I have been a terrible blogger lately. :( I have been SO super busy with teaching and trying to get the mare in shape...and oh yeah, my family! There is just never enough time. I admit that sometimes I even sign onto Blogger and just check the blogs I watch, signing out before I write anything in my OWN blog.
Ah, well. Just because I have not blogged does not mean I have not been doing anything. Quite the contrary! Most of the beginning of April, we had OK rides. Sometimes things were great and other times things were horrid. Like for example, Dreamy seemed to have forgotten how to canter. She was running pell-mell into the canter, totally flying like a crazy racehorse, and not aware of where her feet were. Nice. :( So I gave up on even doing anything but canter departs for a while. And for a few rides she seemed to forget how to TROT calmly after she cantered. I was getting SO discouraged. It felt like everything we had gained by last fall was just totally gone.
So basically I was having crap rides and did not even WANT to post about them. Plus I seriously was busy, so finding time to type was impossible.
I called my fabulous instructor the first weekend in April and begged her to give me a lesson. Bad thing was she was literally about to move her horse back home (she winters at a nearby indoor) that day and her own ring was not ready. I completely understood, of course, but it made me nearly want to have a meltdown. Now, I know I am a good rider, and I know everything works out, but I really felt as though I needed Judy to tell me everything was fine and to stop stressing. My husband can say that to me, but I only actually LISTEN if Judy tells me. LOL! :D
So I backed off and just thought about having fun, not about the combined test I had signed up for on April 19 AND the fact that I was supposed to be this demo rider at a symposium in a few weeks with LINDA ZANG! I was ready to ask Judy to ride her in the symposium for me! LOL! I reminded myself it was only April and who the hell cared what happened at the combined test. I talked myself into a state of calm that pretty much worked. I also reminded myself that I had gone for a few years (OK, maybe seven years.....) without any riding lessons before starting with Judy in May 2008 and always figured things out. (I did taking driving lessons though). I reminded myself that I had started this horse myself and knew her very well. I reminded myself that I am NOT ever going to be one of those riders that is addicted to her instructor and cannot live or breathe without her. OK, so maybe I do love having lessons after so many years without them, but really I know better than allow myself to be dependent. Right?? ;-)
We were still spending 25 minutes of warm up walk/trot and then cantering for just a few minutes, thinking it would be a 40 minute ride. But I THEN would have to spend another 30-40 minutes just calming down from the canter! It was not fun, but staying relaxed helped. I tried REALLY hard not to fight with her. Thankfully I had scheduled a first lesson of the year on April 11.
Our first lesson was pretty good. It made me feel so much better. One of the first things Judy says is, "She looks like a dressage horse!" I think she gained a bit too much weight over the winter, but Judy thought she looked great. That was a nice thing to hear. (Admittedly, I think Dreamy lost a bit too much weight last fall. Not enough to be a health issue, but enough that she looked really "angular" to me. She does "look better" with a bit more weight, especially in her neck. But I digress...)
Anyway, Dreamy loves the footing in Judy's ring, so she went much better than she had been going at home, in our uneven sorta-still-wet-in-spots field "ring". (Can't say that I blame her and yeah, um, still NO ring here at my farm...grrr). So just taking her out and riding her in a real ring was great. Somehow she figured out how to canter again, so that become a non-issue. Still the typical stuff to work on, but at least she was not being an idiot. Judy reminded me to praise her and rub her neck. Not only did it calm her down, it MADE me release that inside rein. And lo and behold we have some self carriage and a relaxed mare. :)
Judy put things in perspective for me (as she always does...) when I was joking during a walk break about the worst thing that could happen. I said the worst thing was that I could fall off, and really that is no big deal. I think we were talking about her canter, and maybe about the combined test. And she countered with, "Well, what is the best thing that could happen?" Hmmm.....that was harder. "She could canter correctly and do what I asked?"
During the week, I worked on lots of leg yielding at the walk before asking for the canter and when she wanted to rush in the trot after the canter, Judy had suggested I do small 10 m. circles. Instead of getting into a fight with her and ending up with a very tight rein and the horse equivalent of a beach ball, I allowed her to go forward, but limited where and how. She had to slow down on the small circle or she would fall over. LOL! And it worked. And I tried really hard to think about the best thing rather than the worst thing. And to expect her to do something when I asked. That is tough, since I am conditioned to think she will NOT do it, usually meaning the canter.
Our lesson on April 18 was incredible. Judy figured we might as well start with our canter work, instead of waiting until halfway through the lesson/ride and then having to spend time "fixing" everything. So we started with some trot which was calm, rhythmic, and connected. Ah, now this is how to ride a dressage horse! The canter was actually really relaxed as well. She did step more into the canter as opposed to the rushing and flinging, so that was nice. It seemed like we were back to where we had left off in the fall! Yay! I just REALLY REALLY REALLY need to SIT UP at the canter! Unfortunately I was taught to canter back when I was about nine years old and it was "Lean forward and pump your seat." Yeah, not dressage and not cool now that I am trying to retrain my body.
Anyway, I then wanted to practice a few movements from my test the next day. I was about to compete at the UNH Thompson School of Applied Science Combined Test in the Modified Beginner Novice division. We had to do Beginner Novice Test A, which I don't like much, except for the trot and canter circles that are right after one another. Anyway, I ended up doing the entire test, which helped, seeing as I have only ridden it once (last summer) and needed to memorize it.
Afterward, we wanted to do one more canter in each direction. So I started to the right (her worst lead) and she was surprisingly good! I worked hard to keep my rein length the same and try to supple her in the canter. Yay! We got a few good strides and changed directions.
Judy kept telling me to lean back, as opposed to sit up. I tell myself to sit up and I am still leaning forward. When I tell myself to lean back, I am actually sitting up straight! LOL! Imagine that! And she also told me before the transition to "expect" her to do it right. That helps because instead of being sort of wishy washy about everything.....well, she might not even do it, so I don't really have to be prepared and sit up.....etc etc....I actually RODE her. And she picked up the most beautiful balanced canter to the left EVER IN HER LIFE! Holy crap! I (think) I was actually pretty straight in the saddle too. She was connected and "there" in the trot, and I was thinking about what a nice trot we had. I sat, asked lightly with my outside leg, GAVE with my inside hand and she dropped her head (instead of raising it a little) and just stepped into this incredible canter.
OMG DID SHE REALLY JUST DO THAT????
I wanted to canter forever, and it felt so perfect. It was like the planets aligned. I swear, I don't usually get all weird about things, but this was just unbelievable. All I remember is Judy saying something along the lines of, "Yes that's it!!!! That's IT!!!! ....Now STOP HER! Praise her!"
I totally got all blubbery and teary eyed and wanted to cry. I am such a baby, but to have something THAT perfect on a horse that is NOT supposed to move like that, and who I trained MYSELF (well........I obviously have had a TON of help from Judy, so she deserves credit. And Susanne Hamilton rode her last fall for a few minutes during my clinic lesson and helped begin the connection breakthrough.....LOL), man that was just too awesome! Judy was pretty floored too. We just kept looking at each other, laughing and saying Oh MY GOD! I was in such shock I nearly forgot to praise the mare. Oh good girl! As Judy put it, "I almost want you to do it again, but we will end there." No kidding! I wanted to feel that canter again! :) :) :) And no matter what would happen the following day at our show, nothing would matter compared to having that canter. Now I feel like we have SOMETHING to work with! And it is only April! I cannot even begin to imagine where we might be in October of this year. I cannot even think that far ahead.
Alright, I'll admit it, I cried on the way home. I just could NOT believe it! :D Dreamy is just great.