It’s a lot harder than it looks

Seventeen years. That’s how long I’ve been riding. Seventeen years of taking lessons, falling off, getting thrown, blue ribbons (and every other color), victory gallops, trail rides, training horses, and today I learned I can’t ride.

Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. I am great at starting young or green horses. And, I’m great at riding hot-natured thoroughbreds. I’m also really good at riding laid-back warmbloods. What I’m not so great at is riding upper-level dressage horses with lots of fancy buttons who expect, nay, demand perfection from their riders. I was fortunate enough to land a working student/instructor position at a local stables, where I’ve been granted the most amazing opportunities to ride some very talented (and expensive) horses. But, there has been nothing so humbling as today’s ride upon a good-natured 4th level horse named Donsaree.

Don, for short, is an absolutely adorable Arabian who can do liquid smooth tempi changes, energetic canter pirouettes, and beautifully expressive piaffe and passage with the right rider. Today, he and I struggled to make a 20 meter circle. Oh yes, sad but true, I could not get this talented horse to ride a simple geometric figure. And, it wasn’t for lack of either of us trying. Bless his heart, the poor guy was struggling to understand what I was asking, giving me all kinds of movements this way and that. But, the concept of inside leg to outside rein was too much for my brain to comprehend today. Thankfully, by the end of the warmup, I managed to ride a few decent circles at the walk and trot (we didn’t even attempt canter), but not without major bruising to my ego and sore legs. I then stood in the arena in awe as his owner/trainer masterfully guided him through tempi changes, canter pirouettes, and lots of 20, 15, and 10 meter circles. Perfect circles, mind you, not the flattened egg shapes you and I get when we attempt them. (And, by the way, if you can ride perfect 20, 15, and 10 meter circles, wipe the smug look off your face.)

My only redemption was going back to the barn where I board Johnny these days. I took my lesson learned and managed to get one heck of a leg yield–a true leg yield, with actual crossing legs, not just teensy steps sideways. The take-home lesson? Keep the outside contact!!

Tomorrow (weather permitting–they’re calling for storms), I’ll bring Johnny to work with me (yep, you can be jealous; how many of you can say you bring your horse to work?) so Emily can show him real dressage. Maybe one day we’ll drop our eventing dressage score below 30. A girl can dream….



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