March 24, 2011


Dressage made me cry tonight.

We worked heavily on 10m circles for the first time tonight, and they kicked my ass.  There was just so much to think about: where am I in the arena, what is this supposed to look like, what is my outside rein supposed to be doing, how should I be using my weight.  I sort of get them in the corners, but 10m circles at B and E?  Who invented this torture?  My poor trainer was probably running out of adjectives to describe "not flamingly awful, but somewhere below mediocre."

I think 10m circles are to 20m circles like a 3 foot fence is to a cross rail.  At 20m/the cross rail, you can get away with certain things.  At 10m/3 foot, all of your little mistakes get magnified, and there is no hiding from yourself.  And at 10m, my brain was exploding with all of the little minute adjustments I had to make.  My body felt foreign, gangly and awkward.

That, plus this very emotional week I've had, plus what happened next, led to the tears in my eyes.  She asked me to ride down the center line on the right rein at A, do a 10m circle to the right at X and a 10m circle to the left at X, so sort of a figure 8.  Then she asked me to do it on the left rein.  What I didn't understand was that I was to keep doing the left rein and right rein as one exercise, so I would turn the wrong way, get confused about what direction the first circle was supposed to be and I just got so frustrated.  I can ride better than this!  My concentration was there, but I had so many things to concentrate on that something was going to get left behind.  I know better than to circle to the left off of the right rein.  I know the exercise should have flowed better.  And I know I am a better rider than how the 10m circles led me to believe tonight.

She saw what was going on, and didn't acknowledge it (thank God), but just told me to walk Dillon out for a while.  After two quiet laps at the walk, we started working on leg yields and shoulder-fore down the center line.  Moving on to something related, but not the same.

This is how she works: she challenges and pushes me, then breaks it down into tiny steps.  At first I didn't understand this, but now that I do I can see how everything she does, and how every Dressage movement I've learned so far, are not separate items but connected to the very foundations of Dressage, and have the same common threads running through them.  Improving my shoulder-in will improve my leg yield, because through it I am improving the way I communicate with the horse and am gaining a more effective use of my aids.

Some nights are exhilarating, some nights are tough.  This is one of the tougher ones, but instead of getting me down it inspires me to learn more and improve.  Have you hit a block like this?  How did you push through it?  It's Dressage, everyone has a story exactly like this, I'm sure.


  1. Sorry to hear that you had a rough lesson - that has happened to me a lot.

    I don't ride dressage, but sometimes working on patterns and drills in the arena has me all confused. I've actually stopped and asked my instructor to walk the drill so I can see what she meant by what she was saying.

    I consider myself fairly quick mentally (some days are better than others, lol), but sometimes when riding you are so focsued on heels down, hands here, outside rein there, that you forget the rest.

    I think your coach is doing great at pushing you and then backing off when required. I'm sure you will have a breakthrough soon with those 10m circles, then there will be something else to challenge you!

    Another thing I sometimes do is draw out the exercises on paper when I get home - it helps me remember the what/why of it all and it gives me a little pile of exercises to do when working on my own.

    Sorry for the long comment...!

  2. Laura, your idea about drawing out the exercises on paper when you get home is fantastic. I'm trying to burn them in my brain by writing them down, but I really don't know the figures well enough to do that yet. I'm going to start doing that after my lessons from now on. Thank you so much!