love that so very much. I will never stop learning, and progressing, even if it is in unmeasurable ways.
Last year we had our first show, and I halted and saluted for the first time. This year we are an official Training level team, and so what if it is 4 years after that ground poles class. Dressage is essentially a competition against yourself, and from where I am sitting, I am kicking butt!