I don’t know about dressage…

Ever had a friend that you loved that was super smart? So smart that when you spoke to them you could only understand half of what they are saying? The kind of friend who is super nice, and super kind, but that you still hesitate to hang out with them because you feel like a moran when you do? That is how I feel about dressage. I like it in theory, but in practice I just can’t get it. It isn’t like I haven’t tried. I have been trying for years now and at times I feel like I am getting better, but most of the time I am confident that I just suck.

 

I used to blame it on the fact I am always training or retraining horses. Or the fact that my finances are limited so I don’t get to pay for training or lessons like some people. I could keep going with the excuses, but honestly, I am starting to think that it is me. That I just suck at dressage and that I will always just suck at dressage.

I used to love how challenging dressage was for me, the fact that it requires the opposite of all my skills. Now…I am just wondering why I would want to spend time and energy on something that I just cannot be successful in. I am sure at least part of this is because I am not riding. Taking those dressage lessons last month and having my butt kicked so thoroughly…I dunno.

I keep saying I am going to start taking lessons again, but when I do and I think about how hard dressage is I just wonder why bother. Dressage, when done well, is stunningly beautiful. It can literally make me cry it is so amazing. The real question is do I want to keep trying? If I don’t, what else do I want to try?

My very active riding schedule ;)

So I have updated you all on my handsome pony, now it is time for an update on me. So in the past 11 months since ending my lease on Lucky I have ridden a grand total of…4 times! All of that over a 2 week period with the same trainer. All of it in the past month. So does that mean I am getting back into riding? I don’t know.
I had wanted to start taking lessons in the spring at a nice hunter/jumper barn. The trainer is great, the horses are quiet, the price is fair. The problem was that the trainer was so good she didn’t have any openings! Well, that is not entirely true. I could have done a group lesson…with a bunch of teenage girls. I happen to like being alive though (I have always been more on the timid side of things) and tearing around courses with 4 super brave riders who are too young to know better just didn’t sound like fun.

About a month ago at this point a friend called me up and asked if I had any interested in taking lessons on one of her horses while the horses leaser was away on business. I was already gung ho, but my friend did even better. Since the lease has lessons included in it, I would only have to pay half price for each lesson. Score! How could anyone say no to that!?!? I spent the next two weeks getting excited to ride again (which I think is a good sign).

I was a little nervous the day of our first lesson, but I was so ready to ride! The horse, a massive palomino, eyeballed me like “crap, this one knows what she is doing” as I tacked him up. I have seen him go many times before and was hoping I could get him going and look all nice in our first ride. I got on him, encouraged him to step forward and I frowned. He had put his head up in the air, was beyond hollow and was barely moving. My easy ride was clearly not in the cards, but at least I was on a horse!

That lesson I realized just how out of shape I was, and just how great of a trainer my friend is. Having been out of the saddle for so long my timing was off and this horse was not going to give me anything, I needed to earn it. Making a bad transition earned me about 20 more transitions until I got it right. I started to huff and puff before we even started trotting for real. It was sad! Before I knew it the hour had passed and I had not even cantered! I was sweating, my brain was fried from so much thinking, but I was so happy!

I stopped by to see Gen on the way home, but it was a rushed visit because I was exhausted! The worst part was that my second lesson was set to be the next day. I left work at 3:00 but didn’t get home until a little after 9, by the time I had dinner and took a shower I was not looking forward to getting up early for work the next day. I took two advil and hoped it would be okay.

It wasn’t 😛 At 4am I woke up hurting I was so sore. I could barely walk and stretching painful, not giving me any relief. I was so sore I just lied around until it was time to go to work, giving myself advil all day until my lesson. After the hour and 45 min drive to the barn I tried to ignore my aches and pains to give a good ride again. My friend could tell I was hurting though, and that I was struggling to get my timing back so my second lesson was spent working on my position and my timing…at the walk. You would think an hour at the walk would be boring, but take away your stirrups, throw in lots of lateral work, and the time just flys!

