Friday, 14 October 2016

The Big Big Picture

Note: This post shares some similarities and even a similar title with Megan's excellent post from yesterday. Megan is essentially my hero and a great inspiration, but this post has actually been hanging out, mostly complete, in my drafts folder for the last couple weeks.  

Why am I doing what I'm doing with horses and riding?

A big part is that I'm having fun. I love riding. I like working with Kachina. I'm happy, and enjoying the journey is important.

This is supposed to be fun, and it is :-)

However, I do also have a goal (actually two connected goals) in the back of my mind. 

I want to someday train a horse from start to finish (not that a horse's training is ever "finished", but you know what I mean), and I want to someday ride at the Prix St. George level. These goals don't necessarily have to be met on the same horse. I have no timeline attached to these goals, I just want to achieve them sometime in my lifetime.

These goals were in the back of my mind when I bought Kachina. I don't think that I am going to fully reach either of my goals on Kachina, but she is a stepping stone. 

That makes it sound like I think of Kachina as just a guinea pig, and that's not the case. I think that we learn from every horse though and every horse is a stepping stone to what you can achieve with the next one. I got one horse to first level, starting second level (my last horse Ellie). But before I can get a horse to PSG, I need to get a horse confirmed at second, and then a horse to third, and then a horse to fourth. Those steps might be achieved with 2 different horses or with 10. Either way, hopefully each time I will learn more, learn how to handle different horse personalities, learn how to do things in a better way, learn how to be a better rider and a better trainer. Also, hopefully each time I get a little faster at getting the basics and going through the lower levels, because unfortunately horses don't live long enough for me to get to PSG at my current glacial pace.

First level-ish

A major reason that I chose Kachina is that she seemed like an ideal horse to learn with (though if she had been 5 years younger that would have been even better!). Kachina is old enough and sane enough whereby I wasn't scared of her and I don't need to be as worried about making mistakes with her as with some greenies. However, she is hot enough, talented enough, and new enough to dressage whereby I get to develop skills that I will someday need on a younger dressage prospect. I think she also has the ability to move up at least a few levels before she gets too old (almost entirely dependent on my ability to ride and train her).

The girl has some natural talent

My big picture goals mean that I am trying to train Kachina and myself with the upper levels in mind. I see a lot of people (especially AAs) who never go higher than Training or First level. That's fine if that's their goal, but there are significant differences between using First level as an end goal, vs. training through First level as a step towards FEI levels. I'm sure it will happen at some point anyways because I don't know what I don't know (unconscious incompetence), but I want to reduce the number of times where I have to completely relearn something (about engagement, straightness, my position or aids etc.) because I cobbled together something that kind of worked at lower levels but wasn't correct enough to build further from. E.g. Earlier this year I found out that for most of my life I used an incorrect aid for canter, it worked decently enough for Ellie and I up to Second Level but it guaranteed us issues when trying to add canter lateral work or flying lead changes into the mix (which was probably why I struggled for so long and never fully succeeded in getting lead changes confirmed on her).

I don't have a regular trainer to take lessons with, and that's hard, really really hard. I've considered sending Kachina away for a few months of full dressage training so we can make better progress, but I need to keep the big picture in mind. The way I'm doing things is slow, but as long as I'm fair to my horse (this part is important), that's okay. The way I'm doing things is the way I will learn. I will try and do as many lessons as I can with Kachina, but if she goes away to learn things without me, it won't help in the long run.

The other part of the equation is who I take lessons with and learn from. The people I initially learned dressage from taught me a lot, but none of them had ever ridden past 3rd level themselves. In the last year I have worked harder to find opportunities to watch and ride under upper level riders so that I can learn from them, and hopefully learn the things that it takes to get to that point.

That includes scribing

In the mean time, I will keep working away at training level and the dressage pyramid fundamentals while visions of tailcoats dance in my head.

That's my big picture, what's yours?


  1. This is essentially my big picture! Although I want to make it all the way to GP.

    1. Cool! All the best with your Grand Prix dreams! :-)