You get NOTHING accomplished.
It’s no secret that P has had a monster crush on Trainer J (dressage) forever. He literally does no wrong when we’re with her. She doesn’t believe me when I tell her how spooky he is or how difficult he can be. I told Trainer B that, who has known us for like 3 months vs Trainer J’s 2 years and he busted out laughing and said, “Well, I can verify that he is.”
Now maybe it’s because Trainer J has always loved P. I got started with her after she judged us at a few local shows and the last time she judged us, she called me over and said, “First off, I love your husband and he cracked me up the entire time you were riding (he was making death threats against the kids while trying to video my test), and second, your horse is an incredibly nice mover and I can’t believe he’s an off the track TB.”
One of my friends rode with her, and had her start one of her young horses, so I headed up to Trainer J’s with her for a semi-private lesson, and we just clicked right away. When I officially started riding with her, she was pregnant, and the first time I saw her after Baby B was born, her first words were, “Can I ride him for a few minutes?” Why, yes you can, Trainer J. So she hops on him, makes him look gorgeous in about 90 seconds or less, and then stops and throws her arms around him and said, “I’ve been dying to ride him since I laid eyes on him!”
But she’s for real. It’s been 2 years and we’ve seen our scores go from 38 to 30. She helped me get him back on track when I got him back from the worse selling experience ever, and she’s one of my favorite people.
I got to the barn earlier than usual so I could get up to Trainer J’s early to either lunge him or have a long warmup, because homeboy hadn’t been ridden in 3 days. I didn’t ride over the weekend because of the kids, and then Monday when I went out, there were contractors fixing the lights around the arena so I couldn’t ride in it. So I was a bit apprehensive because a fresh P isn’t a productive P.
But then I found a mud soaked pony who required an actual bath, so that took up any extra time I had. So I figured I’d have to wing it.
When we got to the indoor, Trainer J asked if there was something specific I wanted to work on. Yes, ma’am.
I’m sure I sounded super whiny: “I can’t win in the canter, he leaps into it and runs off, and I have zero adjustability and he blows right through half-halts.”
So she goes, “Ok, show me.”
So I walk P on, put my right leg back and lighten my outside seatbone and…
P goes gently into a relaxed canter.
And Trainer J goes, “That looked just fine!”
Of course it did.
So then she goes, “Let’s go walk, canter, halt, walk, canter.”
K. Watch this- he won’t stop.
So we go into a nice gentle canter again, and I give the halting aids…weight in the stirrups, lift my chest and lighten my seat.
Not only does P halt, he halts perfect square and still in the bridle.
And Trainer J goes, “What was wrong with that?”
So then she says, “Canter, half-halt by using the same aids as you do for halting, but before he breaks, soften and go forward.”
Yeah, I know, Trainer J. I’ve been TRYING that. Get ready for fireworks.
So P goes off into his super dressage-y canter, and I apply the halting aids and then send him forward and…P rocked his lil’ ol’ self back and goes into the most beautiful, round and connected canter EVER. Even I couldn’t stop staring in the mirrors.
But then we halted and Trainer J goes, “What was wr…”
NOTHING, TRAINER J, NOTHING AT ALL.
By this time, she had called over one of her working students and her assistant trainer (who’s like 10 years younger than me and riding at 4th level….sucks that she’s super nice) to show them the “Thoroughbred she had told them about…one of the nicest movers” blah blah blah.
Meanwhile, I’m sitting on my horse like, “What is this voodoo, show her your true self, Pilgrim!”
Now, the lesson wasn’t totally a bust, despite P’s perfection. She totally got after me for my ever lengthening reins. She’s all, “I can see half your fingers, I only want to see knuckles!” And the reason for that is very valid. When I feel P soften or stretch down, I just let my reins lengthen when really I need to maintain the connection. Otherwise, all that happens is he starts powering on his forehand and while it makes for a nice picture to my non-dressage-judge eyes, it’s not actually correct. There’s got to be an end to the leash. My reins have to start short and stay short, otherwise I’m not making him use himself correctly.
And when they do get long…don’t do the “creepy crawly” up the reins to shorten them. That makes the connection unsteady and that’s the opposite of what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m going to try riding with coins (shamelessly stolen from this article here) in my hands to try to keep them closed because it’s something that I don’t even notice is happening. Or maybe I should just get a pair of rainbow reins. BO will just love that.
The other thing she got after me about was not insisting on straightness. Before asking for anything else, I have to get control over his outside shoulder. If he feels counterbent, congrats! He’s straight. It’s a principle I know well, but as we’ve progressed, lost sight of a bit. I need to get all of these things tattooed on my arms or something.
So all in all, great lesson. And great first day back after 3 days off for P. I told Trainer J that I just needed her to come sit in on every ride I have. I can’t believe I didn’t end up in the dirt, honestly. 3 days off plus a 20 degree temp drop is usually a recipe for a disastrous first ride back.
videographer husband just landed so here’s hoping I can replicate yesterday’s canter this afternoon!