Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Dressage Is Hard Work

I've mentioned before how far Ruby has come in her Dressage work. Her trot work, in particular is leaps & bounds beyond where we were a couple of years ago. I actually can remember the very first time (a couple of summers ago) when I got a true forward, round trot on the aids where she lifted her back and reached for the contact. It almost seemed to happen so suddenly and even magically. I remember just going with it, reinforcing my inside leg from time-to-time, but just enjoying the ride. After that day, I struggled to reproduce that trot, but it didn't easily show up. But slowly, over the past year or so, it has shown up more & more consistently. It is usually hard work to get there, some days I can't get it at all. But it is a much more regular thing these days. The quality and power of the trot since that first day has improved as well. When it all comes together, it feels so organic and so right. Ruby will carry herself and power off her haunches and I'll sit on that beach ball feeling like she is truly and completely at my command.

But, as I like to say, Dressage is a tricky bastard. There are the days when I. Just. Can't. Get. It. Last Wednesday was one of those sessions. I had a flat lesson and, there was the rest of the group, cruising around with their horses round and forward and soft. And there I was stuck at a standstill with a horse with her head in the air doing anything she could to avoid moving forward and accepting any contact. I had a full-blown argument on my hands. I spent an hour booting her forward and making her do walk-canter and canter-lengthen-canter transitions. After an hour of the fight, I finally, for the last five minutes of the session, had a trot nearing what I wanted. I was a sodden, limp rag when it was over. Ruby, was just getting started and was raring to go.

So, the next day I came back for a private session with my trainer for some remedial Dressage work. We spent most of it on a figure-8 (10 meters per loop), walk-trot, halt-trot and then, trot-canter and halt-canter transitions, correcting every evasion she came up with. No breaks. Just solid work until she softened, came on the aids and started carrying herself. When it happened, it's like the sun finally shone and all was right with my world (and with hers!) I was once again a sodden, limp rag after this session, but I was a happy one!

After a weekend of hacking out, yesterday I ran to the barn on my lunch hour and ran Ruby through a Dressage school. After some warm-up on a long rein, she softened and came onto the contact much more quickly without any of the real fight we had last week. I was so happy with her. My trainer said last Thursday that she really tries everything to evade coming round and now that she is making progress in her Dressage development, I am asking more of her (and more consistently), rather than just taking what I can get. So, she is protesting some. It's hard for me to know when to push and when to back off because, the last thing I want to do is overface or sour her. But I think what the last few weeks, particularly the last week, has taught me is that she is more than capable and that what I really need to do is stick to my guns and insist.

Bottom-line, it is exhausting work! But so worth the fight.

No comments: