Thursday, March 8, 2012


Remember how I said last time that I had lost my lateral work?  Well, it wasn't really lost, just misplaced.

I finally managed to coordinate a lesson for myself.  It's been about three months, which is about two months too long.  Unfortunately, scheduling a lesson is a bit like playing Tetris.  My trainer only comes down here once a week.  I don't have an indoor, so if the weather's bad I don't get a lesson.  But, if the weather's good, then I can almost guarantee that there is some farm chore I must get done that pre-empts my lesson.  Everything has to fall into place perfectly in order for it to work out.  But, enough excuses...on to the lesson.....

I decided to let my trainer know about my current training issues in advance.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  "I'm pretty sure I've ruined my horse's training."

Trainer: "I doubt that."

Me: "No, I have!  I've completely lost my lateral work!"

Trainer:  "Did you look behind the barn?"

The above dialogue pretty well sums up why having an experienced trainer/coach/instructor/whatever you want to call them is so important.  I'm pretty sure my trainer knew exactly what was going on before he even set foot on my farm.  I'm pretty sure as soon as I said "I lost my lateral work!" he knew what the problem was.  But, even though I'm sure he already knew what the problem was, he humored me by watching me ride around for a few minutes and whine about it.  Then he pointed out that I was letting Spider's hind end trail out behind him.  Oh.... Oops.

See, here's the thing:  I ride by myself.  I have no mirrors, no observers or fellow riders, nothing to give me feedback about what is going on other than my own feeling.  I ride by feel alone.  I also only ride one horse.  The thing about only riding one horse is that you develop a familiarity, much like an old married couple.  You get so used to each other's quirks that they just start to seem normal, and eventually "correct", whether they are or not.  It becomes so easy to fall into your "comfort zone", feel great about your work because it was "good enough", and then call it a day without ever pushing yourselves to be better (or even good).

So, as Spider was coming further and further behind my leg, I wasn't noticing because we were in a comfortable place.  It still "felt" right, because it was what I had become used to.  I thought we were doing pretty good.  Until one day I asked for a shoulder in and nothing happened.  I decided the problem was a lack of suppleness, and started getting entirely too creative in my attempts to fix what I thought the problem was.  Not that my exercises were bad, but they weren't going to fix the underlying problem.  I was just slapping a band-aid on it, when what I really needed was reconstructive surgery!

It took about three good kicks to get Spider's butt back under him, and then about 100 reminders to keep his butt under him.  Unfortunately, it's a habit for us now and we will need to work on it every ride until it is no longer a habit before we can move back into actively training new things.  But, having someone on the ground to watch us and yell "Kick him!" every time Spider got strung out enabled me to get the feeling for the correct work back.  I have cemented that feel in my mind, I will be working to recreate that feel in every single ride.

But, I will also be having my trainer back next month, because I know I'm going to screw it up!

Oh, and the lesson wasn't a complete beat-down, either.  I tend to only focus on the bad because all dressage enthusiasts are pretty much sadomasochistic perfectionists.  But, my trainer did note that we are improving.  The training has moved forward since he last saw us, we just need to fix one thing:  We cannot be satisfied with "good enough".  We must strive for better, even if that means that we aren't always "comfortable".


  1. Glad you managed that lesson. "Eyes on the ground" are so important. It is very hard to progress without outside input.

    Love your trainer's attitude. A good sense of humor is an important element to a good lesson as far as I'm concerned,

    I am no longer the compulsive perfectionist I was when I competed. Thus, Chance is way behind in his training, and Tucker is on "hold." But, I've "been there, done that," so I understand completely.

    Here's hoping you can get some more good lessons under your belt sooner than later.....

  2. It sounds really good. I know what you mean about riding by yourself, and riding only one horse. I do ride by myself, and being able to notice and fix what I'm doing that gets in the way is hard. I do like riding different horses - I like the variety - maybe that's why I have three!

  3. Great job on moving forward and working on the latest training need!

    Just wanted to add, maybe it's time to buy a cheap video camera and tripod? It's a great way to have eyes on the ground (even if they're delayed) to catch what's not working and improve on it during your next ride. Certainly not a coach, but a good middle man between lessons!

  4. Y'know, I actually own a video camera. I don't know how to use it, but maybe it's time I learned!

  5. Hi Shannon! I recommend the videocamera idea, I try to record every other ride or so and find it really helpful. I like your new blog design and also the idea of losing your lateral work behind the barn... I still haven't even found mine to begin with :)


  6. I cannot get forward either. While we were buried under snow, and my husband had the good idea to slide on ice and torn his quadricep tendon ... Teena was ridden by Luis the Brasilian trainer. Well I came back, and at last I had a FORWARD horse.

    As you say, it feels comforatble and we just shuffled around places.

    Now I have a mare with more turbo, it is pretty good, I have rythm in teh three gaits, she thinks forward.

    However after riding her, we go back to sluggish mare, I have to work hard on to be in front of my legs.

    How do the Pro do to have their horses in front of the leg? I just do not get it!!!!!


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