By the next week I was already getting my game face on. I really hate being a suck rider so I spent the weekend working on my position from the ground and really thinking about correct timing of things. My third lesson was mentally challenging, like my brain hurt by the end! I still hadn’t been able to canter and I was getting frustrated at being so bad. By my last lesson I could absolutely see an improvement. It wasn’t perfect, but my timing was coming back and things were getting better. All of the pictures were from that last lesson.

So if I got better in 4 lessons, why aren’t I riding every week now?? The barn is really far away from my house and from my work. I was averaging 3.5 hours in the car each day that I took lessons. Added to that the lessons were work. They were fun too don’t get me wrong, but they were a lot of work. I just don’t know if I want to work that hard. Dressage is so freaking hard. Why does dressage have to be so hard??? So I am not ruling out taking lessons, I know my friend would be very happy if I stopped being a baby and started taking weekly lessons again.

I just don’t know if that is what I want. In fact, I haven’t a clue as to what I want besides for Gen to miraculously heal himself and also become more docile so I can ride him. I don’t think that is going to happen any time soon though…

How do I want to proceed as a rider?

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Spring Devon

So I am finally going to Spring Devon this year. While I make my pilgrimage every fall for Dressage at Devon, Spring Devon is a whole different beast! This year a very dear friend is entering her daughter in the lead line class. How could I say no to watching that cuteness!?!? Even better? I found a deal on the general admission tickets! $10 a day though amazon local if other people were planning on going. Just had to share my great deal find…and share the adorable thought of small, adorable children dressed up on small, adorable, fancy ponies!

Back to just “A Horse”

I had spoken to Lucky’s Owner last week, but still needed more time for reality to set in. Tonight when I went to the barn, she was still less sound than the last vet visit. I couldn’t keep running away from the issue, hoping for miracles. It hit my like a ton of bricks on my drive home. I just can’t wait around for 6 months and hope she gets better. I lease a horse to ride, and I am not riding at all at the moment. Lucky’s Owner was understanding and gracious as usual, and not surprised at all that I would be ending my lease. I needed to make it official though. I just couldn’t keep going to the barn hoping she would be better, only get upset when she wasn’t. I need to let her go. If this is the end of my riding career so be it. It is not like I am riding right now anyway.

I know that rationally this was the only logical thing to do. I am a total mess about it right now though. If I had a million dollars I would keep the hope alive, but with limited time and resources it is just too much of a risk. I shouldn’t be upset. I had two and  half great years with her and she is staying with her owner at the farm so I don’t have to worry about her. I just hate that it turned out like this. I am sure I will feel better about all this eventually, but right now I am not a very happy camper.

Is anyone excited about the United States National Dressage Finals??

So the first every USDF National Championships is this weekend. Sounds like the kind of event that I would love right? Something right up my ally. Big ribbons, lower levels offered, a chance for anyone to shine. Well, I have to say, I didn’t think much about it prior to the event, but watching the video of the First Level Freestyles…it is more disheartening than inspiring.

There is such inequality among the competitors. You can see people who seem to be normal competitors (who probably had to take off work and save all year to get to Kentucky) and then you see the money come rolling in. People who are bouncing around, have bad hands, and pay tons of money so that their expensive warmbloods ignore their faults. As a crappy rider myself, you would think I would have more empathy for my brethren, but because I cannot afford said fancy warmblood who will cart me around it is just frustrating to watch. During one particular ride I yelled at my computer “IF YOU ARE TERRIFIED OF YOUR HORSE MAYBE IT SHOULDN’T BE YOUR HORSE” and during another I was holding my breath, sure that the rider was going to just bounce out of the tack and off the horse at any second (why on earth would you choose to sit if you can’t sit well!).

It is disheartening to see so many horses hyper flexed (one step less cruel than Rolkur) and so many horse and riders who are clearly higher than 1st level showing at 1st level. If most of the horse and rider combos were at like 2nd level I would understand, but I have a feeling that at least half of the field is showing the maximum allowed 2 levels up (i.e. showing 3rd level at the show but has a 1st level musical freestyle). That means that in theory they are schooling 4th level at home.

