Thursday, April 16, 2009


I love dressage because it makes me think. I hate dressage because it exposes my weak body control and awareness.

But I love dressage because it exposes my mind.

I love jumping because it exposes my heart.

I love cross country because it exposes my courage.

But tonight, it was all about my brain. My second dressage lesson with my neighbor was twice as illuminating as the first, if that's even possible. Brego was more forward, but still more sluggish that I would have liked. But it was all about me, me, me me me.

It's all about my twisted right shoulder that creeps forward, negating the boundaries set by my right hand when tracking left. Woops, there goes my outside rein, my rock, my pillar, my wall.

It's all about my brain, computing angles, planning transitions, anticipating Brego's mysterious magnetic pull to the exit of the arena.

It's all about my hands, both harbingers of good and evil, giving, taking, rewarding, discouraging.

It's all about my ears, or my balance, feeling him drift, collapse right, always right. At the halt, at the transitions, up and down, it's all about right with Brego. So I have to out think right. And fix that damn right shoulder, which actually resulted in me riding with my head looking backwards over my right shoulder, looking where we have just been, backwards. And then lo, the horse went straight.

That's what I love about dressage. It doesn't make any sense if you think about it logically, but if you just use your brain and your balance, it works.

What tonight was NOT about was riding the front of the horse, what it was not about was a head set, or a flash nose band, or short cuts. My trainer and I agree on that, thankfully.

When I could get Brego straight, his right shoulder properly in front of his rear, his spine aligned, it's like Brego super charged. Huge power, indescribable power. But I've been siphoning off that power by letting his outside shoulder escape, especially to the right. Dressage is all about the minute corrections, the impossibly small differences that turn a trotting draft horse into a spectacle.

His canter, if I say so myself, was completely delicious. I just grinned from ear to ear.

I've said it before, and I will say it again. I am the luckiest person alive.


Andrea said...

Aaaaah, the joy of dressage! We also have that collapsable right side thing going on, both she and I. I get teased by my fellow eventers because I love dressage so much, but they all seem to stop laughing when they see the big ribbons I bring home ;) But that's not what it's about for me, not at all. It's that moment going cross-country when she gets fired up and on the verge of out of control, and I give a light half-halt, and she immediastely slows and rebalances. It's that moment before a fence where I'm worried, so I ask her to wait, and she waits. It's that big stupid grin that I get on my face when I feel her take my contact on her own and stay there - that light, elastic feel where everything comes from my body and nothing comes from my hands, because it doesn't have to.

Dressage is the best. The reason why I love x-country and jumping so much is because it's so easy after all the dressage I've put on her. I'll be totally all right should I ever have to retire her from eventing to strictly dressage (although she might object to that, lol).

Laura said...

Sounds like a great ride - even with weaknesses exposed! Although, I would argue that they aren't really weaknesses on your part if you are actively working to fine tune things...(just trying to be positive :-)

Sounds like after only 2 lessons with this wonderful neighbour, you are both making great progress. It makes me smile to hear that people are out there doing their best to ride well and not using shortcuts.

oh - could I borrow a bit of your courage and bravery?? I seem to be lacking a bit there!

Anonymous said...

Actually, the wonder of dressage is that it takes you OUT of your thinking mind. When you are truly just present and in the moment, and not in conscious thought, the dressage, the union of horse and rider just flows.

Let go and allow yourself to be in the moment. Quiet your mind.
You'll find the peace and wonder which is dressage there.

sylvia said...

Lovely post. Very poetic, IMO.
Dressage is something I really know nothing about...other than the basics needed for a pretty hunter. But dressage is a glorious beautiful sight. I love it! And this post is one of my favorites. :D

Jayne Austen-Healey said...

What a great post! I also liked the comments that Andrea and Laura left.

Dressage is complex and almost counter intuitive while you are learning it but simple and intuitive once you are on the way. Makes no sense, huh? I believe that it is because it is a way of recognizing and fixing some of our inherent flaws. It is how we become better rider, humans, horses and yes, equestrian partners.

Many years ago when a young rider in my twenties, I chose dressage as my discipline and my XC buddies laughed and said it was chicken s--t. Often these were the same people who complained about issues with their horses. Over the years, I have seen more horses sold and replaced by expensive "done" horses that could have been fixed by a few less expensive dressage lessons and a lunge line.

Patience. If you get nothing else out of the the procedure of "dresser", you have learned much!

Take the focus away from blue ribbons, expensive tack and place it in a focus toward the horse and the experience will become rich and rewarding.

And yes, Laura, I could use some of Dauns bravery as well!

Heila said...

I saw on your other blog that you're not doing too great at the moment. Being on two weeks enforced sick leave from my programming job myself, I can relate. But isn't it just amazing how getting on your horse and accomplishing something can make you forget the whole world out there, and shrink your focus to just you and this wonderful animal who chooses to cooperate with you in the dance. It puts a smile on my face and a song in my heart...

Jayne Austen-Healey said...

Once we learn that riding is not about us, the riders, but about the unique relationship we can develop with these fine animals, we are well on the way to a deep experience.

My long recovery from this riding accident was pushed by some wonderful physical therapists but also by the need to participate with my wonderful equine companions.

Yes, we train them but in the end their gift is the sight they give us into ourselves.

dp said...

Dude! Jane Austen just commented on your blog! She changed her name a little, but I bet it's her.

sylvia said...

I was wondering if that was the one in the same??

Daun said...

Thanks for your warm wishes. I hope you are well. And yes, horses heal many things.

Jayne Austen-Healy, Yes you are correct. One thing I love about my new trainer is that she is a big advocate for patience. I will learn much from her.

Jane Austen fans, you guys crack me up. Didn't you know that many literary greats are big fans of The Brego, International Horse of Mystery???