Some of you may or may not know that I do most of my training alone, headphones in, in a borrowed arena that’s a mile walk away from my stable, usually between shifts at my job. While I wouldn’t change this for the world, it does make when I’m finally able to get to a real stable to train even more intoxicating. Stepping away from my “grown up job” and being able to involve myself so thoroughly in the sport I adore was close to spiritual. The want and need to watch, learn, understand, absorb everything overtook me. I was lucky enough to be invited to spend some time with a good friend of mine, who only 3 years ago, returned from Germany with his Bereiter degree. It was hard not to fall in love with the facility at his stable Tex-Over, in Conroe TX. For five glorious days, I fell back into my working student routine and from 7am to 7pm, helped him and his grooms any way I could for the sheer desire to learn. Through watching him ride, coach lessons, hack out together, and over a couple margaritas (obviously to replenish much needed electrolytes, duh), I took enough notes to fuel me until the next time I could get some time to go train with him again.
The most valuable lessons were small and maybe overlooked by others, but they left their impact on my training methods and my beliefs. I’m lucky enough to have written most of them down and would love to share them with you!
- To collect, you want to make the horse physically smaller from nose to tail. Isn’t that a great visual?
- If you bend without your leg, you’re just pulling. Leg sends the horse forward, rein brings her energy back, and they meet in the middle.
- Gripping with thigh ruins the effectiveness your seat has.
- Shoulder fore should be used to correctly position for the outside hind leg drive to inside leg steps.
- Walk to canters come from inside leg and seat, not outside leg.
- Always push forward to bit.
- Always take more snaffle and less curb if you are in a double. The weight should be in the snaffle to take away the danger if the curb.
- Compact and active, that’s how the outline should be.
- Over bent = shoulder falling out.
- Ask for halt from outside rein, and ask for connection over the back with leg on, even in immobility.
- Never let go of the half halting rein.
- Anytime your horse is too long or hard in the hand, he needs more leg.
- Haunches out is NOT shoulder fore.
- On the stiffer side, drive from outside rein and leg!
- Start everything in forward trot, end everything in forward trot.
- It’s important that in the collection to feel bursting at the seems forward, almost exploding out the front, so as not to suck back.
- *reinforced* Just because you can buy a horse doesn’t mean you can ride it.
Now these aren’t my lesson notes, because lord knows I’m still trying to apply the complex concepts to Joy, who is not enjoying it. Once I sort those out, I’ll share them as well.
My favorite lesson was this:
“Okay so we fixed one piece, but as we know, Dressage is the french word for if you fix one thing, the rest falls apart.” (edited for less profanity)
HOW TRUE IS THAT?! Even watching him school clients on their professionally trained, imported, gargantuan creatures, there’s always the understanding that the work is never over. You never just leave something alone. You know that you’re working towards a state of suspension near complete collapse. Like Chris Pratt in Jurassic Park, with his raptors. At any moment you know everything you’re working on could be miscommunicated and fall to pieces (hopefully not get eaten by raptors..?), but you carry on, knowing your fighting an endless battle to work in tandem. If you wake up, get up, show up, and work your ass off, the understanding that your work is never over should be a motivator. You always have another day to improve. You always have another ride to further your understanding of just how you’re influencing your ride. Surrender yourself to your lack of knowledge and drink from the well of self improvement.
As always my dears, happy riding and never stop learning!