Monday, January 5, 2015

Watching grass grow

Dressage isn't my favorite phase of three-day eventing, but I've sort of grudgingly accepted it as a thing over the last couple of years. This is entirely due to the influence of my dressage-minded friends. My sometimes-trainer Anne (who I wish was my all-the-time-trainer) is a dressage guru who has pushed me to do more and to appreciate what dressaging does for my jumping. (Hint: it makes it better!) My friend Richal, along with her gaggle of minions/students, has peer-pressured me into joining the local GMO and showing on the schooling show circuit. It's a vicious cycle. At the rate I'm going, I'll forget how to jump by the time spring rolls around.

"Only one of us needs work on dressage, lady, and it isn't me."
Something I saw more than once in the judge's comments on last year's tests was the mention of the need to better prepare the horse for transitions. For some reason, alerting Gina to an upcoming change didn't really occur to me; I mean, I figured if I, like...gave the appropriate cue at the appropriate time, Gina would canter. Or halt. Or walk. Whatever. I don't know. But in the spirit of improving ourselves (and our scores), I've been diligently giving tiny little half-halts before every transition. At first, Gina seemed a little confused about what I wanted her to do; she's a smart horse, though, and quickly figured out that the tiny half-halt was simply my way of getting her attention before asking her to do something different. This morning, in the freezing cold, under the glare of the indoor arena lights, we had our best upward canter transitions since I can remember. 

"Puh-leeze, I can dressage in my sleep."
I'm reading through How Good Riders Get Good, Denny Emerson's riding manifesto. In it, he retells the story of a rider participating in a dressage clinic who became frustrated and impatient. The clinician said, "You go out and mow your lawn, correct? Then what do you do? Do you sit and watch it grow? No, of course not. But in two weeks, you have to go out and mow it again, no?"

That story was a good reminder for me: riding and training horses (and yourself!) is a long game. But with enough time, the grass will grow.

"I'm going to eat any grass that grows."

15 comments:

Wilbur, Ellie, and Emily said...

Great reminder- riding IS the long game! While I'm not busy dressaging all over the place- I am a firm believer that flatwork is the key to successful jumping!

Stephanie said...

As someone who pretty much ignored flatwork for the last ten years in favor of jumping my brave horse over stupid things, it is MIND BLOWING how much it helps the jumping. I mean, you hear that, you read that, but putting it into practice is a totally different thing.

SheMovedtoTexas said...

Suuuuuuch a long game. I am also meh on dressage, but have been doing a lot more of it with our flatwork lately since it is really the best tool for having a highly rideable horse.

SprinklerBandit said...

I SPY A PS BRIDLE

Stephanie said...

It has been a revelation to discover that dressage means you can have a horse that bends through bending lines and can squeeze in 5 strides or move up to 4. Like, what on earth was I doing with Moe? (Just kidding, the answer is 'stupid shit like jumping him over car hoods and picnic tables')

Stephanie said...

You spy correctly! Today was the second time I've used it, so I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about it.

Aoife said...

Lolz super sleuth SB!

I used to view dressage as a means to an end, good flatwork = better jumping. But since moving to Lux, I have realised what i thought was flatwork was really just lazily riding around probably annoying my horse by not truly committing to things.
Through watching people ride & lesson at my predominantly dressage barn & following a growing number of dressage oriented blogs (I'm looking at you Guinness on Tap, Racing to Ride, A Enter Spooking, A Blonde, Brunette & a Redhead etc), I have discovered a growing respect and secret love for the dancing divas and want to learn all the things with my ponies so we can float and do fancy things too some day.

Stephanie said...

I feel the same way! Hanging out with the dressage crowd (in real life and online!) has definitely made me appreciate it as its own thing.

Madeline C. said...

That last picture he looks aaaalll business. Love it! I think dressage is something B and I are really going to get going on. Flatwork always sounds better when you say, "We're working on dressage today" hahaha.

Tracy Beavers said...

I have the same issue with transitions! I either don't prepare and/or I rush. Either way it's sloppy!

emma said...

dressage is pretty much brand spanking new to me, and is pretty much an enigma lol... but the good moments definitely feel goooood. your points about patience are definitely well taken!!

Austen Gage said...

Dressage used to bore me, until I realized just how intricate the communication can get and I started feeling how each part of the horse's body effected it's movement and balance. Suddenly, I'm addicted. :)

agifthorse said...

Downward transitions are evil. They are on my to-do list (x1000) for this week. Gah!

Beka Burke said...

Oh.. huh.. um. Ponies aren't psychic? Archie's normally strung out ten feet in front of me and knows that I'm about to do something when I start gathering the miles of his face in. Maybe. I'm living vicariously through your lessons! Keep it up!

SprinklerBandit said...

If in doubt, play with the browband snaps a few times. ;-)

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