Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dressage Clinic for the Non-DQ

I even re-dressaged his mane
I've been puzzling over and over how to write a non-boring dressage clinic wrap up. Let's face it: if I'm like OMG DRESSAGE MINUTIAE YOU GUYS, like two people read it. Austen and JenJ, I'm looking at you.

So instead of walking you step by step through the best dressage ride of my life so far (Saturday) and possibly the hardest (Sunday and I had to get off because walk was too much for me), I wanted to talk a little about why I love my barn.

this is less tipped than some
Because I'm a lumpy adult ammy on a green OTTB. I'm crooked, I hunch my shoulders and tip forward without evening being aware of it, and I'm never going to be a big money client. Courage is a thoroughbred, older, and quite happy to go around inverted.

i'm impressed with him
And not one time did anyone even think that I needed a fancier horse, a pricier saddle, or a date with a personal trainer. Instead, the clinician just focused on us and where we are right now. She corrected us in the moment, but also talked about the theory of training and how to keep teaching Courage to improve both of us in between lessons.

even with me tipping, i like this picture
Last time I rode with her, we did really, really basic exercises (right rein means go right) and sometimes floundered our way through them. This time, Courage stepped it up and we were working on getting the same response to quieter aids. She explained it like rungs on a laddar--we start with the first one and go up. BUT if at any point the horse doesn't understand, then you go back down as many rungs as you need to so that can understand. Hopefully that's just one step back, but it can mean all the way back to the ground.

And like I said, Saturday was brilliant. Courage was light and responsive and forward and a downright pleasure to ride. His walk and trot was the best it's ever been. I sort of thought the wheels fell off at the canter, but the pictures contradict me.

Sunday we addressed my crookedness head on and while I finally did get straighter, I couldn't both think and ride, so I ended up hopping off and letting my trainer ride to help straighten Courage out while I just watched and processed. I did get back on and recreate some of it (and Courage was really good the whole time), so that was very helpful. Also helpful: knowing that he is crooked for people other than me.

proof of leg yield
The things we worked on are so incredibly simple and yet enormously difficult. They aren't sexy and glamorous (though we did our first supervised leg yield and got a "GOOD JOB"), but I can definitely feel the difference in Coruage's way of going. I have no illusions of grandeur for us in dressage, but I love that pursuing it is actively making us a better team.

PS many thanks to Alyssa for making the best of a dark indoor and taking dressage pictures for us anyways.


  1. Your pictures look awesome! You guys look great!

    It IS interesting to read about your struggles with the minutiae A) because you are funny and irreverant and B) most of us struggle with the same dumb sh*t, like OMG STRAIGHT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

    Love to hear about your progress and you guys look fancy-shmancy to me :)

  2. Great pics! I need to work on straight-ness myself :)

  3. yay! dressagery! it looks like you both took a lot from your rides and can definitely put this clinic in the "win" category!

  4. You two look great! I love flat/dressage work. I don't have access to a dressage coach though. Hearing the minutiae gives me ideas of things to work on and how to do them.

  5. Awesome!! You guys look amazing in the pictures and I love the visual of the ladder. So unbelievably true, I feel like I always get stuck half way up and refuse to come down, but it helps so much to just take a step back and make sure that everyone is on the same page.

  6. Looking good! Sounds like it was a productive clinic for you guys.

  7. Sounds like a beneficial clinic for all! I too love the minutiae though!

  8. Um HELLO I would totally read a blog post about dressage minutia. Also, as a fellow lumpy crooked way too forward ammy I both can relate to how you felt going into this and I'm totally jealous of your position in these photos - you are sitting up really nicely. Sounds like the clinic was great both as a learning experience and a benchmark of how far you've come. Which is awesome.

  9. Hahaha! NEED MOAR MINUTIAE!! ;)

    It's a sign of a good trainer who takes you and your horse as you are and doesn't try to upsell you. The only time a good trainer should try to get you to upgrade to something is if what you have is unsuitable (saddle doesn't fit at all, horse is dangerous). Otherwise they should try their hardest to get your working your best with what you have, I think.

    I love that canter picture where you are cantering away from the camera. Holy hotness, horse!

    My horse was super crooked, too. My trainer got on him once to see why I was having such and issue and got off saying "damn. He did not look that screwed up from the ground." I was all, "thank you?" You'll learn a lot about straightness and body control from fixing a crooked horse, and sometime in the future the trainer will say "hey, his haunches are drifting" and you'll be able to go "So they are. NBD." and just fix it. And later you will think back on that and go "Jesus. I am a badass." And it will be true.

  10. Holy cow that second photo! The one of you cantering! Hellooooo second level!

  11. Ya'll look awesome! My one experiance with a dressage clinic was being told that I needed a different saddle, or possibly a different horse. It was not as fun and educational as I had hoped.

  12. It's the simple things that are the hardest yet most crucial part of riding, IMO

  13. My horse has a bent frame, her butt tends to drift right. Its one of those things we work on but havent fixed, and its so nice to see her do it with the WS and trainer so I know its not just me. Courage looks great, glad you are enjoying him.

  14. I just started reading your blog - your guy looks great in all those photos, especially that sexy cantering butt! I also really liked the clinician's ladder analogy.

  15. Clinicians like that are so fabulous. Sounds like a very useful set of lessons and excellent rides overall.

  16. Exactly!!!! THAT'S what dressage is all about.

    And when done right, it's totally addicting. And frankly, even when I am screwing it up, it's still addicting. :0)

  17. "so incredibly simple and yet enormously difficult" -- yep that's pretty much what dressage is to me. except i DO feel like this stuff is exciting. i'm a very practical person and the distinct and clear difference that even the most basic of dressage has made for me and my horse make it worth every moment.

    anyways, fabulous pictures and very exciting that you had such a productive clinic - Courage looks wonderful!


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