Monday, July 30, 2012


I was streaming some of the NBC Eventing Dressage coverage from the Olympics yesterday and found myself quite inspired for a different reason than the inspiration I normally will get out of watching coverage of (for lack of a better term) "pure" Dressage, or even Eventing cross-country or stadium jumping. The Eventing Dressage seemed almost ... in my grasp. At least many of the movements are movements that I am already schooling, or thinking about with my horse. "Pure" Dressage is a pleasure to watch. But, let's face it, the odds that I will ever accomplish anything even approaching tempi changes, piaffe, passage, pirouettes, etc. are pretty remote. But Eventing Dressage at the Olympic level? Counter-Canter? We're almost ready to school this. Shoulder-In? Check (maybe not well-done, but we're working on it). Extended Canter? We're working on Medium now. Extended Trot. Not sure if Ruby will do Extended, but we're working on Lengthen Trot, and Extended is not outside the realm of my experience. Flying changes? I'm beginning to believe that could happen. Half Pass? Side Pass, anyway. All the movements I watched on the streaming coverage seemed familiar and even somewhat reachable (at least to a degree).

Grand Prix Dressage is an absolute joy to watch. But from a "pie-in-the-sky", not in my wildest dreams-type of perspective. Advanced Level (and, well, let's face it, anything over Training Level) Eventing cross-country or stadium? Same thing, jaw-dropping to watch, but completely out of my reach, of course. Eventing Dressage, in comparison, was almost comforting in how feasible it actually seemed.

Thus inspired, I blew off Sunday Galloping Day and decided to do some dressage schooling instead (I'm sure if Ruby had had a calendar to consult, she would NOT have been pleased).  After her usual warm-up, some shoulder-in at the walk and then some spirals at the walk, trot and canter, I worked on some change in gait at the trot and then at the canter. Her working-medium-working canter transitions to the left were very nice, to the right is still a bit shaky, but she is trying. To the right we did some more walk-canter transitions as I feel this will really help to strengthen her in this direction, and then also some more spiraling in and out at the canter. Finally, I waited until we had the ring to ourselves and I worked on some big leg-yielding at the canter. When I say "big", I mean that we turned down the long side close to the center-line and leg yielded all the way to the track. We did this a few times very nicely to the left and then we tried the broken-line exercise that we had worked on with Trainer earlier in the week. This also went very nicely, so I decided to try for the right side (always our wonky side). First we did the leg yield exercise and that went fairly well. Not as great as it was to the left, but again, she was trying. I had to use all my strength to support her, and use my inside leg correctly, and to try not to just muscle her over with my upper body. That is my challenge to the right with Ruby. Less rein, more leg. Less rein, more leg. Support with the outside rein, inside rein needs to be MINIMAL. And then we tried the broken line exercise. And, SUCCESS! It was not as nice as it was to the left, but I have to say that it was a solid effort, especially considering that we had to be pretty precise to avoid all the jumps set up in the ring. I decided to call the schooling a success and end on that positive note (after a little walk on a loose rein). Ruby is such a trooper.

And so, I have found very concrete and actionable inspiration out of these Olympics so far. It is always exciting to watch an international competition and to see something that you can actually do (or "almost" do). I mean, watching gymnastics or figure skating is fun sometimes but, I might as well be watching Cirq de Soliel or something. It's entertainment, but not something I can even remotely relate to. Watching Eventing cross-country will be exciting and I can perhaps relate to it on a small scale (and it will be interesting to see how everyone handles what looks to be a very trappy course), but it is also so outside the realm of anything I will ever realistically ride myself. If I was to be honest with myself, I would admit that I will also watch the cross-country with some amount of relief that I will never have to attempt anything at that level.  I will also enjoy watching some of the Dressage event. Knowing how much I struggle at my low level will give me an even greater appreciation of the feats of the Dressage olympians, but I will also watch it with the knowledge that this too is far beyond my grasp. So, the Eventing Dressage phase has become somewhat inspirational for different reasons for me, and I will take whatever motivation I can, wherever I can get it.

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