I took my last Texas-based Dressage Lesson today. It was both exhilarating and very sad. It was my first lesson with my new saddle, and my trainer showed me how to sit and ride in it properly, including the always elusive sitting trot. It was also the last time I might train with my very wonderful and challenging instructor, and so a lot of things were left unsaid.
But to stay focused for a moment, Brego and I had a serious case of the lazies. It was a warm, sunny day and neither one of us had gotten much riding done the previous couple of weeks. So the ever-present "go when I say go" battle was in full swing. We also spent some time working on me using my abs properly in my saddle to let my legs hand loose and "breathing". It's quite a different sensation than the huntseat I have been riding in for, say, 25 years. In huntseat, I learned to hold with my thighs and inner calves and let my hip angle close by letting my belly fall forward with each stride. Today, I learned to hold myself with a tight stomach and let my thighs and legs fall relaxed. It took quite a bit of effort, but I was just starting to see what my trainer was trying to show me. I even attempted a couple of circles of sitting trot, which was not quite right, until I learned how to "bicycle" my thighs to keep my abs engaged. Whew! That shamed me quite a bit... got to get to those pilates classes!
We also worked with Brego on his keeping his hind end animated and engaged, even while moving at a slower pace. He tends to let his motor die out and drift onto his forehand when he shuffles around. Or more accurately, I let him do those things by dropping my gut. So we worked on me driving with my seat and playing with my hands to ask him to come up to me while my trainer worked to my side with a long whip and asked him to pick up his rear legs "faster" to keep the tempo. I must say, Brego is one smart cookie. He figured out how to respond properly to the whip cues from my trainer with very little fuss and repetition.
The work we did today with the whip cues will lay the foundation for more advanced moves such as a proper collected walk and piaffe, all of which, according to my trainer, will help strengthen Brego so he can perform the lower level movements, such as a simple canter, lightly and with great impulsion.
My trainer is so taken with Brego and with his great mind, that she has offered to take him into full time training while I am in New Hampshire, until I can bring him up in May. It's a great idea, and one I am seriously considering. It would be wonderful to have someone I trust work with Brego and teach him all the things I don't even know I don't know, while I am getting settled in New Hampshire for the next two months. The only drawback is that I started this journey with Brego to see what I could do with him. I am an adult amateur with very little formalized training. I mean, this is my eighth dressage lesson ever. It seems almost cheating to have a super pro work with Brego for a month. But in my heart, I know I am being selfish. I have already proven that I can bring Brego along, albeit slowly and with great patience on his part.
It would be unfair of me to let him sit in a field, getting very out of shape, for two months, when he can get some clear lessons with consistent aids to keep his brain and body active. I can tell he gets frustrated sometimes when my cues are muddled or come too late. It's a great opportunity, I just need to swallow my pride. Plus, I still have jumping training to mess with. :)