I just had my second lesson with my new trainer and I already feel like I’m making considerable progress, compared with regular lessons with various instructors in the past. My new trainer is basically a superhuman dressage goddess. She’s a USDF gold medalist, trained at the prestigious European Yorkshire Riding Centre for three years, then trained in several more locations in England before returning to the states, and has trained several horses to Grand Prix level competition. Picture a British-accented tiny mash-up of Charlotte Dujardin, Meryl Streep, and Queen Elizabeth. I’m twitterpated.
The facility is almost two hours away, so lesson days are pretty much an all day affair. That being said, I don’t mind the trade-off. I feel like I get to go to a clinic every week and the great training is invaluable. I’m considering it an investment since I don’t have a horse to support right now and all my “horse fun” budget can go into my riding education. It was a little overwhelming starting out in a new place.
It was a little overwhelming starting out in a new place. The facility is huge, very tidy and formal. Everything has its place, and everything is high quality and well bred. Every paddock was stocked with Oldenbergs, Thoroughbreds, Hanoverians, and Andalusian crosses, and each horse had his own set of monogrammed gear. I was shown around by one of her working students and gradually got my bearings.
I got to ride an adorable big teddy bear Azteca named Beaux.
Beaux is one of those darling old horses that will put up with all kinds of shenanigans from silly amateurs like me. It was a peculiar feeling to finally ride a horse that didn’t back-sass me at every turn.
As with all beginnings, there were a few painful moments. Apparently riding around in a pasture doesn’t do good things for riding nice corners. Also, I found out I have some horrific position problems. The most glaring of which is that I have a crazy right ankle that wants to break every time I rise in the trot. I have no idea why my ankle collapses when I post. Maybe I started the habit when I was riding a really lazy horse and I was overcompensating, trying to curl my heel in to push him forward. Or maybe it has more to do with the fact that I sprained that ankle a few years back and it’s weaker now? I never noticed it before, but now I’m focusing on making my pinkie toe higher than my big toe and trying to keep my foot level in the stirrup. I could just cheat and wear a brace or buy some stiffer boots.
Also, I’m back to the drawing board with my sitting trot. I was previously in the “jellyfish” school of thought. Just move with the horse. Relax. Soften your belly. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Apparently, when sitting the trot you should engage your ab muscles and shorten the distance between your pubic bone and ribs, flattening the curve of your back and letting your hips absorb all the movement. She makes me ride half my lesson in sitting the trot, which I love. My previous trainer didn’t think it was important for my skill level and always made me post.
She kept saying that I had to make my waist as still and firm as possible as if someone was going to punch me in the gut and I had to prepare for it. Obviously, I still have to find that happy medium between a floppy, vulnerable belly and crunching my abs so hard I can’t breathe. Thankfully, I’m starting to get the hang of it, and I am already starting to get a six pack. Hip flexor stretches and planking also help.
With my lessons so far away and only once a week, I’m finding that my at-home schooling has become quite a bit more intentional. I love that my new trainer gives me new exercises and concepts to work on each week and I practice my britches off so I can come back the next week with enough improvement that we can move on to bigger and better things.
I’m excited to see what this new year has in store for me in this new direction!