Thursday 20 December 2018

Back on Track in More Ways than One

Sorry for the very scattered posts as of late. I got burnt out on dressage for a bit there and my blog went downhill accordingly, but I'm happy to say that I'm back!

To summarize, things in my riding world were at an awesome high in August. I finally succeeded in competing in the Cochrane Dressage Show on Aug 4-5 which went well, both in terms of ribbons and breakthroughs in the contact (some of which didn't quite make it to the competition ring). On August 24-26 I participated in a 3-day Equestrian Canada Dressage Judging Clinic which was intense but educational and inspiring. While I was in Calgary for the judging clinic I had a lesson with a local judge on her horse where I learned that my contact and position had improved and I also finally figured out what a successful stretchy trot felt like (both judging clinic and lesson briefly summarized here). On August 28 I had a fantastic lesson with Elaine where we worked on more direct influence of the front legs with the reins. It was an entirely new concept for me but had fantastic results and we reached a new level of quality in our canter and canter transitions as well as walk/trot (no link, never fully posted about this lesson).

After that things went downhill. It started innocently enough with a so-so lesson with Elaine on August 30th. I was being told quite different things from the lesson two days prior and it was leading to some resistance and confusion, but nothing terrible. In early September some drama at work also escalated and I got close to giving up on Kachina's groundwork issues, both of which made my non-riding life suck. On September 15 I participated in a sidesaddle clinic which was supposed to be fun but being on a strange horse in a strange saddle made me more tentative as a rider and that was a bit of a struggle (it was still a cool experience though). On September 16 I had another lesson with Elaine and this one seemed to completely destroy our ability to trot (a few weeks later I finally got video of the broken trot and the off feel is more to do with the tension in her back than her actually going lateral). We struggled off and on with the broken trot for a few weeks after that. On Oct 13-14 I rode with a new clinician A. I never finished posting about this clinic and I am not going to now, but while we did some good exercises (including introducing walk-canter transitions), he also told me that I wasn't a "real rider" because I looked down to check my posting diagonal, and he told me that I "am going to cripple that horse" because Kachina was at the end of her trim cycle and her feet were a little on the long side (they really weren't that long, she was perfectly sound, the farrier was booked for a trim literally the next day and there were some extenuating circumstances that had pushed the trim date back a little but he didn't want to hear any of that and kept criticizing me over and over and over and over). I left that clinic feeling very angry and discouraged. In general I probably could have brushed off any of those experiences individually but combined one after another it made me pissed off and sapped me of any motivation to work on dressage. It didn't help that my bank account was hurting after paying for these ultimately bad experiences and I didn't like how negative my blog posts were becoming (hence why some never got finished).

This downhill trend on the dressage front coincided with my foray into jumping lessons. I don't think the two were connected, the timing just happened to line up. I was grateful for my weekly jump lessons to keep me coming out to the barn and riding. I always need a little extra motivation when winter first rolls in but this year I needed extra motivation even more. The jumping lessons were just what I needed, positive experiences where I focused on letting Kachina move forward to obstacles instead of micromanaging every step. The focus on forward and less contact also helped us work through the broken trot issues. The combination of issues at my job and our new dog meant that there were some weeks where my only ride was my weekly jump lesson. I know that my love for dressage runs deep so I kept working on the jumping side knowing that my motivation for dressage would come back when I was ready.

Last weekend it happened. I had to cancel my jump lesson on Friday but on the weekend I came out to the barn and I was SO EXCITED to work on flat work. My jump lessons have been fun but I got to the point that I really wanted to get the instructor and jumps out of the way so I could better focus on improving the quality of our movement without any interruptions or distractions (a jump is just a distraction from flat work ;-) ). I had the arena to myself and worked on feeling the connection through my elbows instead of my wrists, staying centered in the saddle, using inside leg and outside rein to work on shoulder-fore/shoulder-in so that I could get inside bend without pulling on my inside rein, I worked on straightness at the canter (her haunches wanted to fall in) and stretchy trot. All in all it was a GREAT ride! I have a post in the works about how jumping has helped my riding and I'm going to keep up my lessons (though slightly less often) but I'm so happy to have my heart and mind back where they belong in dressage-land =)

Whether it was for a few days, a few years or anything in between, have you ever needed a break from your discipline to recharge?


  1. Talk about highs and lows! I'm so sorry to hear about the not-so-good lesson and clinic experiences, things like that really kill motivation for sure. Glad to hear things are on an upswing now :)

  2. I go through ups and downs all. the. time. with my riding. Sometimes a break is just what you need!

  3. A year and a half ago, I rode in a two-clinic with Hilda Gurney, a past Olympian and well known judge/competitor. When I got home from that clinic, I felt humiliated and demoralized. I called my trainer and sobbed on the phone. I seriously considered quitting riding all together.

    I didn't quit, of course, but it was a very frustrating time. The funny thing is, just a little more than a year later, Hilda judged at the Regional Adult Amateur Competition and awarded me the blue ribbon for the Second Level Elite Division. So there ya go! Keep on keeping on. :0)

  4. I'm glad your dressage mojo found it's way back to you!