I love my days off because I get to spend the whole day with Flynn, relax, and catch up on my to do list. But the next day back at work is always something that I look forward to as well. I guess that’s a good thing – it means I like my job! Today was an interesting day because my trainer left half-way through to go teach an all-weekend-long clinic, and we spent the morning prior to her departure doing regular chores and helping the vet breed (not live cover) one of my trainer’s mares! It’s so exciting to think that she’ll be having a gorgeous foal.
I got to ride two horses in the afternoon: the lovely four-year-old project mare I’ve been working with and the sales gelding that I adore. Both rides were similar in that they started out being not great (the gelding was distracted and the mare had, for the first couple minutes, quite forgotten how to steer). But they both ended really well with me feeling relaxed and like we’d accomplished what we’d set out to do. I think that dressage training has to be about those little moments where the horse finally settles into a through and supple shoulder-in or tunes into the half-halt for the first time or just makes a halt transition without drama. All of those fleeting instants of perfection make the sport addicting!
All three of the horses I rode today couldn’t have been more different from one another. The first horse was one of the sales horses that we have right now, and he was interesting to ride because he’s very much not my type. He’s gorgeous and tall, but surprisingly downhill and short-strided. I had a huge amount of trouble getting him to do a trot to walk transition. Seriously. I could keep him round and soft, but I couldn’t get him to respond to my half-halt and request for the transition. Instead, he just kept trotting along and either got deeper in the bridle or came above the bit. My trainer said that I needed to make things more black and white for him by bending him around my inside leg with a leading inside rein and then “close the door in his face” by closing my hand on the outside rein. The reason this was difficult was that I had to stay very soft and light in my seat and not to get heavier or stronger. This was made difficult by how heavy the horse would get. In short, the easiest things were hard and it was an interesting ride to reflect on!
The second horse that I rode was the polar opposite. He’s one of my trainer’s personal horses and he’s super loose and springy. He was a lot of fun to warm up because he’s able to give such a neat feel of thoroughness. To me, I always see the horse in the back of my mind as being a channel that energy should flow through from tail to poll. Sometimes there are kinks or blockages in the channel – stiffness, crookedness, etc. But some horses, like this one, can feel completely unblocked and free.
The last horse I rode is the four-year-old that we recently backed. She’s so sweet and quiet, and she’s doing walk/trot/canter work quite well now. She’s also a bit on the lazy side and needs a fair amount of encouragement to keep going sometimes. But I love how quiet she is and I’m impressed with how well she’s doing. My trainer wants her to go back to a bit of lunging, though, so that she can become more re-confirmed in the contact again.
So it was a good day of riding and I’m looking forward to tomorrow!
Gigi and I jumped yesterday! It was really fun; we put together a nice little loopy course of three jumps (because that’s all we had standards for) and had a confidence-building, fun day.
My trial separation with Gigi has been going well, and I’ve been able to focus on riding the other horses here. One of the great things about working at a sales barn is the huge variety of horses that I get to experience: from the four-year-old mare that I’ve been able to help start to the Prix St. Georges gelding that we recently sold. I’m trying to improve the effectiveness of my position and to isolate the various aspects of my seat (upper legs, hips, core, lower back, etc.) so that they can work both independently and cohesively. I’ve also found it interesting lately to mentally deconstruct my aids for the movements that are by now completely second nature to me. Realizing the sequence and strength of each aid to produce the desired result on any horse (and learning how to rebalance them to suit a different ride) must be a lifelong process, and I’m happy to be where I am now on the journey.
I also got a big dose of inspiration today; I went to the Dressage at Lexington show and watched a bunch of tests. Of course, it was hard not to be jealous since I love to show and I can’t go to any sort of equestrian competition without wishing that I was taking part. But I’ve learned to look past that and learn what I can from observing other riders as they warm up and perform their tests. I almost exclusively watched FEI tests, since that’s what I’m currently working toward. I was really interested in comparing the riders as well as the horses to see how they sat each gait and movement and to try to see my own strengths and weaknesses reflected in others. I saw some gorgeous horses and some average horses, and lots of things that I would like to emulate as well as things that I wouldn’t. One thing that I noticed time and again was how difficult it is to do a line of tempis; I honestly don’t think that I saw a single perfect line throughout all of the tests that I watched. I also thought that I picked up a lot of riders who have the same tendency to round their shoulders against a pulling horse that I have; my new goal is to sit with the horse’s forward motion and never to collapse my upper body against it. We’ll see how it goes this week!