August 13, 2011

Like Water

I had one of those lessons today that makes it all worth it.

This lesson, within the span of an hour, showed me just how far I'd come in both flat and fences.

After last week's grueling no-stirrups workout in the Dominique Barbier Dressage saddle (he doesn't believe in making the saddle comfortable.  Seriously.) on Dillon (which I neglected to write about, but let's just say I wasn't walking properly for three days afterward) she put me on Dillon again this week, but in the close contact saddle this time.

In the first half of the lesson, it was what I'd call an on-going Dressage test: she'd call a movement out to me as I was getting to a letter, and we worked continuously with no breaks for about twenty minutes.  She really drilled me on changing his bend, and on leg yields.  And after seven months of struggling, not being able to do them at all in the beginning, I got them perfectly.  Multiple times.  It's like I've finally coordinated my body parts and put some of them on autopilot so that I can think about what his body is doing and how I need to change it instead of thinking constantly about where my body is.  Both directions, every time she asked, bam, leg yield, shoulder in, anything she asked, I gave.

My favorite part of the Dressage part of the lesson was when she asked me to do some sort of lateral movement, and I executed it perfectly.  Her entirely automatic response was "And you got it!" as if she were shocked that I pulled it off, and I called her out on it, and we both had a good laugh about it.  Really, I can't blame her, I rode like someone pulled a body switch with me and a much more advanced rider today.

Then we switched to jumping, and for the first time since I started jumping, I felt happy and content going over the fences.  I did not feel out of control, I did not feel apprehensive, I did not feel scared.  Even when we did a four fence course that included a two-stride combination, I approached it with a mindset that was more like "That is a fence, and this is what I need to do to jump it the best I possibly can," rather than "OHMYGOD A FENCE how am I going to survive it?"

Not only was my brain in the right place, but my body was.  Not every fence was perfect, but by the end of the lesson I was seeing distances, really seeing them, and rating Dillon as necessary.  I felt like I was with him, and if I were to envision the ride in pictures, Dillon and I would have been water flowing over the jump.  At least, after years of being so nervous going up to and over the fence, that's what it felt like to me.

My trainer's careful instruction, structured in such a remarkably effective way, is really changing my life.  She's so talented at bringing out the best in horse and rider.  If you ever have the chance to ride with her, I highly recommend it.

Wow.  Just wow.

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