January 13, 2011

First lesson!

My first lesson with my new trainer tonight was so incredible, I can hardly believe it happened to me.

All my life, I've been trying to find a good trainer that would be fun to work with, but really make me work on the little things.  Most of my life, I've been struggling to find something, anything, because trainers were so few and far between.  And now this incredible woman who grew up eventing in England is training at this beautiful facility with the most incredible indoor footing/equipment/jumps/cross-country jumps/horses I've ever seen.

The trainer and I clicked from the very beginning.  She's easy to talk to and fun to be around, but most importantly she's an incredibly good instructor.  There was none of this "Today we're working on you, not the horse," or "Today we're focusing on looking good, tomorrow we'll focus on being an effective rider."  For her, riding is riding, and building a solid base is the most important thing.  In general, the lesson focused on what my body was doing to Dillan's body, and how to fix what I was doing to improve the ride.

The ride started with me feeling all out of sorts - that saddle did not suit me at all, and Dillan was somewhere between Izzy and Mickey in terms of movement; that is, somewhat side to side, not totally smooth, but not like riding a jackhammer.  He knew his stuff, but was your typical been-there-done-that lesson horse, so we had our disagreements.  Anyway, I started out all over the place - a saddle that I had to fight, a 4 ft Dressage whip, an unfamiliar horse and an unfamiliar trainer was not a recipe for the best ride of my life.

It got better as we went along though.  There was one half circle in particular at the working trot that was just spot on - everything she told me up until that point just clicked and I felt it.  It was a great feeling to have my horse put together like that.

She asked what my goal was, and I finally vocalized to an equine professional that my goal is to complete a lower level event.  She was enthusiastic about it, and said that many of her girls have completed their first event with her.

Overall, she said she loved my foundation, my work ethic, my ability to take (and desire for!) criticism and constant reminders and my goals.  I ended the lesson totally happy, sore and tired (especially in the upper back.  I haven't seriously ridden since May, and normally riding is enough to keep my upper back muscles in shape despite my slouching the rest of the time...clearly I need to work on it outside of riding as well.)

Specifically, we worked on:
- Keeping my toes turned forward (feels like inward for me!) because I tend to shove my heels down and brace against my stirrups which takes my leg off of the horse.  The outward symptom of all that is outward turned heels.  This was an every stride reminder sort of thing.  So many cues I use, so many habits I've developed, rely on this bad habit.
- Keeping my shoulders in line with the horse's
- Riding back to front and driving him into the bridle with impulsion I create
- Controlling the working trot, pseudo-collected trot and pseudo-extended trot
- Sitting trot - and this was awesome.  I went from bouncing all over to really understanding how to move with the horse's motion and how much weight should be in my stirrups for a good sitting trot in about 10 minutes.  Did we click or what?  That was a huge breakthrough!

I am so happy.  So so happy.  How did I get so lucky?  I can't wait for next Thursday at 7!

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