I don’t really know of any other sport or activity where the goal posts are constantly moving further away than riding. The better you are, the more there is you still have to learn.
My hands continue to be a frustration. For one thing, my thumb is still hurting; I’m probably just impatient but I’m not entirely confident there isn’t something more seriously wrong. Brace for two more weeks. I can email my doctor before then if it gets bad.
I walked into the barn last Thursday and took a deep sniff… the air had changed and the smell was different. And immediately I felt all the dread, because if this winter is like last winter here in DC, I will never get to ride. I did get a lot of time off from work though, which is kind of fun. Your tax dollars at work.
Burns got his mane pulled, and he looks so handsome! We are very fortunate to have a student at the farm who is now a college freshman, and she does all things braiding, mane pulling, etc. Burns’ nice braids for the Seneca Valley show were done by her. She did his mane, too, and it came out great. It doesn’t hurt also that she’s super cheap for usual braiding standards. Burns is also getting super fluffy – he already have what most horses would consider their full winter coat, which means it’s soon going to be time to clip again. He had a trace clip last year done by one of the other instructors at the farm and it was quite wonderful, because he can be a sweaty, sweaty beast.
Our last few lessons have been generally successful, even though I feel like a sack of potatoes my last few rides. Last Monday I micro-managed enough to make him chip (he has always been a 100% long spot kind of guy) almost every fence AND make him mad. Usually his hissy fits have more to do with working when he doesn’t want to, so there is a definite improvement in work ethic that he is having a hissy fit about me keeping him from doing his job correctly. Doesn’t look well on me, though, hence feeling like a sack of potatoes.
But, you know, it was a 3′ course and several people said we looked really good, so, at the end of the day I can’t be too unhappy. It was just weird, because they were simple outside-diagonal single-outside-diagonal single and it was pretty terrible for my part. He was on point and amazing though.
Thursday was just all bad. At least it felt bad. This is where most of the frustration is coming from – I couldn’t get my hands out of it enough to be consistent. And funnily enough, I did steal a look in the mirror at one point and was impressed by my back/seat/leg shape (as in, I looked like a real dressage rider). Wtf mates. So maybe it felt much worse than it looked, and my trainer and I are just getting really nitpicky (these are not bad things). The downward transitions for everything though were just terrible. I have this terribly awkward habit of moving my hands back and just dropping my seat into his back… ready for this… sack of potatoes style. Yup.
This all solidifies my “constant lunge lessons” theory for all of the winter. I asked for one last night again and made solid progress. My trainer had me working on downward transitions again, but since I had no hands, at least I couldn’t fuss with them. She had me practice sucking his back up into my seat and walking my hips, and there were a few really nice downwards. We also worked a lot on sitting trot, in which I was getting the hang of not collapsing my upper body and still relaxing enough to stay with the motion, all while keeping my outside shoulder further back and knee loose.
Also holy crap she made me double post. This is something I make my students do all the time. I need more practice, because I failed miserably. I imagine I need to two-point more often as well. As well as work on galloping position. Sigh.
No stirrups november is going to be VERY necessary.
I guess the one nice thing is my trainer said after our nicest/last 3′ course last Monday we should just skip Beginner Novice and head straight for Novice. HA HA HA funny. (I need an actual nice dressage test first.)
Oooooh first lesson recaps!
So my hand, it’s a thing. I may have partially dislocated my thumb about a week and a half ago. (Diagnosis via text message courtesy of my friend who is currently a physical therapy student.) It’s still really hurting, more now than when it was actually swollen, so I’m seeing my doctor today to find out what’s actually wrong with it (and if my friend guessed correctly).
UPDATE: I have indeed (most likely) partially torn the tendon over the top of my thumb. Doc added metal splint to brace and I am not supposed to bend it much if at all. Ice, heat, advil, etc etc
Long story short, Burns jumps like a deer sometimes and I missed grabbing mane and OH HAI BIG HULK NECK. It stung a little, but in proper form and without realizing initially what I did, I continued the lesson:
One of the things we are working on is turning with outside aids, so that’s why the ridiculous bending lines. One of the places we frequent is Loch Moy, and their stadium courses are always super twisty-turny. Really fun, but never pretty.
