Friday, September 4, 2009

"I stand on the outside, would die to get in..."

"I stand on the outside/ would die to get in/ I crawl inside just to begin again." -Shinedown, "Begin Again"

I think I'm really beginning to understand the extent of what I don't know about dressage. We've been focusing pretty heard on it for the last week and a half, and although we've improved, I feel like I've finally reached the top of a really big hill, and now I can finally see most of everything in "DressageLand". And 90% looks foreign and compeltely difficult!

Today, my trainer rode Val before my lesson and I got to watch. She was explaining how she wanted me to work on keeping the contact even. After having my trainer on him for an hour, Val started to look really, really good. He was really reaching with his hind end and he was taking a soft and steady connection to the bit. It was so great to see!

Then I got on and could feel just how much she had changed. It was a huge difference; it was like riding a school master dressage horse. I asked, and he just did. It was a great feeling, but it just makes me wish more and more that I could get him that way myself! She said that I had been ignoring or not pushing him on lots of little tiny thing, like him not taking a strong enough contact to the right reign here, or him throwing his haunches or shoulders a bit here... obviously I can't catch these tiny flaws yet. My trainer points out that she's been riding dressage/eventing for over 12 years, and she still can't feel every minute imperfection he produces.

She says that being able to make those changes will come in time, and while we'll work on it in our next lessons, it's difficult for me to try to make those changes when I don't know exactly what I'm asking for.

All of this is true, but it just serves to make me feel very, very humble. Humble, introspective... all good adjectives to describe how I feel at the moment.

I also got to see Breeze work. He's an old horse of my trainer's trainer, and he went all the way to Intermediate eventing! Which, to me, mean's he's practically a god. He did canter pirouettes, and tempi changes, and canter half-passes, and even piaffe (although he doesn't have the greatest piaffe). He's a paint, so he doesn't have the most spectacular movement on the face of the planet, but he still looks great for being nearly 25! The idea of a horse with huge, sweeping gates doing what Breeze did just leaves my jaw completely dropped. I'm trying to imagine multiplying the amazing things he did x 5 or so. It should be lots of fun to watch the upper level dressage at the AECs!


  1. I think as long as you are riding you are going to be discovering how much you don't know. You can never learn it all, just because there are too many different things to know and discover and see, but as long as you see that, I think you are better than half of the riders out there.

    You know, the ones who know everything? The ones who will never improve because they refuse to learn?

    You will get better and learn new things because you understand that you still have a ways to go.

    The title is interesting...kind of how every serious horse person feels at some point, I guess. Especially when watching a more advanced rider.

    At my new school (it's an equestrian college) there are tons of amazing riders...and then there is me - riding for about four years and the furthest thing from a natural.

    So when I see them it's always like wow, I wish I could be as good as they are.

    And I always have to remember that no, I really am not awful. I always have to remind myself that I cannot realy compare myself to these people who have been riding since they were three with the most elite trainers in the country.

    I know I am not a bad rider. I am a learning one. All those super talented riders had to work up from somewhere too, didn't they?

    So why don't you just enjoy the journey (and ignore that cliche...) and then 15 years from now, when you have improved a billion times over, you will be happy that you did because you got to experience all of that learning and hardships and tribulations ... and that is so much better than if you were magically able to get on a horse tomorrow and just be the perfect rider.

  2. You are definitely right. And I'm thinking that I probably just came out of one of those, "Oh, I've got this, we're getting good at this dressage thing" phases. Oh, well! Horses are good at making sure our heads don't get too big :)

    Certainly everyone that works at it, takes lessons and what-not, will improve over time. 15 years from now, I'm sure you'll be able to look back at where you've been and smile, too!

    I thought the title was appropriate, myself! Shinedown is pretty much my favorite band, and this song is pretty amazing. If you can, look it up some time and listen to it.

    If you don't mind my asking, what college are you at? I'm a Junior this year, so I need to be looking at colleges, and I'm still thinking about applying to an equestrian-focused college. I didn't know there was one in Missouri!

  3. Yup, William Woods University, hailed as one of the best Equine Studies colleges in the nation besides completely horse-focused Meredith Manor in West Virginia.

    It is in Fulton, about 20 minutes away from Jeff city.

    It is an AMAZING school. I was a bit skeptical at first...I mean, traveling over 1600 miles to take lessons? But it is totally worth it. These trainers really know what they are talking about.

    If you go for an Equestrian science (EQS) BS degree, you have to choose a concentration for your main seat - I chose jumper, with the other options being dressage, western, and saddleseat - and then you take at least one semester in two of the other seats.

    You ride at least twice a week every semester, with the option to take advantage of senior students giving free lessons almost constantly or weekend riding with the trainers

    The jumping concentration is called hunter/jumper, but once you get past the 2'6 class, there is almost no hunter and a lot of cross country and showjumping focus.

    They also have an EQA (equine administration) degree for if you want to do something with horses that isn't necessarily riding, teaching, or training. Like owning a barn. You are only required to take three semesters of your main riding concentration here, but of course you could take more.

    Or you could minor in either and major in something else, or Major in EQS with a minor in EQA, etc.

    I only just finished up my second week here so I haven't got toooo much to brag about yet, except that if you are serious about horses - this is a good school.

    Oh, and if you do look into it, don't let the tuition scare you off - it is a private school - because they are really, really generous with the scholarship money if you are a rider!


    Whew, that was a long comment.

    Oh, and I don't need to look up shinedown...because I already have practically every song they ever played because they are the BEST!

  4. Thanks for the info! I can't believe I've never heard of it before.

    Yay for Shinedown! They are totally awesome.

  5. Yep, since I have started doing dressage (I want to event on my greenie, not any more school horses) to further my partnership with my horse Jackson, I don't think I could have voiced that feeling about the 90% I don't know any better. I had that thought strike me the other day as I was leafing through my friends 101 dressage exercises book. Holy moly, I thought, this is intense! I picked up a jumping book and felt a bit more at home. I believe it is all about the journey and I have come FAR, very FAR already. But still....whew! The more I learn, the less I know, as that old saying goes!!!