New avenues - first year on the dressage team! - Page 2

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New avenues - first year on the dressage team!

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        10-17-2011, 08:18 PM
    Super Moderator
    Congrats on the second lesson! It will get easier every time. You will build your endurance and fitness as you go. You will have great days when you take five steps forward...balanced by the not so great days when you take two steps back. As long as the progress is somewhat forward, no worries.

    Have fun!!
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        10-18-2011, 02:10 PM
    Ray, this is what my coach told me to do...
        10-18-2011, 02:34 PM
    Congratulations! SOOOO much fun!!! Boy, you'll have a MUCH better seat after riding with the Dressage Team than you've ever had before. Have LOADS of fun this year!!
        10-24-2011, 04:52 PM
    Lesson #3!

    Friday's lesson probably felt the best out of the three I had so far, even though it was a tad frustrating at times. I almost never felt out of breath, and was barely sore at all. My lesson buddy and I were introduced to the wonderful world of leg yielding. I had never even heard of that before. But, as with all the new concepts I've been introduced to over these first three lessons, I struggled at first then the lightbulb went off. Our coach taught us to "tickle" the inside rein, then pull the outside rein while applying pressure with the inside leg. Somehow I couldn't coordinate it at first. But then she asked me to get off my horse and to borrow my helmet. Unlike the instructor at my old barn, she actually got on my horse and showed me when I had trouble grasping the concept. I could see what she was doing and watched the horse step over. That was this lesson's lightbulb moment. Seeing someone else do it while listening to them explain the process really helped. Also, I was told my serpentines improved since last time. This was probably also the most fun lesson so far because once I started to grasp leg yielding, it felt pretty good, and I was able to use leg and a little bit of the crop to get my sluggish horse trotting at a good pace. Except that once, he decided to jump over the ground poles rather than just stepping over. I wasn't expecting that but my lesson buddy told me she was impressed I held on!
        10-24-2011, 05:00 PM
    Home dressage show weekend!

    So our dressage team hosted its home show this weekend. I didn't get to show, but that's probably because since I had originally tried out for the hunter/jumper team, I started my lessons a few weeks late. Oh well - there are 2 more shows I could be placed in this semester and if not, I have 2.5 more years!

    This was the first time our team has hosted a show, and it's only the second year the team has existed, so everyone needed all the help they could get. Saturday we left campus at 8:30 AM to head to our barn to clean horses and tack and get everything loaded to go to the show arena. I brushed Beacon, the horse I usually ride in lessons, and sat in the tack room with about 7 other girls on the team to clean saddles and bridles. It was work, all right, but it didn't feel like it because a) It's with horses and b) We were all talking and getting to know each other.

    Yesterday - Sunday - was the show. I got up at 5:45 AM when there were still stars in the sky to leave at 6:30 AM. Once there, we brushed and tacked horses. It was absolutely freezing, only 30 degrees, and I don't have any jackets on campus that I can get dirty, so I was just wearing a sweatshirt. Not a good idea. My job for most of the day was to lead horses back and forth from the barn to the arena, and to help switch the ring to a smaller size for the lower level riders. I did get to watch several tests. Especially for the first-level riders (the highest IDA level), I didn't quite know what I was looking for, since I'd only seen hunt/jump shows in the past (oh, no, I did watch Olympic eventing on TV). But I could tell when the horse was going into an extended trot. And more than anything else, I could tell when the test was going well and when the rider was struggling. Our team placed last out of 6 in overall scores, but once again, our team has only existed for 1 1/3 years now. It was fun, I got to know my fellow team members, and yes I was frozen and exhausted, but it was worth it.
        10-26-2011, 04:58 PM
    Mid-week update: goals/aspirations!

    I've decided that I'd like to get into eventing. I like dressage, but I also like jumping, and what better way to practice both? My goal is to complete my remaining 3 years of college on the dressage team, graduate, move out West (hopefully Scottsdale, AZ), and train in all 3 eventing disciplines. I'd like to compete in my first event within 2 years of graduating college. In doing some research, I was surprised at the amount of barns offering hunter/jumper/dressage lessons in places like Arizona!

    Also, I'm currently an IDA Intro level rider. My goal is to at least move up to Lower Training, which is the level right above mine. I might be able to make it to Upper Training, but I doubt I'd get into actual first-level dressage in the next 3 years. It could happen and I'm not saying I can't do it, but I'm not going to set unrealistically high goals for myself, then make myself feel bad when I don't achieve them. So for now, I'll keep working hard, but my goal is to move up at least one IDA level by the time I graduate.
        10-28-2011, 03:01 PM
    Lesson #4!

    Probably the most difficult lesson yet, but I learned a lot.

