Friday, December 18, 2015

On Arriving

The whole time I evented as both a teenager and an adult, I was always trying to move up. I didn't really care to what level--I just wanted to get above Beginner Novice, because I wanted to be one step better than the lowest division. I want to feel like I didn't just have my toe in the door, but like I sort of belonged.
at least I got a water picture
It was never meant to be--as a kid, I couldn't afford to join USEA, which you had to do to go Novice, and as an adult, I had an unsuitable horse (Izzy) and then one that went lame just as I regained my confidence (Cuna). There's a part of me that's glad I don't event anymore, because it's weird to tell people "yeah, I've done this since I was a kid and I still can't get past the level you start at".
becoming a team
I think that's what drives me with Courage. I hate telling people I do dressage when my only scores are at intro and training level. Sure, it's "technically" dressage and I know it's a stage we all have to go through, but I want to be better than that. I want to do a level with a number. I want to do things that the average rider who doesn't do dressage can't just pop into the show ring and do as well. You know?
we even lunge now
It's not that I need to go FEI to be personally fulfilled or even that I have have a goal past third level. I don't. I just want to be a Dressage Rider and have that term mean something more than "my saddle is black with long flaps". I want it to mean that I sit on my horse and his way of going is different because of me. That I attend an event and I belong, because I not only speak the language to other people, but to my horse as well.
I do love that dressage doesn't intentionally institutionally demean it's lower level constituency by calling it "novice" and "training", when it should be called "legit hard stuff". "First level" at least sounds mildly cooler, right? I want to do hard things well enough. I want to ride a level with a number. I want to have a place in the horse world to call my own.
one step at a time
I want to arrive in my own quiet way, take a seat in the back, and know that I'm in the right place. The place where I belong.
right here


  1. "Belonging" isn't defined by a level with a number. It's about being true to yourself and your horse.

    You already DO belong. :)

  2. Ditto JenJ! You are a dressage rider, as much as I'm an eventer. I mean YEAH we've only just begun to break into our respective sports, but when something is in your soul like that, you "belong" no matter what level you're at. :)

  3. Replies
    1. Yep, me, too. I can't even figure out which group to try to belong to...other than the club of people with dramatic geldings that flail :/

    2. Pretty sure I have a permanent residence in that club.

  4. Love this, I agree with Jen^^ I think you already belong. The way you've worked so hard with a horse, even through struggles, to get to where you want to be, and being true to yourself and your horse. You belong.

    I feel the same way, just have to find where I belong!

  5. That makes a lot of sense. I've always had the move up bug, but for me it's a competitive thing. I always feel like I have to be better than I was yesterday, or last week, or last year, and the most obvious way of seeing that I've improved is being able to move up. Perhaps a part of it is also what you described.

  6. You are better than you give yourself credit for. The thing about progress is, it isn't incremental. You will have big leaps forward and stumbles back. You will have movements that are 2nd level quality and others that are novice , all in the same day. Dressage means "to learn" . I and thousands of others are on the same journey as you with the same struggles and hopes. We just keeo plugging on, doing the best we can for each day, and each ride. Some of us skyrocket to our goals, but the majority of us slowly, with alot of self doubt, as much money we can squeeze out for lessons and horse keep. Slowly, and clumsily haul ourselves up the ladder of training. Keep on, keeping on. Best wishes from some one else staring with longing up the ladder in Washington state.

  7. Great post. Clearly we all relate o_O

    Anyone who's ever done *anything* with a horse that isn't totally pushbutton or in a full time program (or both) knows how hard executing a decent Training Level test is. Sure our horses should all be relaxed in their jobs and capable of a nice easy WTC when we ask (or within 30 Ft of when we ask..). But hot damn, it takes a lot to make that happen. Frankly once we get the Training level stuff down, "moving up" sorta happens on its own. You guys are doing all the hard stuff now. Go team!

  8. I relate. I had so much pride when I did my First Level 3 test because it felt like a 'real' dressage test. There was lateral stuff and lengthens and everything! I can't wait to get back there and I may cry the first time I do Second Level. Real dressage riders can sit the trot and all that. I know I'm already a 'real' dressage rider, but that doesn't keep me for longing to move to a level where I really feel that I for sure, no doubt or hesitation, am a dressage rider.