I didn’t end up riding the rest of the week because of my hand, as well as a certification test I had to take on Friday for my job (I failed, but it wasn’t required to pass so no worries – still gainfully employed). Monday, though, I really needed to get back in the tack. What better time than with a hand injury to get a lesson on lunge? I’ve been trying to get one in for a while actually, but my trainer was at the World Equestrian Games, and I was on vacation, and yada yada. Things get busy, ya know?
It did renew my feelings that this winter is going to be all things repairing my seat. Dressage seat boot camp, if you will. Related: who else will be doing No Stirrups November?! I am!
One of my very nasty habits is using my hands to balance. Not in the hauling on his face sense, but I move my hands around a lot and tend to make them my default aid to try and rebalance the horse. 100% ineffective, because a) that’s just not correct, and b) I am not strong up top. I’m not strong in general, really. Burns has a very strong front end and is very famous for falling through the right shoulder. I’m very famous for slouching through the right rib cage/shoulder. Friends, this is a BAD, bad combo and it is all the strugglebus for us to go to the right.
Here, my trainer coaching me through lifting my pelvis out of his way on the circle to the left. Bringing that around to the right, she is also having me over-exaggerate my position on the circle by putting my left butt cheek in the middle of the saddle, stepping into the right leg, and pulling my left shoulder back towards his rear. You can tell when I’m not getting it, because he starts looking like a giraffe even with the neck stretcher… but when I got it, I swear his back lifted by about three or four inches. He’s a serious tattle-tale:
Over the next few months I would like to take my hands out of the equation as much as possible, and then re-learn using my hands. If the Spanish Riding School makes you do it for a whole year no matter how good a rider you are, then certainly I could use all the help I can get.
And to think, silly childhood lesson program once gave me a ribbon for “Best Hands”.
And just for funsies, very short vid of Burns clearing our very first 3′ oxer together a couple weeks ago! In this exercise, our group was reviewing the change of canter and balancing for your fence approach, so my trainer had several poles lined up beforehand. In the previous runs, at ~2’7, she started removing poles one at a time and we were expected to keep our mounts balanced up as if they were still there. After raising the oxer and replacing the poles, and one instance of Burns crashing through the fence because he was too lazy to notice it had gone up, we have this:
fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck my equitation ugh
So I’m Liz. This is my new little getaway on the web. I’m an eventer, wife, veteran, cat friend, government employee, homeowner, and after years of hiatus – a writer.
Like the title of this blog suggests, I am indeed riding without the horse. That is to say – I have plenty of horses to ride, but not THE horse. I’ve never owned a horse; I’ve leased, but never full-time. My trainer in high school used to tell me she wanted me to catch ride, because I could sit on anything and do well. It’s just always been this way. I can’t say I’m too disappointed about it, but it’s hard to scroll by those gorgeous Thoroughbreds on MidAtlantic Horse Rescue and not wish I had the funds to keep a pony. I make do. This is where “the barn,” the one I’ve been bouncing around years to find, comes through for me. I needed a horse to event, and it just so happened the wonderful boarders of a big ol’ weirdo mutt named Burns needed someone to ride him. As an instructor in a huuuuge program, I can school the school horses as much as they need. I get to drop knowledge on lots new and experienced riders, and it’s really fun and I learn things from my students and fellow instructors all the time.
I mentioned Burns, who is the closest I’ve come to THE horse so far. We’ve been together a year (next week is the official anniversary!), and done a lot in that time. He’s sometimes a jerky, mostly really fun Quarter Horse cross with a big neck and a big jump and not so much of the dressage, although it’s getting better. Incidentally, I am nearly the same. Leasing Burns comes with a ridiculous(ly awesome) entourage in the form of his parents, their trainer (and my friend), and his other riders, and I’ve never seen myself ride so much as I have this last year because there’s so many people around to video! If you’re wondering, it helps. A LOT.
I suppose none of this actually tells you why we’re here. To be honest, that’s something we’re going to have to find out together. I loved to write – I love to write – and I am finding that life is moving faster and faster with little to no input from me. I think I’d like to change that. So this is an experiment. This is a place to put down goals and be held accountable, meet other people who might be like me, and just share. I like to share. I would make a good 5 year old.