I wrote this on Saturday, after a really great lesson.
I'm etching this into the blog for posterity, because it's where we are, despite knowing how it sounds. And I'd love some constructive criticism (or maybe a kick in the butt) especially from those who have moved up the Dressage levels (paging Karen and Megan).
In my lesson today, I confessed to my trainer that I'm struggling more than ever in my rides on my own right now, despite my lessons being amazing. I mean, that's something she needs to know. If you just looked at my lessons right now, you'd think we were moving through the Dressage pyramid at light speed.
(And you may notice that I have definitely had trouble writing about the rides on my own lately. There's not much to say about them, they're just not good.)
I told her, "Riding has never been harder than it is at this stage. I have developed enough feel to know when things are going wrong, when he's crooked, but without you calling me out on exactly what's going wrong, I often can't fix it. My rides on my own are consistently mediocre, despite my lessons being incredible. I try everything you have recently told us, but it's often not the right answer in that moment."
Right now, I know he's capable of moving like I've never felt a horse move before, and I get that in every single lesson without exception (and that kind of consistency is a huge achievement for us), but his best moments in my rides on my own are only about 25% as good as they are in lessons, and sometimes I can't even get that far.
|Regardless of how often I get the "high" rides, the whole program right now is doing amazing things for Connor's topline and overall muscling. Girl look at that body.|
On Saturday, she watched our warmup (we warm up on our own, while the previous lesson is wrapping up), which was mediocre despite my best efforts, and within minutes she had us going amazingly well, by having me focus on my stillness.
She pointed out that in my efforts to get him straight/through/etc in my warmup, I was moving too much and trying too much and doing too much. Shortly after I stayed still and supportive and also didn't fall into the holes he created, he straightened up, came on my aids (and therefore stopped creating holes), and got light and consistent in the bridle. Game time.
|I don't have pictures of this, but he TROTTED OVER TO THE FENCE to greet me when he saw me pull up on Saturday. Awwwww!|
She said (paraphrased), "YOU have to be the solid one. YOU have to be the quiet one. YOU have to not fall for it when he tries to drop you off to the left. YOU have to be patient."
The hardest thing is that there are times (often) that the right answer is to be patient and do nothing (besides sit still, straight and evenly and ask for the bend), and usually I need to do that at times when I feel like he's going terribly. That's so counterintuitive. He can feel like a bus with a flat tire, and the right thing to do is ask for the bend and then wait, as quietly as possible, sometimes for what feels like an eternity, until he bends and softens. Without my trainer there to tell me 'everything is going to be okay, sit quietly and wait, this is the right thing to do', it's really hard for my brain to accept that that is the right move, or even consider it sometimes.
|I took my quarter sheet home to wash it, and the barn cat was really grateful when I brought it back. It lives on top of my tack locker in the main barn aisle, making it an ideal cat perch.|
To tell you the truth, (and I know this sounds terrible and I know there are bloggers who would kill to have these "problems", which is why it's hard to share and I've rewritten this post like six times) while I am really enjoying where we are right now and how far we've come, I also can't wait to be past this stage in his training and my education. I don't know exactly what it is that I'm waiting for, because I've never been father than this before - for him to be confirmed in being on my aids?
Swinging wildly from the most amazing moments I've ever had on horseback to being unable to duplicate that from ride to ride is such an emotional rollercoaster, because I know what we're capable of now. My standards are higher than they've ever been. (And horse's happiness comes first of course - Connor seems to be thriving on the work and the routine, so no issues there.)
The answer to everything, physically and mentally, is patience.