I’ve been busy heeding the great Swanson’s advice in my equestrian life. Honestly, I’m quite certain that I would be happy whole-assing dressage for the rest of my life. I’m having a blast with my lessons. My unicorn of a school horse (Beaux) is one of those wonderful ponies that makes me feel like I might actually know what I’m doing…then I come home and try to practice and I realize what a newb I am.
My last lesson was legitimately the best ride of my life. I’m learning movements that I always thought would be out of reach in my skill set as a rider. With my previous trainer, all we seemed to do throughout years of lessons was make small improvements in the basic paces and geometry, with a few shoulder-ins and leg yields thrown in. Now, I’m actually learning something new in each lesson, as well as building on the old. In my last lesson, I learned how to transition from the shoulder-in to the travers. Then we carried that buttery smooth suppleness to the collected canter. My cheeks almost cracked off from smiling so much. For the first time in my life, I was actually able to feel my horse shifting his weight back onto his hind quarters and really SITTING. I could feel that imaginary wheel of energy we always talk about rolling from back to front, truly uphill and active behind. After my lesson, one of my fellow students came up to tell me that was the nicest canter she had seen on Beaux. I really love this guy. I dread the day I “graduate” to a more complicated horse. I would have never thought a few years ago that I could be riding collected canter on a half Andalusian wonder horse. Dream big, people.
In other news, Tali and I are going to a show next week! Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) it’s not a dressage show. We will be entering the English Pleasure Class and the English Equitation Class. English Pleasure should be fun and different since we will be sharing the arena with a bunch of other riders and simply be going through the paces. I think English Equitation will be a pattern, so that should be more familiar territory for the dressage inclined. I’m not aiming to win anything and I keep repeating my mantra of “just have fun” whenever I start to worry.
I love the idea of showing, but the past couple shows have been a series of cluster-fudges and that girl moments that have left me slightly traumatized. There was the time my horrid pull on dress boots wouldn’t come off and required the assistance of three horse show dads and a leather cutting tool. The time that the ex-jumper pony got bored of dressage and jumped his little pony self right over the white rail. And my personal favorite, the time the floodgates opened on my way back from my 9th test of the day (yes, my trainer was a slave driver) and I ended up ugly-crying on the ring steward’s shoulder. I’m hoping for some more positive experiences.
Also featured in my fairy tale weekend will be a trip to The Judge’s Perspective: Training for Riding a Dressage Test, a symposium with William Lee Tubman. Lee Tubman is a USEF ‘S’ Judge, USDF Gold Medalist, and FEI 4* Dressage Judge fresh from judging the World Cup in Omaha. The symposium is taking place right after a show at the venue, and Mr. Tubman will take the riders that competed and explain to the auditors how he would proceed in the horse’s training and what exercises he would use to raise scores on certain movements. The event will also feature question and answer sessions for the auditors. I can’t wait to meet this dressage great in person!
And last but not least, in the same week, I will be accompanying a friend to a mustang adoption event. This has been a long time coming, as we have had to wait for the event to be held in an area remotely near us. I’m excited to see my friend’s process for selecting her mustang, as she is also a dressage rider and former eventer. I always love seeing non-traditional breeds in the english disciplines, and mustangs truly take the cake. This should be an awesome photo opportunity as well.