If you read my Partners in Crime page or my first post you have seen the cute little gray mare, Dahlia, mentioned. I am leasing her for the next 3 months minimum, possibly longer depending on how it goes and what her owner ends up doing. She is a sweetheart and a lot of fun to ride but she is killing me!
So far my lessons on her have been….rough to say the least. As in, hours later I will be sitting down at home or driving in the car and can feel just how fatigued my legs are. Not to mention the ride following a lesson I can barely use them, or my core, at all. They are kind of sore but its more that my whole body is fatigued. I mean, I rode in a clinic one time with a woman who is studying dressage in Germany and she said that she knows she is working hard and doing it right if she feels like she is going to vomit after a lesson from having used her core so much. I don’t necessarily feel on the brink of vomiting but its been close! I just like to think of the killer six-pack I am hopefully on my way to developing. Maybe? Something like that?
First lesson was after about 5 days of having her in my possession. We were struggling hardcore with connection and consistency and just about everything in general. The mare practically begged me to seesaw and my heart broke every time she begged because I didn’t want to do it. However, simply adding leg and keeping my hands steady also did not have the desired effect. Sure, she would put her head down but that wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted her back to lift, her to stretch into the contact without tensing and crossing her jaw, nice even rhythm controllable from my seat and core. You know, all the ideals when riding. D came walking out for the lesson, saw me walking around and promptly told me I wasn’t riding her. Oh….I’m not? He said that basically there was nothing going on behind her withers and she needed to move her feet. Aren’t they moving along while she’s walking? Here I thought I was moving around the arena… The solution was to add leg (as a sidenote, has anyone else noticed that this is the “cure-all” when it comes to riding? Horse behind your leg? More leg. Horse is running around like a maniac? Add leg. Horse is bucking? More leg. Rearing? More leg. It is pretty much the answer to everything I think). I added leg. He said more. I added more. He said even more. I added even more. He finally said, “Look, if you want her to change you have to make a change. Add more leg, start riding her, get those hind feet moving. I haven’t seen any difference.” What?! You haven’t?? How can that be? My legs are dying over here! So I dug down deep and found that tiny bit more to add. Thankfully she responded. Lesson progressed like that for the most part. He had me pushing her into a jig-trot to rev those hind legs and eventually we trotted along nice and slow with lovely contact and me squeezing her to death with my legs lol.
So we worked all week and I thought we were making progress. I still was using more hand than I would have liked but kind of figured I had to meet her halfway so to speak. D came walking out for the second lesson, looked at us for about 2 seconds and said, “Way, way, WAY too much hand.” And just like that my world crumbled a little. Ok, maybe not really….but really, it did. So I struggled again at the walk for about 2 20m circles before he had me get off and he got on her. He had a bit of a hard time, nothing like I was but pretty quickly he succeeded in getting that slow, pushing trot that had her in front of the leg and therefor softening over her back and lifting, at least a little bit. Then I got on. Cue a repeat of the previous lesson but even harder. This time he wanted me to take her from a walk where she was satisfactorily in front of my leg and push her up into a trot. But he wanted the trot to be no faster than the walk basically. He also wanted me sitting, adding leg, driving her hind feet up under her with my seat and holding with my core so she didn’t go faster. Oh. My. God. I have never worked so hard in my life. I honestly thought my core was going to spontaneously combust at one point. So that was rough but I got some really good tools to continue working on and our next couple of rides went fabulously.
Third lesson. I was really hoping that he was going to notice that we had been working hard and making improvements. I think he did because he finally let us canter. He won’t ever tell me that something is looking better so I have to divine meaning from him finally asking us to canter. I mean sure, he was still telling me to add more leg and keep her rhythm slower but I think the day he doesn’t tell me those things will be the day that…never mind, I don’t think he will ever NOT tell me those things. But he let us canter. Little did he (or I!) know what we were getting into. We got about half a circle at the canter, Dahlia took offense to my outside leg still being slightly back continuing to cue for the lead and guarding the hindquarters and bucked. No big deal. It was a little one. That was, until we picked up the canter again. I have some video of it although it is very blurry but it does not look anywhere near as fast, nor as wild, as it felt. We started leaping and bolting through the air, all the while D is telling me, in this quiet, calm voice that I can barely hear over the thundering hooves and squeaking saddle, “keep that outside leg back, don’t let it off.” Way easier said than done, man. I tried though and by the end of the lesson we had progressed to no bucking and much less bolting but that was our homework for the week. Get her more broke to the leg at the canter and hopefully a little stronger too.
Anyone else have a trainer who seems quite content, or unaware, that they are killing their student?? Joking. I actually love the lessons and if I didn’t leave them tired and a tiny bit frustrated I would be slightly disappointed…most of the time. We’ll have to see how the next
torture session lesson goes. Depending on how brave I am I may even ask for a jump lesson. That really may be the death of me though, who knows.