While I did not make it the full 3 hours through the 1st level freestyles, I did watch a lot of it. I was looking for some acquaintances and also wanted to see at least part of every ride. It was nice to see Thoroughbreds, Appys, Arabs, and more on “tv” looking great, but it was also disheartening to see how unequal the playing field has become. I applaud those who went out and showed, but I must admit that watching the video has made me much more wary of ever doing USDF shows again…which I am pretty sure is the opposite of what they were hoping to accomplish with having a US Dressage Nationals.

Don’t believe me? You can see the footage for yourself by following the link below…and don’t just watch the first ride and say that I have no idea what I am talking about. Watch a handful of rides and then tell me with a straight face that dressage is fair.

US Dressage National Finals – First Level Musical Freestyles

I just feels different this time

After that nice break of Gen’s total and complete adorableness it is back to my current situation with Lucky. I am going to head out after work today to try and ride her and see if she feels any better at all. I put her on a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement about a week and a half ago so I would hope that, if nothing else, her arthritis would at least feel better at this point. I mean, even if she does feel terrible I would want to give some notice to her owner so I would be with her through November regardless. Hopefully she is feeling better today and this post is all for nothing right?

I just want to explain myself a little bit better because I am not sure if I am being clear as to why I think it is time to stop riding. It isn’t about Lucky, at least not really. It is that Lucky is horse number 4 (or is it 5) that I have tried to half lease only to have it not work out in the long run. Some leases were my choice to end, others were made by the horse. It has been over 6 years since I retired Gen. In that time I should have only leased one, maybe two horses. That isn’t how it worked out for me though. I have leased several and that is without a handful of leases that never even worked out at the start.

During this same 6 year period I have watched friends, on their own horses, go through the levels. I have seen others completely change discipline from hunters to dressage, or western to eventing. I have even seen some friends unfortunately have a horse go lame, struggle with training issues or lose their equine companions, and yet they all bounce back and go on to be successful. I literally cannot think of a single friend, or even stranger, who has put as much in to it as I have, and yet has not progressed.

Before you all jump down my throat, I am not saying that I haven’t gotten better, I am simply saying that I have not progressed. I.e. there has been 0 LONG TERM progress made. When someone asks me what level I am at, I say Intro. Which actually means that I have gotten worse over the past 6 years because I used to be able to say training level. I know that riding isn’t always about making progress, but one would think that 0 progress in 6 years is a pretty clear indicator that maybe riding isn’t my thing.

One would think I would take a hint that maybe riding is not for me when my very first horse got hurt. I didn’t though. I just became determined to “make it work”. I once joked that I wanted to create a line of saddle pads with inspirational words or sayings on them for riders like me. I mean, I know that not everyone has the dream path laid out in front of them. Plenty of people have struggled with riding. I always used to say that I didn’t have to be good at riding as long as it was still fun.

The problem is…I don’t even know if riding is fun anymore because it has been so long since I have done it. Right now it feels like adding in a second horse to the mix has been one big mistake after another. With the number of times my heart feel to pieces because I had to say goodbye to a beloved horse I am surprised I even care at all. But I do. I am clearly not going to be one of those people who gets to ride off in to the sunset. I feel blessed every single day that Gen found me, but maybe the ending of my riding story is more like they walked next to each other in to the sunset…no riding involved. One heart break, one injury, one month where you are sweating to pay the bills, a person can recover from those. I just don’t know if I can get over 6 years that feels like it is filled with that.

I just don’t know how many times I can “keep getting back in the saddle” when the universe is telling me that my two feet are better off firmly planted in to the ground.

The “I don’t want to canter” horse show – Part 1

So between seeing the rainbow the day before and getting amazing times (even if I didn’t get them until 11:30 Thursday night) I was actually starting to look forward to the show. Even the fact that Lucky took her braids out the night before and was covered in mud (despite the sleazy and sheet I put on her) could not dampen my mood on show day. My friend Boomerang offered to come to the show and my trainer said that she would come by also to warm me up again so Lucky would have a cheering section. You know how some times you can just feel it is going to be a good day?

