November 11, 2011

11/10/11 Lesson: Stirrup Length Matters

I had one of those Dressage lessons tonight where it all comes together, and I realize that yes, I have improved as an equestrian, so much so over the last eleven months with my trainer.

How I felt in jumping-length stirrups
How I felt in Dressage-length stirrups
It started out awfully, when Adagio wouldn't bend around my inside leg.  This was resolved with turns on the forehand, leg yields, and, oh yeah, realizing that my stirrups were at jumping length instead of flat length.  It would be a problem for anyone, but when you're five feet tall on a very rotund 14.2hh pony, it means the difference between having my calf on his side and having my calf on the top of his side - or at least it feels that way.

Adagio with his owner at Penny Oaks in August

I'm starting to develop the subtlety I've always wanted.  I can feel his shoulder beginning to pop out on the turn on the forehand exercises, and I know to catch it with the outside rein.  I am starting to feel the correct place in each stride for each cue, though that is a perennial work in progress.  I'm also in full comprehension of the idea of riding back to front; it still astounds me every time I get everything right and I immediately feel Adagio round his back and start stepping under himself.  I can't believe that I'm skilled enough to affect that kind of 180 degree change in a horse.  I can't always do it, but the fact that I'm getting it at all feels so good.

If ever there was a time in my life that I was ready to, with the careful supervision of a trainer, take on a greenish pony, it's now.  Even though I don't always have everything exactly right (and who does?) I've become a skilled enough rider to be able to think critically about each part of my ride, to ride independently between each of my aids, and to be able to stop when I recognize that something isn't going the way it should, even if I don't know how to fix it on my own.  

Of course there will be a time in my life when I'm better educated, have more money, more time, and don't live 40 minutes from the barn, but why wait?  I'm at the point where I have enough of an education, enough money, enough time, and a trainer to make it all come together for both of us, and that's enough for me.  Sure we could probably retire 5 years earlier on what I'm going to put into this pony, even keeping him cheaply, but there's something to be said for living.

It feels good to be alive.

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