Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dressage Time

Working with a kind and generous trainer is always a privilege. M is not the first such trainer I've worked with, but I'm grateful to be in her barn right now. She feels sorry for me because my horse is out of commission, so she's letting me take lessons on one of her horses. He's a tall chestnut OTTB named Seneca, and she's had him since he was four, right off the track. They've done a lot together, including Prix St. Georges. M got her USDF silver medal on him.

There are a few things to note about Seneca:

1. He is tricky.
2. He is sensitive.
3. He can be ill-behaved.
4. He is NOT a school master.

I really like being around Seneca, but never thought I'd ride him. A bunch of M's friends who have gone Advanced have tried and failed, and they are better riders than me. Apparently with Mr. S, he either likes you or he doesn't.

I rode him for the first time on Saturday, and I felt like a total failure even though M told me that I was not allowed to feel like a failure because he demoralizes even her, and even though he DID like me. I just felt like I had no idea what I was doing, and he was bringing out all my flaws (which is why this will ultimately be a valuable exercise). At the end of the lesson, M said, "I'm teaching you to drive, but I've put you in an Indy car for your first driving lesson, and then I told you not to push too hard on the gas. So." I was so worried about offending him that I barely used my aids. On the dressage horse. Since when did I worry about putting a horse in front of my leg? That's the safety zone!

Today's lesson went much better, even though he bucked and spun a couple times. That wasn't about me, that was about horse flies and M's kid galloping by on his pony. I finally got a really great walk-to-canter transition in which I committed to keeping my goddamn shoulders back, and he was great. Some good leg yields and some decent walk pirouettes (wtf) and I was feeling much better about life.

I have to learn to sit up more, to not hang on the inside rein when things get weird (M: "hang on the OUTSIDE rein instead!"), and to hold my legs differently than I'm used to (part of which is dressage and part of which is Seneca).

I have a lot to learn from this horse, so I hope he will let me learn. He did not sign up to teach anyone how to ride, that's for sure. But he has a lot in common with Lex, especially getting nervous about learning new things and falling behind my legs, so if I can figure out how to ride him, I'm sure I'll ride her much better.

Also? Dressage saddles feel weird to me. This is going to take some major getting used to, but I can't see much downside as long as I can keep ol' Seneca between me and the ground.

(I'm trying to post pictures of Seneca but my stupid internet connection isn't working well enough. I will either add them later or put up a new post with all his pretty chestnut thoroughbred self on display.)


  1. OMG the first time I sat in a dressage saddle I felt like a fish out of water, haha.

  2. Mixed blessing to ride challenging upper level horses for sure!

  3. So good for your riding as long as he doesn't totally demoralize you. :-)

  4. It sounds like a great experience! Going from a jumping to a dressage saddle can be the most awkward thing in the world. Especially on a horse you don't know that is difficult to ride.