Sunday, July 27, 2008

Misery, Thy Name is Dressage

Dressage is, quite possibly, the hardest thing I have ever done, or attempted to do. I am not really the extreme thrill seeker, so I have not climbed mountains or hiked the Appalachian trail (yet!). So until now, my hardest achievement was winning a Marshall Scholarship to study in Oxford. The reason that was hard was because I am a shy, introverted engineer by vocation and I had to endure 6 months of interview training so I could speak with authority to the intelligentsia interviewing me about political, social, and economic topics. It was a total mind retraining.

Dressage is very much the same way.

It strips me down and exposes me and all my character flaws. I have poor body awareness. Ice hockey does not train the body as say, ballet or dance. My weight is definitely an issue, in more ways than one. With a 30 pound spare tire, I am less precise in my weight aids. Plus things jiggle... blech. I get easily frustrated and I am highly critical. Mediocrity does not sit well with me. It's fine when I am pushing myself to write the best spankin' code on the planet, but it's not fine when I am pushing another sentient being out of a level of mediocrity that he might really enjoy. Does Brego want to be a super dressage horse? How far can I push us without taking advantage of his nature to please and suffer in silence? *sigh*

It's been an insufferable week. A crushing project at work, the endless and disappointing farm hunt, spending $600 a month commuting between gas and tolls, rising health insurance costs, fear and loathing of the upcoming heating season in snowy New England have really frayed me. I was already feeling exposed, and then I tried to work on dressage.

Aside from a longe lesson on Monday where I thought I had some real breakthroughs in my seat, he sat in a field for five days. And when that happens, the boy goes feral. He is rude, pushy, lazy, cranky... a lot like me with no exercise for five days. So on Friday evening, I gave the proverbial finger to work and I took off with enough time to ride. And it was terrible. Brego wouldn't move, then he moved to fast, head stuck straight into the air. Smells of an rider problem, eh? It was.

We fought for an hour and then I got one good downward transition and I forced myself to quit and pet and thank Brego for still loving me. I hate that feeling. Thank you, dear horse, for tolerating my shitty riding and trying to interpret my blast of ill-timed cues.

Saturday morning was "new horse-new rider". Start fresh. It didn't take long for us to start fighting again. Saturday's problem was that Brego stared out the indoor and would NOT PAY ATTENTION. And I took the bait and got increasingly stiff and frustrated. As I was turning him in circles, trying to get him to unlock his face and PAY ATTENTION TO ME DAMMIT, I had the mental thought that this is not dressage. This was not the point. And I got off.

So the plan... read some good Paul Belasik and find out how I got so terribly off track after a hellish week in my Other Life. And then... the best idea. I am going to take lessons from another barn on another horse, a made horse, to learn, myself, how to give aids. Then I can take that back to Brego and quiet the noise and show him how it works instead of screaming at him that he is not doing it right. He is a good horse. He can do it. WE can do it. I just need to let go and get some serious training.

I am completely exposed. It doesn't get much lower than this. So I need to find a way to rebuild constructively.

In the meantime, I am going to leave the dressage saddle on the rack. We're going to hack and work on my form over some grids, something Brego can do in his sleep and I will pick on myself instead of him. I am not worrying about the big show in four three weeks. We're safe enough to complete and that's exactly where we should be.


Wiola said...

You will get there; dressage is beautiful because it's an intelligent conversation between two great minds: riders and the horse. Don't worry about pushing Brego too hard, believe that dressage is there to bring the best out of him and you, improve his paces and athleticism. If he truly, truly reaches his potential you will know as he will let you know.
Lessons on other horses are a great idea.
I have one client who also gets frustrated very easily and she also have a few inches to spare here and there (which she hates as cannot lie her legs flat enough to give discreet aids). She has been on a very healthy diet for the last month, lost almost half a stone and I make count backwards from 300 every time she feels her patience is running out ;))) She is making excellent progress.
If there is a will, there is a way :)

Anonymous said...

Aww, have some drinks Daun! I'm sorry you feel so stressed!
Taking lessons on school horses is an AWESOME idea. That is exactly why I ride with an instructor at another barn on HER horses. Being that Klein is still so green I felt like maybe she is teaching me bad habits. I needed to ride a horse that I could concentrate on MY riding and not so much on keeping Klein tuned in. Lessons have definitely improved both of us.
Also, you guys have been doing so great lately it is guaranteed there will be a bad spot some where along the way. It's like any other relationship, if it's perfect all the time, something is wrong!

spotteddrafter said...

Must be in the air or something. I had a HORRIBLE ride on Jetta on Saturday - very much filled with frustration on my end.

I've been thinking along the same lines you have - taking lessons on a schoolmaster to work on MYSELF. I think it's a blessing to start together green in dressage, but it gets so hard having to constantly focus on the horse and no time to focus on US.

Good luck!!!!

Alarya said...

Gotta love dressage, right? It's probably one of the most frustrating things I'll ever do - I think it's especially hard on us eventers, because we love the thrill of galloping. But dressage is a mental exercise and it gives me a very different thrill - like a WOW, I can't believe he/she will respond so well to just a touch with my leg. Agonizingly hard to learn, though, and even more frustrating to learn to do well, Belle and I can sympathize. But Brego looks like a very nice dressage horse, and I'm sure you'll do well together. Agree with your decision to ride a school horse, its so easy to pick up bad habits on young horses who just don't know any better. Good luck!