    Today my coach and I discovered that when posting, my leg slides back too far, the stirrups slide back to my heel, and my toes really don't stay up as much as they need to. Apparently, the stirrups should go closer to the ball of the foot. She told me to push my leg forward toward the girth every time I post up. At first, although I could tell what I was doing wrong and I could feel that I was doing it wrong, but I couldn't tell what to do instead in order to correct this. Also, Violet was being really sluggish and stubborn today - she's one of 2 horses I've ridden so far. So first the coach gave me a crop, then had me trade for a whip. I was also told that I was being too delicate with my use of the whip.

    After a while, I did get a lot better with keeping my leg forward. It will take some time to achieve consistency with this. Once I discovered what it felt like to push my legs forward when posting, it became easier to tell when I was doing it right. I did have to slow down to a walk, or stop altogether, a few times, because my stirrups had slid so far back on my foot. Also, the coach told me it would be helpful to turn my feet out, especially when kicking Violet to get her moving. This actually helped keep my toes up when posting. We rode a few patterns - we rode one of the IDA Intro tests today. Both my lesson buddy and I were generally having trouble. She has more trouble with her hands than I do, but her legs are more consistent than mine. Sometimes our coach has us ride the patterns by ourselves. I find this is helpful, especially to watch the other rider to see what she does. If she does something well, I try to duplicate it. If she could improve upon something, I try to remember it so I can work on it myself. Also, I learned the meaning of "medium walk" and "free walk" today. I felt clueless - this is what happens when you take a 5-6 year break from riding! Never again will I choose marching band over riding.

    Anyway, when I was walking with the girl on the dressage team who drives my lesson buddy and I to lessons, the first thing I said to her is, "Well, I'm not going to the next show." It was definitely a struggle, and I feel like my ankles might hurt tomorrow, but definitely a necessary learning experience. Staying positive!
        11-04-2011, 03:26 PM
    Lesson #5!

    The first 10-15 minutes of my lesson were a bit difficult, but I'd say I did pretty well after that. I was riding Sony, which was the horse my lesson buddy rode last week. And she had Violet, the horse I rode last week. So we switched horses. I was glad about that. Violet can be a bit stubborn, but all the dressage girls love Sony.

    It was certainly an interesting lesson. We started off riding figure 8s, but I couldn't really conceptualize that as a pattern. So when the other girl led, Sony got too close to Violet, so I tried to pass on the inside, and ended up cutting her off because I forgot that she'd be turning to make the figure. I think my instructor thought I wasn't listening to her instructions to do a figure 8. Then, shortly after that, one of the horses at pasture got loose somehow, so that was a little chaotic - a lot of shouting between our instructor and the others working at the stable.

    After that, our instructor was mostly teaching the other girl, because Violet was being super stubborn and spooking at nothing. The horse kept throwing her off balance. I was doing a lot better with pushing my leg forward toward the girth when posting and keeping my toes up. I did get told to keep my shoulders back and also to not let Sony put her head down. I feel as though every lesson, my instructor points out a new problem with my riding that I start to get the hang of by the end of my lesson. Then when the next lesson comes around, I've done much better with what I was told last lesson, but something new comes up that I could improve on. Well, that's riding, and that's life! It's difficult, but if it weren't difficult, it wouldn't be a challenge, and I'd get bored. I can't say I'm loving every single second I'm on a horse, but's worth it.
        11-18-2011, 03:46 PM
    Lesson #7! Whoops, forgot to write about last week's lesson!

    Today I was on Molly. She's known as the resident stubborn pony of the barn - basically, she's a challenging learning experience that every rider on the dressage team has to have. I didn't know how it would go at first, but hoped she wouldn't be too difficult. I got to carry a dressage whip because apparently it's a little tough to get her moving. That was pretty accurate. I had to give her a good smack or two to get her to trot, but once she did, she had a pretty quick step! So that was actually pretty enjoyable. Molly tended to cut turns short, and required an active use of leg and reins to get her to cooperate. Like our coach said, this is good for me because it requires me to actually ride, and to think about leg aides a lot as I ride. This is a challenge, because I think my lesson buddy, having taken riding lessons more recently than I did, is better with her leg than I did.

    But the best part of my lesson is that I got to canter! We only got to canter halfway around the indoor ring at a time, but all it took with Molly was one good smack to get her to canter. The horse I used to ride at my old barn, Impy, was similarly stubborn. I almost wish I could have another lesson on Impy (who liked to break her canter into a trot, which kept me from getting a proper cantering education until now), because now I know how to communicate with a stubborn horse. I loved the feel of her quick step - both at the trot and the canter. I caught on to the natural rhythm and the movement of my hips with the pony almost right away. At the end of my lesson, I just couldn't stop smiling.

    And I'm going home for Thanksgiving break today!
        11-18-2011, 04:24 PM
    Super Moderator
    You have GOT to get a friend to take some're KILLING me!!

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