Skip to main content

She's Not a Baby Anymore!

Early spring saw some immediate changes in how Ellie carried herself and our dressage work started to truly improve.  There had been times last year where flat work felt like a fight and I wondered to myself if she was ever going to just relax and listen to me haha.

Thankfully, as the title suggests, Ellie has suddenly grown up in front of my eyes.  We have had some really stellar lessons lately, where I feel like I am suddenly able to make things click.  We also had an incredibly frustrating dressage lesson a few weeks ago where Ellie was in rip-roaring peeing heat (not normal for her) and we worked through 45 minutes of her refusing to bend right.  So, ya know, as much as she is improving, she is still an opinionated redheaded mare!  ;-)

But, I have to give her credit because she is really working her little butt off for me!  Sadly, I had not been able to schedule in a jump lesson before our first three-phase, which led to me riding her ridiculously backward at a slow trot the entire …

NEDA Flextime Lesson #1

I was very fortunate this year to receive two NEDA Flextime lesson grants, one with Jennifer Wilson-Horr and the other with Gwyneth McPherson.

I took my lesson with Jen last Wednesday.  It was a good lesson overall.  I began by telling her what I wanted to work on, which was the connection to the bit and Dreamy's tendency to avoid  going into the right rein while tracking left. 


Immediately, she had me dismount and showed me how to stretch and unlock her poll.  Dreamy likes to stretch, but Jen wanted more.  It took some effort on her part to get Dreamy to drop her head from the ground.  Then she showed me how to work her on the ground, moving her hindquarters and encouraging her to engage her inside hind leg.  We found (no surprise) that Dreamy is stiff in her left stifle, which made moving over to the right a bit harder.  


I mounted back up and did some warm-up so Jen could watch us work.  Then she asked to ride Dreamy to see how she felt.  This was neat, since my own instructor Judy just rode her the other day.  It was neat to watch her go for someone else, especially when that someone else knows so much more than me!  LOL!  (Jen is currently competing her stallion at PSG).  


My lesson was a challenge.  Jen made me WORK.  She was a little relentless, but that is something I need sometimes, I think.  Not all the time though....LOL!  Dreamy was a champ, whereas just last year (and definitely in 2008) she would have had the BIGGEST hissy fit when I was pushing the boundaries.   Instead she tried her heart out, literally.  She worried, as Jen said she "internalizes" everything, but instead of freaking out (Jen even carried a dressage WHIP, for goodness sakes, which made Dreamy FREAK out last year!!!) , you could SEE her trying.  She held it together and moved out like a REAL dressage horse!  LOL!


Handing her back to me, Jen said there was NO reason why this mare could not go First level.   Awwww, yeaaaaaah!  :D

The biggest thing I took away from my lesson was increased knowledge about connection.  Dreamy likes to "play" with her head, sucking back a tiny bit behind the vertical, then a little in front, then right on the bit.  And so on.  It is not nearly as bad as it once was (LOL) but it is still there at times.  And it is not like she is sucking back to her chest and then flinging her head out.  It is not that dramatic, but enough that we were never having a true connection.  Every time Dreamy would come back, I would "drop" her.  I would release my reins forward and then there was literally nothing there.  And then when she would come up a bit, I would pull back.  I was doing the opposite of what Jen wanted.  When Dreamy sucked back, she made me USE my elbows (what a concept!  LOL) to follow her back and KEEP that connection.  When she poked her head out slightly, I followed her.  Suddenly, Dreamy realized that no matter where she put her head, she was NOT going to evade connection.  There was that light bulb moment when she settled right THERE, where she was supposed to be!!!!


Of course, I then blow it.  LOL!  I have discovered I am scared of connection.  It feels like it is too heavy in my hands.  Every time Dreamy accepts the bit, I half halt and slow her down and give and pull back, sometimes all at once practically!   To me, it felt like she was "heavy" in my hands.  As Judy reminded me when she rode Dreamy for the first time in my last lesson, Dreamy is NOT heavy.  


OK, so now I am trying to unlearn the way I ride.  LOL!  That is HARD to do!  (See my post about my Heather Blitz clinic from this past May...!!!)  Jen was tough, and it made me a bit frustrated.  Not enough to cry or give up, but work harder.  I WANT to ride my horse correctly.  I WANT to do First level.  I WANT it sooooo bad.  And here was my little mare, trying her HEART out for me.


Jen kept reminding me to "ride her forward" and to "ride her like I am going somewhere."  This was hard to do, seeing as I used to get comments in 2009 on tests that we were too forward.  I think I have reined in her big ole trot too much.  Now that we have almost got connection (and many times we really DID get it in my lesson), I have to remember to create impulsion.  It is so hard!  :(

And at the walk, especially our stretchy walk breaks, I tend to let her go on "vacation".  Jen reminded me that I cannot just let her halfheartedly plod around, I MUST ask her to stretch to the ground.  She wants me to really stretch her back and release that poll. 


So things were looking up at the walk and trot.  We were doing pretty good, despite having to unlearn all my bad habits......ha ha ha.  Jen is the type of instructor who makes me nervous, as she kept asking me, "Now what is her ____ doing?"  Fill in with neck, leg, hindquarter, shoulder, etc.  Half the time, I have no idea.  I'm just trying to ride the way you asked me to!  LOL!  So another thing I learned is that at times I have no body awareness for myself OR my horse.  Bad me.

Then we cantered.  UGGG.  Dreamy is so good, so balanced on her transition and the first few strides......and then BAM!  I hunch over into the fetal position and she falls apart.


Yep, Jen got after me.  SIT UP!!!!!!!!!!  But I can't.  And I got frustrated.  I realized (hours later...of course) that I cannot just be told to "sit up."  If that was all it took, I would not have the problem.  Instead I need to hear put your shoulders back, round your back (as I tend to hollow it), tilt your pelvis or still your seat (I like to "scoop" my seat at the canter.  Bad me).  Or all of the above.  ;-)  

And every time she would tell me to sit up, I would TRY so hard.  And she would just keep telling me, because I was unable to just "sit up".  I am not sure what I do.  So eventually, I end up saying, "I can't!"  NOT what I should say.  I should have said, "I'm trying..." but I truly could not just "sit up."  So I felt terrible about that, but Jen tried her best.  


She did tell me to ride as many horses as I could.....ummmm, well, I have a four year old greenie...???  LOL!  I have no access to other horses, especially schoolmasters who know more than me.  (That is my NEXT horse...LOL!)  So Jen said I could come down any time to take a lesson on one of her horses.  (Later in the barn, she told me she wanted me to ride her stallion......AHHHHHH!  :D  I was sure to tell her I did not need a new instructor, as I love my current one, but that coming down once a month or every other month could be an option for me.  And she does have an indoor, so I could ride this winter.  


So overall, it was a good learning experience.  Sometimes I need to hear things in another way to get it.  Or sometimes I just need to be pushed out of my comfort zone.  Dreamy was SOOO good too.  I was super proud of her.  I hope I can find a way to ride with Jen again!  :)


NEDA Flextime lesson #2 coming this week!  :)

Comments