Thursday, June 23, 2016

Small Step for Dressage, Giant Leap for Courage

Anymore, I try not to do ride write ups. Courage and I aren't doing any cool tricks. Day in and day out is just simple consistency and giving him time to learn. We vary what we do--toodling days, hard dressage days, transition days, slow walk work days--whatever he needs in the moment. It's fascinating to ride, but not the most riveting reading.
winning the outfit game
Last week, we did a lesson with my trainer. Courage was on it and reasonably solid. I have some jumbled video I need to go through, but the most important part for me was riding through our tests. I did a sufficient First Level Test Two and then stopped to get feedback. Trainer pointed out that I rode the test, but I didn't set him up to be successful. It's not enough to do the movements on the paper. I have to think ahead and be proactive.
he's so handsome
So we rode another test and she coached me through it. Instead of just trotting through the corner, then kicking for a lengthen, I had to shorten into the corner, coast through the corner, half halt out of the corner and then send him forward about three times per lengthen across the diagonal. Simple things like that. Also important: "on this horse, straight lines are not your friend".

It was one of those lessons that isn't earth shattering in what we worked on, but the principles needed to be reinforced for me. Not riding movements--riding the horse I have in the moment.
sometimes that horse is fancy
I felt like I made some great breakthroughs, but what made me even more excited was putting Courage on the lunge line later in the week. He's a horse that really does well with lots of ground work and lunging so he can figure himself out without a rider up, and it showed. Usually I take a zillion pictures of him and then root through them until I find one that looks good.

Not. So.
 It was kind of magical--he kicked things into a whole new gear in the trot. He had to work through canter transitions a few times, but once he figured it out, he floated into the canter and then offered this amazing, slow, balanced, cadenced canter that I didn't even know he had.
I can't quit you
Fascinating. Mysterious. Sexy. No wonder I still have this horse.

The next day I rode him.



I dunno what clicked for him, but there are gears in there I didn't know he had. Judging by his reactions, he didn't know either. He was powerful and forward and light and balanced and yes, of course I was riding alone with no witnesses.
but color coordination=win. are these breeches amazing or what?
See, Courage has this move he does usually in the right lead canter--if I sit too deep or ask for too much, he does this almost-invisible hop to get me out of the tack and let him stop loading his hind end. It's a strength issue and careful conditioning is making it a lot easier for both of us.

But that's how I knew the gear he dropped into was as surprising to him as it was to me--I was getting the "hop" while trotting to the left. THE LEFT. TROTTING. That's his good side in his easy gait.

I pushed my luck a little and asked for canter. He didn't quite magically lift into it like he did on the lunge line the day before, but when he got there?


It's the canter dreams are made of. The canter that makes me forget galloping and jumping. It feels every bit as good as it looks and it looks freaking amazing (I mean, for first level for us, you know).

He's not strong enough to hold it for more than a lap or so of the small indoor arena, but not one time did he panic or flail.

This canter. <3 It was worth waiting for. We have a long ways to go to get strong and confident and consistent with this newfound level of awesome, but it is so freaking exciting to know it's in there for someday.
so yeah i'd say he's pretty sexy


  1. He is so sexy! I'm glad that things are starting to unlock for you guys.

  2. Those rides when they start to get it are so amazing! He is looking fantastic, SB. What you're doing is definitely working.

  3. Those are the best rides! YAY

  4. Magical canters are the stuff dreams are made of :)

    The stirrup/breeches matching game is on point!

  5. Nice. Isn't that kind of ride what it's all about?

  6. Yay! Glad you had such a good ride :)

  7. Oh man, he looks fantastic! Maybe it's just because I'm kind of a flat work nerd, but I kind of love the ride recaps that are boring too, just because it gives me more things to think about. I can't wait to see media of the loveliness you've unlocked!

  8. omg that canter tho - i know *exactly* what you're talking about!! so elusive, but so addicting!!

  9. YAY. So excited for you! Love it when things click like that.

  10. Those breeches are gorgeous - what brand?!

    Also - happy for you and Courage :)

  11. Wowsers! Look at him use that booty!

  12. Before I even opened your post, I saw the photo and thought, "Is that really Courage?". Not kidding. Something has clicked!

  13. Woohoo! These are the rides that keep you going on the days when all they can handle is walk. Ask me how I know :)

  14. The best rides always happen when no one is watching. :)

  15. Progress!! So awesome your dedication is pAying dividends

  16. For the trot lengthen, Chemaine has me half halt into the corner, counter flex a tiny bit to straighten out the shoulders, and come out thinking big, bigger, biggest. In this way, you can get your trot lengthening to build. Eventually, the horse will be able to get to biggest right away, but for First Level, it helps to just build into the lengthen. I shared this because it's already close to what your trainer told you about trotting in three parts to lengthen. 😊

  17. Fact: 90% of dressage is the outfit. The rest is just basic horsemanship. ;)

  18. I like hearing things about lessons. We all need an extra set of eyes on the ground and new ideas on how to do things. We're human that way.

    I know that canter. I got it a week ago on my mare. She was so light in the bridle, slow and relaxed in her gait, lifting her shoulders and it Felt wonderful up there. As he builds up the muscles, Courage will be able to maintain that canter longer. Next time we're all hoping for pictures....


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