November 5, 2009

Painful Plodding Progress

Dressage and I have a love/hate relationship.

I love it.

It hates me.

I grew up riding dressage, right down to the German guy making me sit the trot with the crop in my tiny kid-elbows and many a day on a longe with no stirrups. Of course, your body has no issues at age 10 and all was easy.

At age 30, I am lopsided and my lower back is a mess. I clench my jaw, my left arm goes rigid, my knees are tense and my neck always resembles a rock. Not really conducive to stellar dressage performance. *sigh* And Solo, of course, with supreme generosity, constantly reminds me of this fact.

But we keep trying.

Our lessons were pushing us forward into new territory though. Instead of a mostly inverted ride with a few strides here and there on the bit, we slowly pushed the proportion towards the opposite end of the continuum. We started to be able to stay soft and on the bridle, say, across the diagonal, oh praise the gods and goddesses!

Practice consisted of endless transitions, but Solo began to "get it." He now stepped forward into trot over his back and stayed light in the hand. We could halt by simply keeping the contact and closing the thigh (well, most of the time). This stuff, small as it was, was HUGE for us.

We also needed more mileage in the arena. We dragged ourselves to a dressage show. With Dressage People (who quite enjoy white polo wraps and quoting Podhajsky). They are quite different from Eventing People (who quite enjoy laughing and beer). I was showing Training Level Tests 2 and 3.

To me, Training Level is just a beginning platform. The horse doesn't need to be perfect, just moving into contact and staying mostly balanced and supple throughout the test. Many Dressage People think the Training Level horse should go around in a perfect frame and generally move like a Fourth Level horse. I guess winning that saddle pad for Training Level Test 2 on your FEI horse is really gratifying for some people...

My point (if there is one) is that I fully expect to score lower at a Dressage People Show than I do at a Combined Training or Horse Trials simply because there is a slightly different perspective and focus both from competitors and judges. (Don't take offense, my dressage-y friends, I love you! But you know how some of those DQ's are!)

But I digress! We were there for mileage and mileage we got. I was overall very happy with Solo; aside from some initial jumpiness no doubt caused by me generally having all the relaxation of a boulder, he warmed up really well. Upon entering at A for our first test, I resumed boulder-status, so the test was just a weeee bit tense.

I did however, resume the ability to breathe for the second test and it felt much better.

Ironically, we scored one point higher on our first test. Judges...who can ever understand them? But we had some nice moments and even took home a sixth place ribbon for Test 2, so I was content with the day.


Next stop: 2009 Fall Horse Trials. In which Bad Things happen, Good Things happen, and generally, the Winds of Change keep on a-blowin'.


  1. Oh dear, I don't even know who Podjhasky is! I think you need to send some of your dressage luck/knowledge my way.
    And, man, Solo looks absolutely dashing in that pic! He's all muscled and shiny and in a Proper Dressage Horse frame. Me = Jealous!

  2. Ahahaha, Frizzle, well you absolutely cannot presume to do Dressage without Colonel Alois!! He wrote "Complete Training of the Horse and Rider" in 1967, was chief of the Spanish Riding School, and has maitained God Status ever since.

    And don't let the shinyness fool you, the beast has many sneaky evasions up his sleeve!

  3. My dressage knowledge is an eentsy bit above zilch. I don't even know how to do shoulders-in! *hangs head in shame* And I don't own any white polos!! I should totally just quit, hahaha.
    And damn it, that's another book I'm gonna have to buy!

  4. You guys look beautiful. Solo looks so impressively dressage-y but I think I still detect that dutiful look on his face! In his mind he's counting down the movements until he gets to do the cross country portion. I'm basking in his shinyness, since cold weather has arrived here & my TB looks like a camel.

  5. Frizz, it's actually a really good book if you can get your hands on it. And you can do shoulder-in, you just don't know it. Just go around a corner, then keep the bend onto the straight line. Voila, you are doing shoulder-in.

    Hahah, thanks Jen -- although Solo is jumping like a camel these days, grr. You are right about the look, there is certainly no excitement in his mind about a dressage test!

  6. Well, first Salem needs to learn how to bend around a corner! We've just conquered Not Going Around Looking Like A Weaving Drunk, lol. He is such a Green Bean -- he was track-broke as a 2-year, put in a pasture for 3 years, and then had 45 days put on him over the summer. So, um...I've got lots o' work to do!