  9. Agree with what JenJ said, you're doing dressage so you're a dressage rider!

    I almost always felt this way at every level. If I only got to First level, I'd be a real dressage rider. Then it was wanting my bronze, then silver, and even then the upward comparisons kept driving me to feel like if I JUST did xyz then I'd be what I wanted to be. And after my gold, I still don't feel like a GP rider, I feel like I need several GP horses, or to qualify for a championship or to get more scores or whatever. THEN I'll be whatever it is I want. So I'm careful now about this way of thinking, it drives me nuts sometimes! I can be really impatient.

    You guys have come such a long way, the destination is amazing but the journey is so much better :)

  10. i CRINGE whenever i hear anybody say, in any capacity, that 'so and so isn't a real eventer/dressage rider/show jumper' etc. what on earth do we need to do in order to be considered 'legitimate' at our chosen discipline?

  11. I can relate. I've hitched the pony twice in the last year. We got as far as Prelim = to Training level in ridden dressage.

    In our not so illustrious driving stint, we placed 1st in only 1 main ring class, a couple of games classes and everything else was 2nd's, 3rd's and 4'ths. Granted we were not last in many classes, save the one show where the judge didn't like us for whatever reason, but we showed up and gave it our best. Every. Damn. Time.

    You totally belong! Look at it this way- You have done all of the work with your horse. How many times have you stepped off and handed him over to a trainer to get him to where he is now? Would you rather be the rider you are or one who arrives at the stable, steps on a horse that is 'ready made' goes in the ring to win ribbons and hands him off to the groom so you can go have brunch with friends? I'm not trying to be harsh, just pointing out the differences in how some people view riding and competeing

  12. You do belong, and I'm so happy that you are starting to feel it. Your journey has led you here, and with Courage as your partner great things are in store.

  13. The wonderful thing about dressage is how good it is for your horse. I develops brain and muscle to the best both can be and gives you a good solid foundation to participate in any other sport you choose. Sending good wishes to you and Courage as you take the journey together.

  14. I completely relate to this. Especially as I find myself funding my own way these days, it's really hard to be satisfied when I'm trotting crossrails or 2ft jumps, when five or six years ago I was very much at the top of the game. Like, I'm never going to be a 'real' hunter rider or something, because I'll never get to a comparable level as what I rode at as a junior, or success won't really be success until I have a tack room of world championships. It's frustrating.

    Sometimes those "easiest" levels are the hardest though - because getting the basic foundation stuff done and done correctly is really, really freaking hard. You are a dressage rider and you do belong and sometimes you just have to say it out loud to remind yourself.

  15. I feel this so hard! I grew up riding at a H/J barn, so I learned a forward seat and went over small fences. But I never showed and let's face it, I have never jumped a full course higher than 2'6", so I always feel weird saying "oh yeah, I ride hunters."

    Then I moved to a barn with a dressage trainer, so I started taking dressage lessons. I distinctly remember taking a lesson where my trainer said "ride like your goal is to be schooling second level in the spring." So of course the next day my horse comes out of her stall lame and hasn't been sound since. I've since then ridden a variety of horses from that barn, so riding in a more upright dressage seat, but I've never schooled higher than a training level test. So I again feel odd saying "yes, I ride dressage."

    Someday I'll be able to afford a sound horse in a mid- to high-level training program of some discipline...right?

  16. Yes to this so hard... I haven't showed over Training level, and only at schooling shows. I feel like such a sham, so I always call myself a "Wanna-be Dressage Diva" making light of the fact that I really don't feel like a dressage rider at all - for pete's squeaks - I don't even have a trainer and haven't taken a lesson in years!!

    But I practise dressage every ride, so I know in my heart that's what I am; even if my head doesn't believe it without some "for real" score sheets and ribbons.

    bonita of A Riding Habit

  17. Totally right there with you. I have been showing Intro for the past four-ish years now, and it so beyond frustrating. I feel like for all of the ride time, money spent on lessons, and money spent on shows that I should be way further than I am. I think this past year Sydney and I finally got our acts together, and hopefully now we can start moving up.


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