February 24, 2011

Dressage: Frustrating but Intoxicating

Some nights, it feels like the only thing I got right the entire evening was two whole strides.

(But before I bitch, a picture of my trusty steed!)
He's a true gentleman, and at 23, he's as old as I am!  He knows way, way, way more about Dressage than I do, too.  We are quite the pair.

That may be an exaggeration (let me throw my life-changingly good instructor a bone here: it IS an exaggeration) but it does feel like it.  Tonight, just about the only thing I felt good on were two strides at the leg yield.  Which, don't get me wrong, is a huge improvement over last week, just...damn.  I rode for an hour!  She sees progress, so that's encouraging, but some days I walk out of the arena feeling like the most uncoordinated person in the world.

Learning Dressage has made me rethink myself as an equestrian.  In hunt seat, I was "good enough," but since I've started Dressage, I've realized that I was just schlepping around the arena unaware of myself, my horse's body, or how I was affecting my horse's body.  I've always tried to "ride every stride", but now I find myself actually doing it.  I'm thinking so much more than I normally do; about how every stride combines to form a figure, where I am in the arena, what the outside rein is doing to my horse's shoulder.  There's so much subtlety to it that it can make me feel like I'm just starting to learn to ride again.  There are times, like tonight, when we did leg yield at the walk, and I finally got about 60% of the movement correct, and then we did it at the trot and I totally fell apart and had no idea what to do with my body, which resulted in me going back to old habits.

Tonight I learned a new figure, the shallow serpentine.  My brain first thought of it as a zig zag, and I was making Dillan turn the corners like we were going to hit something.  It made more sense when I thought of it as three small partial circles.  It also went a lot better when I visualized the pattern in the footing, like the first down line in NFL football.

Next we did more leg yielding.  As I said before, I had two awesome strides per yield.  At the walk.  At the trot, I feel like all of my aids are broken.  It got better somewhat, but is still hard.  It's like there's so much going on at the trot that I can't concentrate.  I think my position needs to improve before this gets easier.  My best leg yield happened when she had me do a half circle of shoulder in, then shoulder in into the quarter line and leg yield to the wall.  The shoulder in really did help.  It's amazing how she can always immediately think of things that will help me when I've hit a real wall.

We ended with some canter work.  My canter transitions really are terrible.  I get tense and nervous and I lean forward into the upward, and get bounced to heaven on the downward (which, she says, is a little bit Dillan's fault and she says it will improve as he gets into shape).  When I get into the canter, I certainly have my problems (toes point out, legs stiff, too much movement in upper body) but I can make it pretty.  I just cannot make my transitions pretty for the life of me.

So, all in all, Dressage is frustrating, but intoxicating.  What else is new?

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