 

I was running a little bit behind getting ready because of what a mess my Lucky was, but with no one on the roads I made it to the show very close to when I wanted to be there. We have had a ton of rain lately…like INCHES the past week alone. Parking at this show is always interesting, but usually you can park in the actually parking lot so I hand’t been stressing it. When I drove in there were only 2 trailers there…facing opposite directions…taking up almost the entire lot! Instead of pulling up or backing in, they had just driven straight through. I tried to find a place where I wasn’t in the way, but I couldn’t really find anything. I ended up just parking on the other side of the barn to check in.

 

When I got out to get my number I knew I was going to have to move my trailer. There was no way people were going to be able to get through next to me. I do not have 4 wheel drive (which is a big frustration) so my options were limited, but I knew I had to move. After I checked in I got back in and tried to move the trailer to a different spot. Tried being the operative word because…I actually started to get stuck. I am unfortunately used to the feeling of my tires slipping at this point, so I just put the tuck in reverse and let gravity slide me backwards while I got the truck back on to solid ground. Another trailer had pulled in taking away the new option I had been thinking of so I just circled around and parked lot trying not to panic.

 

I hate driving the truck and trailer! I was all stressed out from my near miss with getting stuck so I was shaking as I circled the barn. I decided to park on the other side of the driveway in almost the exact same place I had been before, this way people could get around me on the grass, but I would be all on the driveway. I was still rattled as I unloaded Lucky when Boomering showed up to calm me down. Lucky was looking around, very interested in her soundings, but was still being a good girl. She could tell something was up with me though because she kept wanting to snuggle. I knew that if I kept this up I would take my calm horse and make her crazy out of insecurity. I just needed to get my head on straight ASAP if I didn’t want to ride a fire breathing dragon.

 

To Be Continued…

Horse Show Tonight (yes, another one…)

So I am doing a Thursday Night Show tonight after work. I have a meeting that goes right till the end of my work day today, so I am hoping it doesn’t run over because the last thing I need to be worried about is time! We are also expecting severe thunderstorms tonight. You know the storms that produced all those crazy tornados in Oklahoma? They are coming my way tonight. Hopefully I can get my two tests in before they hit. In my old age I am not willing to ride in crazy weather.

I am not willing to die for two dressage tests. Well, if I could do two perfect Grand Prix tests and be in the 90%s that might be a different story…but not with how my scores and tests have been as of late!

I guess it is technically one dressage test since I am riding Intro C HC again so it doesn’t count for anything.

I had signed up for this show when I was thinking year end awards. Now I am not really sure why I am doing it except that I already paid for it and I know that Lucky and I need to just keep on going out and showing until we are both comfortable. Plus the Young Rider is home so I will get to be off the property with help again, which is a good thing. It is always nice to have someone to coach you from the rail, especially when you don’t feel confident in your own abilities at the moment.

So here is what I want to accomplish tonight:

1) I want to feel comfortable enough to canter in my warm up

2) I want to get both canter transitions at Intro C. We have been having issues getting a good transition in enough time since your whole canter “series” is on a 20 meter circle in that test.

3) Let go in the canter at training 1. This is what the last judge got mad at me for. I need to trust Lucky, even if the canter is ugly. Better to have an ugly canter than to piss off your horse.

4) Not have a reader. I was babied on Saturday, I don’t want to have a reader this time around! I need to know my tests, they only have like 10 movements so it really isn’t that hard!

5) Actually enjoy the tests. The first two shows of this year I have been gritting instead of smiling for part of my tests. This is supposed to be fun! If I am not having fun, why am I even bothering to do it?

So we will see how tonight goes. I need to remember to give Lucky plenty of time to look around and relax before I get on her. Hopefully mother nature will allow that to happen!