On 7/23, I had my First Ever Dressage Lesson On My Own Horse. The goal was pretty much to assess where we’re at, so we can see where we’re going. The gist: we’re hunters. I’ve ridden for a good amount of years, but never at a very complex level, so while I can walk-trot-canter-look-OK-doing-it on probably a large proportion of horses, I’m not necessarily effective with my riding. As for my horse…she’s kind of like riding a very large 2-by-4. Good points all around. So, we started with some exercises to get me riding effectively, by moving my horse’s parts around separately rather than chucking the reins at her and letting her truck around how she wants to. Fun fact about me: I was never really taught (I don’t mean it in a blame-y way, just the truth) anything about outside aids. The closest I’ve come was being told “inside rein controls steering, outside rein controls speed”– which on a very basic level (i.e. the level I rode at for many years) is true, but I’m looking to get beyond that. So, we stayed at the walk for a while (partly because Pearl decided to celebrate our lesson by coming in with a fat front leg– no visible cut or scrape so she probably just clocked herself stamping at a fly, and she was sound on it, but given this spring’s lameness battle I like to play it very very cautiously), and played around with keeping the reins on the buckle and turning her with my seat and the outside rein on her neck a la Western pony.
Fun fact about Pearl: she is a melanoma factory. Hazards of falling for a grey horse and all that. Since her mouth looks like this:
she is understandably not the best in a bit, so she’s been going in a hackamore for the past couple years. The difference between how she goes in that vs how she went in a bit (plain ol’ singlejointed D) in her school horse days is infinite. But, the amount of leverage generated by that kind of hack means it’s more suitable for a lighter contact, and doesn’t offer much in the way of independent signals from the right and left sides. So, Trainer Christy (who hopefully is not the sort to mind listening to her voice on videotape, because I foresee there being a lot of that on here) lent us a jumping hackamore to try out, so we can fairly ask Pearl for a more dressage-type contact.
After sort of getting the hang of getting her a little teeny bit bendier than normal at the walk, we moved on to the trot. Not the most dramatic difference in the world, but here is our before–how I’ve been riding her for the past year or so–
and here is our after.
And so it begins.