WOW, we had the BEST EVER ride today at our dressage clinic at my instructor Judy's farm. I was super excited to get to ride with Susanne Hamilton and she did not let me down. While the money I have spent on lessons this year with Judy has been money VERY well spent, I am SO glad I coughed up the big bucks to ride with Susanne today. The changes in my horse were un-frickin-believable. Yes, I know that is not good grammar, but holy cow, you have no idea.
Dreamy was AWESOME. First thing Susanne says is "OH I remember this mare from the show.....whoever trained her has done a fabulous job!" So I grinned and said, "Well thank you." ROFL! ;-) So anyway, when she asked what I wanted to work on I told her the connection to the bit and her canter. Often the connection to the bit is not 100% steady and then Dreamy does a hoppy skippy thing at the trot...almost like she wants to canter.
We warmed up fine and then she asked for the canter. Of course, Dreamy throws her head in the air and hollows out when asked to canter.....plus we were going to the right which is her weaker side. Susanne was asking me to hold my hands VERY low, almost on my thighs, and it was so difficult for me to do. I just want to throw away the reins and concentrate on maintaining the canter...never mind anything else! LOL!
So long story short, I was having difficulties doing what Susanne asked, so she asked me if she could get on Dreamy. I was like "UMMM, YEAH, OF COURSE!" I told her she was the only other person besides me to have ridden her. :) Well C has ridden her on little short leadline rides around the yard, but that does not count.
Well, let's just say Dreamy and Susanne had a bit of a discussion for a few moments, and Susanne realized that what she was asking me to do was indeed harder than she thought watching me from the ground. That made me feel a little better! :) She told Judy (who was watching) that SHE needed to ride Dreamy in order to really help me too. (I am contemplating actually sending Dreamy to Judy for a month next spring.....we shall see if I can AFFORD it first of all....and it depends on Sparky too).
Anyway, Susanne said that I made it look easy....and that while Dreamy is very round and on the bit, there are times when she is totally not "in the bridle" accepting the bit (and making that steady connection) BUT I am good at faking it. LOL! She pegged me pretty quick. Every time I asked for steady contact, and Dreamy actually made contact with the bit FOR REAL, she would fuss with her head and/or she would do the hoppy skippy thing. AH HA!!!!!!!!!!! Light bulb for me. Therefore to compensate, I am relinquishing that contact just a tiny bit to keep Dreamy happy (even though it is not correct) but I am able to "fool" a judge or onlooker into thinking that she IS really coming through and making contact. That might not make sense.....but anyway.....what I am doing is allowing my horse to avoid true contact.....which makes it impossible for me to achieve a real connection to the bit.
SO.......all of a sudden, you could see the light bulb go off. Dreamy went "OH, you want me to do THIS?" And she came through over her back, took the bit in a TRUE steady connection, and transformed into this amazing dressage horse. It was as though I needed someone who knows more than me to make that breakthrough with Dreamy. I mean, Susanne was MUCH tougher and demanding than I usually am. Not that she was rough or harsh, but she was tougher than I am. I am like...."Oh you don't want to accept the bit? Well that's OK Dreamy, I can make it LOOK like you are.....and then you will be happy." Dreamy has me trained. But ultimately by doing that I was not able to move her training up to the next level. And while Judy's lessons have been absolutely and completely INVALUABLE to me, without Judy knowing exactly what Dreamy was doing.....we were not going to overcome this hurdle. AND even if Judy has been telling me exactly what Susanne did today, I needed to SEE it (I am a visual learner after all)and Dreamy needed a rider who knows what the heck she is doing to ask her properly.
I could have cried watching my mare work like that. For a horse that should NOT be able to do dressage and a horse that nobody wanted anymore, it was just so amazing to see her today. Plus I have never seen anyone ride her, so it was cool to see her move under saddle. Then Susanne cantered her and HOLY CRAP that mare has a NICE canter when she uses herself properly! The elusive steady contact canter......where she is NOT hollowing her back. I was dying to get back on.
I remounted a different horse. Suddenly I had a HORSE in front of my leg and she was THERE in my hands. Her trot was transformed into this smooth-as-glass trot. I could actually sit the trot without bouncing around......I have always said her trot was jarring. NOPE it absolutely is not....when you RIDE her CORRECTLY! Imagine that! :)
So in the end, it was the best $120 I have ever spent in my life. And the best 60 minutes I have ever had on a horse (well minus the 10 that Susanne rode). I did not take a lesson with Judy all month to be able to afford this! LOL! There is no way we would have made this breakthrough without this clinic lesson today. Well OK we would have made it eventually, but let's face it, Dreamy is NOT getting any younger.
And the best part? Susanne was very positive about Dreamy and her ability. You gotta love a Grand Prix rider that is positive about a Standardbred doing dressage. She admitted that the right lead canter needs A LOT of work. (I never realized that Dreamy canters in front but slips into the pace behind every few strides while cantering to the right). She said that this MIGHT just be the best canter we ever get, meaning this is the limit of her potential....and then in the next breath she says, "But I don't think so." She said she felt very strongly that Dreamy will be able to canter beautifully, but I have to be willing to be patient and keep working her. She also recommended that she or Judy ride her too in order to help solidify the connection and the canter. Basically the connection to the bit will improve the canter....and I do think that it took someone who knows more than me to move us up in our training. This past May I felt like I had hit a plateau and Judy's instruction in my lessons broke that. Then I have been feeling in the past month that we have hit another plateau and Susanne helped break that. :) :) :)
God, I love this horse.