January 28, 2012

Downer of a Lesson

I know I just need to shut up and let this roll off of me, but I'm feeling pretty bad about myself after today's lesson.  I am not looking for pity, I'm looking for an outlet to sort through what I'm feeling.

I know that a lot of Contender's problems stem from my problems.  My one-sidedness that's the rest of that kick freshman year, my inability to use my arms properly, my perching, my hyper-mobile lower back.  But for the first time, my trainer got on him today, and suddenly I saw just how much further he could get if it weren't for me.  Her balanced, astute ride made him work so hard and look so good.  She got him on the bit with 90% consistency, had him filling out the outside rein, and made sure to point out that if she didn't get the desired response, she restated the question and made sure he got it.  She worked on his turns on the forehand, and he was actually moving off of her leg.  He did not pop his outside shoulder on the 20m circles with her, and if he did, she weighted her outside seat bone to correct it and all was well.

It was wonderful and very difficult to watch at the same time.  Wonderful, because I know how much he's capable of, but difficult because I am his stumbling block and not his enabler.  This was further driven home when, after 20 minutes of beautiful, connected work with my trainer, I got on and had all of the same problems I normally do.  One major problem identified today is that my arms actually move too much with him at the walk, and the walk movement needs to be more in my seat so that I'm not letting the energy of the walk go straight though my arms and out the front.  More between my seat/legs and hands.  This is one of those form corrections that is going to be so difficult to change.

It's all hard, really.  Look at how much we've changed with my form in the last few months.  My arms were too straight with not enough give in the elbow, my wrists keep cocking, I use my upper arms too much, my left hand (while much improved) still tips to the inside, my hands were much too close to his neck all the time, when my arms are in the right place I compensate by hollowing my lower back...the list goes on.  And she doesn't present it like this, and doesn't present it negatively, but it all adds up to me not training this horse as effectively as I could.  As she could.

We're at such a crossroads right now.  Either I get better and we continue, or I stay the same and nothing happens.  Like Mr. McGhee always said in choir, "The first rule of singing is that you need to be happy with where you are, and the second rule is that you need to be willing to change."  I'm ready to change.  For my Thursday lesson this week, my trainer is going to ride him and I'm going to videotape her, and I'm going to ride him and she's going to videotape me.

Also, we are going to clinic (more of a private lesson with spectators) with Nancy on Saturday.  She is a well-known and respected area Dressage judge/rider/trainer who places a huge emphasis on biomechanics of the horse and rider, so I'm hoping she can help me.  She's been training my trainer, and she speaks very highly of her.  It will be interesting, to be sure.

So, riding videos coming at the end of the week!


  1. I haven't seen my trainer ride my boy yet, but I know there are a ton of people who could ride him way better than I and release his full potential.
    But, I think at the end of the day, the horse doesn't care how nice he looks or how much he did this or that, as long as he is well taken care of and you try to ride him the best you can. Everyone has to start somewhere.

  2. Very true! I know he doesn't care, and really, it's the journey and not the end result. It's just easy to start questioning whether I'm really ready to bring up a green horse at this point.

  3. Don't question yourself. You love him and are doing your best. You may not be able to ride him as well as Naomi now, but you are working on it and will get better. It just takes time! Don't psych yourself out. Just have fun and keep trying!

  4. I agree 100% with Heidi. Give yourself time and stay positive. Working through the bumps will only strengthen your bond.

  5. I agree with what others have said. Contender doesn't care how you ride or if you are holding him back. Your progress may be slow but you guys will get there! I don't know if you have the opportunity but it may be helpful to take some lessons on a horse that has more schooling. That has made a huge difference in my riding.

  6. Thanks guys! You've made me feel a lot better. Today, in general, was just a better day. I do have access to horses that are much further along, and I have told Naomi from the beginning that I know they still have more to teach me, but I trust her to make the call of exactly what I need them. Deep breath!