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In my last lesson, Gus and I had a major breakthrough - at least I thought we did. For some reason (and after 40 minutes of super patient coaching from Debbie) everything just seemed to click into place.
Instead of me holding him in a frame, Gus was truly reaching into the contact and I was actually allowing him. Instead of me nagging him to go, go, go and keep going, Gus felt forward and powerful, without being strong or heavy.
A whisper from my leg sent him more forward. The slightest resistance with my core or slowing of my posting brought him back. The tiniest vibration with my fingertips was all I needed to keep him soft and responsive in my hand. I felt this amazing wave of energy from his hind end, over his back and spilling down from the poll into my hands like a waterfall. It was incredible.
It was short-lived.
I couldn't wait to get on and experience the magic again. Unfortunately, the only magic on display today was a disappearing act - the complete disappearance of any ability on my part to communicate with my horse. He grabbed and I grabbed harder. I held too long and he gnawed and chomped at the bit. He felt like a piece of stiff board. My body felt awkward, unbalanced and ungainly. It felt like I was riding some hybrid cross between a giraffe and a motorcycle while using someone else's arms and legs. I can only imagine what it felt like to him!
Debbie thinks that sometimes a great lesson or a breakthrough can actually have a negative effect. We are so anxious to repeat it that instead of allowing the lovely moments to happen, we try to make them happen. When they don't we get tense and things get worse. The worse they get the harder we try to fix it. At that point she often suggests switching to something easy where we can finish on a successful note, or doing something fun like cavalletti work or a hack, to give both horse and rider a mental break.
Golf is the only other sport I've tried where I go 10 steps backward for every two steps forward. I never seemed to pick up where I left off in terms of hitting the ball well. Looks like dressage is going to be the same for me but I know progress doesn't always occur in a straight line. When I look back at a year ago, our best efforts then weren't nearly as good as our best work now.
At least I got to snuggle my big boy at the end of the day and will try again tomorrow. And the next day...and the day after that...
About the author
I'm a middle-aged, overweight, rusty re-rider who refuses to let any of that get in the way of my passion for dressage.