Monday, August 26, 2013

More

This year, when Spider shed his winter coat, I noticed he has a lot of grey hairs.  He's 18, but still acts like a colt.  I'm not ready for him to be old yet.  We still have things to do together.  



I had a lesson with my trainer last week.  At the end of the lesson, my trainer said "I wish that he were 12". I wish he were 12, too.  I wish that he was 2, I wish that he could live forever.  But, that's not the way of life.  He's 18 and he will always give me everything he has to give, but I know our time together is finite.

I wanted to get him to Prix St. Georges this year, but I've had a bad health year and I don't think it's in the cards.  I can't even manage to get out of 50% in 3rd Level.  I'm actually not sure I'll ever get out of 3rd Level.

I found out this year that my auto-immune disease (IBD) is causing my spine to fuse, and it's fusing crooked.  My crooked spine is twisting my pelvis, so I sit crooked in the saddle.  My left leg is numb from the hip down, my right leg is numb from the knee down.  It's a side effect from my spine fusing, as the bones of my vertebrae close and fuse together they pinch off the nerves going to my legs.  My IBD has also been unusually active this year.  Auto-immune diseases go in cycles: "active" states and "remission".  I've only been in remission for a few weeks this year.  It's been very frustrating.  It's really hard to do changes and half-passes when you're crooked as hell and can't feel your legs, especially since I wasn't always this way.

That being said, this isn't a "Woe Is MEEE" post.  I'm not that type of person.

At one point in my lesson, as I was struggling with my aids and Spider was getting strung out, my trainer said to me, "You have to go back to Kindergarten", and that's what we did.  I brought Spider to a walk, and we walked until he could follow my aids.  Then we moved to trot and canter, and once again established my aids.  One thing I love about my trainer is that he doesn't care how you get things done, as long as the horse is going correctly you're free to improvise.

"You have to go back to Kindergarten" has stuck with me.  I'm never going to be able to ride like the Guenters and Ullas and Steffans of the dressage world.  I'm never even going to be able to ride as well as most amateurs.  But, what I can do is train my horse to follow my aids.  That's what "going back to Kindergarten" is for me, it's teaching my horse to follow my aids so that I can enjoy riding him.

We may never get to Prix St. Georges.  We may never get out of 3rd Level.  And that's OK.  We're going back to Kindergarten, and we are going to have fun learning how to color in the lines again.

14 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Yup, it seems like only yesterday he was 12. It all went by too fast.

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  2. I am sorry for your health troubles - but glad that you and Spider have each other for as long as that may be. May you have many fine rides together in the days to come.

    I also find Kindergarten is a good place to go when things need to get back on track, and my horses and I rest in that together.

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    1. Thanks! I suspect that Spider is the type who will never tolerate retirement, he'll go strong until the end.

      Kindergarten is a good place, I've always enjoyed coloring and naps!

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  3. I hope you move into the remission end of the spectrum soon. (Val and I are perpetual kindergarteners...) ;D

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    1. Nothing wrong with Kindergarten, if you're doing it right, you'll always be able to move up!

      The nice (?) thing about this disease is that it is cyclical, so I should move into remission at some point. It could come a little quicker, though :D

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  4. Hope your remission comes and lasts, and that you have many more happy years with Spider.

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    1. Thanks! The support from my bloggy friends helps a lot!

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  5. You need to watch some of the Special Olympic riders. Despite many incredible physical limitations they can ride an upper level test.

    Don't give up hope. As long as you can ride, you can train your horse to respond to the aids you can give. They may not be totally classical, but that doesn't matter.

    Another thought. Sidesaddle riders lack a right leg on the horse and yet manage just fine.

    Just adapt the training to your body and Spider will give you all he can, I'm sure. That is the sheer joy of riding an older, schooled horse with a willing disposition.

    Wishing you better health, regardless. And I am really happy to hear you are taking such an upbeat approach.

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    1. I really love watching the Para riders! They are so inspirational. I've even looked into getting a Para designation, but there are so few competitions around here that it wouldn't make much of a difference. Plus, the Para riders are so incredibly skilled and dedicated that I'd get beat more than I do riding against Ammys and Pros! ;D

      I'd actually really like to learn sidesaddle, for exactly that reason. Just need to find someone who teaches it (well).

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  6. I bet you will find a way to show Spider what you want with your own unique aids. I say ignore the scores. Why judge your work on a snapshot performance when so much of what you have accomplished with Spider is not acknowledged by the test?

    18 is not old! Especially for a dressage horse with a tactful rider who is not afraid to return to kindergarten.

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    1. I generally do ignore the scores, because you're exactly right: I cannot fit all of my work and training and story into 5 minutes in front of the judge. But, I'm trying to get scores to do the L program, so I sort of need to get over 60%. I do try to look at the whole picture, though.

      And 18 isn't that old, but it's a lot older than 8! Hopefully I'll get these things figured out on Spider in time to teach them to Jack.

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  7. Fantastic outlook! And he sounds like a wonderful horse to figure it all out on.

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