Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dressage Lesson 6

I just had the most amazing dressage lesson. I know I know, I always say that, because each lesson blows my mind in some way. But this lesson was truly bordering on miraculous.

It didn't start so well. Earlier this week, Brego and I had a fight. It started as a disagreement on bending, which escalated into an argument over turning in a circle, and ended with a drag out fight. And even though it ended on my terms, no one wins when you fight your horse. The net result of the fight was that Brego was understandably defensive during our next ride and we spent a lot of time in Remedial Land, working on simple bending. I am actually pretty ashamed that I lost it on Brego. It is a complete failure as a rider. But, I promised myself I would publish the good, bad, and ugly on this blog to paint an accurate picture. And it doesn't get much uglier than that.

So tonight started with me explaining to my very patient trainer how I fought my horse and pulled on his face and now he's having trouble yielding his jaw. Super. So we get started and he's off on his left hind. Super. We pull the saddle and check his back and yep, it's tight on the left. My trainer gives him a little massage and we longe him a bit and he works out of it. We decide to focus on deep topline exercises to ask him to stretch and if he got worse, to call it a night and scratch him from the show on Saturday. Along with the fight shame, I started to feel like I had been pushing Brego too much. He was breaking down, it was all my fault. So, strike two.

He ended up working out of his muscle cramp well and we worked on leg yielding at a walk to help him stretch out laterally. Minor breakthrough there: Say I am leg yielding to the right. I would cue with my left leg, but then I would lift my left hip and put my weight on my right hip, thus blocking Brego from actually moving over. If I weighted my hips equally while cuing with my left leg by letting it grow long and half-halting with my right hand, then he moved right over. Was it the most straight and perfect leg yield? No, but it was major improvement.

We then worked on cantering, where Brego would push through the outside shoulder, ignoring my inside hand. I have to admit, I am a little bit fuzzy on how this all went down, but after much confusion on my part, I managed to relocate his shoulders to the inside, which forced him rock back and balance himself and then, for one complete 20 m circle, I was riding a Baroque master. I don't know what it looked like, but he was elevated in front, I had no weight in my reins, and he was holding himself on this perfect bend on a perfect circle and all I could do was sit quietly and scream "This is not my horse! This is not my horse!". It was a miracle, pure and simple.

I then worked on the other lead and was able to reproduce the canter at about 80%. Again, miraculous, but not quite the same level of sheer difference. I was just floored, completely beside myself and I kept babbling to my trainer, "This is amazing!! This is not my horse!!" And she calmly said, "This IS your horse. He's always been capable. Now he knows enough to give you a nice place to sit." And that sums it up perfectly. He was no longer lugging and falling and crazy out of control around this tiny circle. He was up and balanced and the circle seemed huge and all I had was a nice place to sit. I still don't quite believe it, and I am sure it was only 30% of what real balance feels like. But it was a whole new world.

To go in one week from fighting over a simple turn, to this feeling of effortless sitting is almost too much to bear. I just hope we can capture one ounce of that canter for our dressage test on Saturday. I am going to check Brego tomorrow and if he's sore, I will scratch. But if he's well, we're going to see if we can take this new act on the road.

Then he will get a week off and a work up by his favorite chiro/osteopath. Hopefully, he will be feeling better by Pine Hill on December 2nd. But if not, no big deal, he's done enough this year and we can rest up before the spring season.

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