There is simply nowhere to hide in dressage. Every footfall, every head toss, every brace, every tail swish, every moment of over enthusiasm or reluctance, every error is seen and noted. It is brutally exposing. And my God it is so hard! I am sure show-jumping is just as technical: I am probably kidding myself when I get an ‘unlucky’ 4 faults, but I simply can’t pretend all is well when doing dressage if it isn’t. My performance is 100% down to my schooling and my riding. And that is a little depressing tbh as I am just not very good at it!
So I plan to focus on dressage heavily over the winter starting with an Into & Prelim competition yesterday. Our dressage adventures started reasonably well with a 65% Into B, a 2nd place and some lovely comments.
Then life got a little more, (ahem), interesting……..
There is an art to calmly understated test score comments I think: Amber’s bucking, spinning and napping at speed back to her pals in the collecting ring on the canter transition was down as the fairly tame sounding: “Disobedient. Left arena.” Oh dear.
To be fair to her, bucking is highly uncharacteristic so I won’t ride her again till she has been checked out by a physio. She bucked in the warm up every time I asked for canter– and has never done before. Amber and I have a good connection now. She knows when I start to think about doing some canter work and the rhythm of her trot changes immediately. So I actually have to watch my thoughts quite carefully when I am planning ahead. I need to think ‘canter NOT YET STAY TROTTING’ instead of thinking “hmm should we canter on the next bend”’. When schooling/warming up at the venue and also in my final schooling session before competing, as soon as I thought canter she pinned her ears and tensed up. She is a very expressive horse who is not at all backwards about letting me know how she feels about things. It felt like she was saying “I know what’s coming and I am REALLY not happy about it!” So the bucking was no surprise really.
But aside from a specific, (hopefully) solvable problem to do with tightness or discomfort, I do find dressage extraordinarily frustrating. My hands and legs are not very good at working independently. My timing and feel are awful. I do not release well
To make matters worse, the into & prelim tests in 1 arena were running alongside the advanced medium tests in another arena and we warmed up in the same area. So there’s me trying to get basic control of my wayward beast, while others were practicing their counter canter, half passes and lead changes on their beautifully elegant dancing horses.
Oh well we all have to start somewhere and on that note, watching this gives me hope….