Basically, I've always though Fleck and I were a great team! And that he put his heart into it for me, because he loves me. And that I was good for him too. That he wouldn't be where he is today if it weren't for me, just a little bit.(Typing it out is embarassing, because well.. because!). So... I decided to look at pictures from when I first got him and compare. To see how far we've come and be proud. Yeah.. that backfired in my face big time. Sigh.....
When I first got him, he was fat and a little out of shape, but had great training. And even despite me not knowing much, he still looked good. Sure, he was in a long and low frame, more training level than first, but.. he was soft, swinging, stretching through his shoulders, and dare I even say it?! Round!
So, obviously he was nice when I got him. Yet... lately, we haven't been able to get that! We've been locked in the poll, breaking just in front of the base of the neck instead of at the base of the neck, and just.... short strided and quick. So yeah... That sent me in a downward spiral. You know... "I ruined him... I took a nice horse and broke him. And not only that, but during the "best" years of his life... I taught him horribly wrong". It was enough to make me cry. And I knew, logically, that it wasn't entirely true. I told myself that as the work got harder, ie we moved up to 1st level, he had to work harder and therefore came up with evasions. And that made it harder on me. And that there were some awful pics in those first few years too. And there are some really good pictures now. And that he's not ruined, and I can still fix him. But still.. it was enough to make me cry and feel like a total butt.
So... I went for my lesson. And Cindy got on first and worked some stuff out. Some really obvious simple stuff that ALL dressage riders know and live by. Like turning around the inside leg. Ugh... and that made it worse. Because jeeze... he was acting like he didn't understand basic simple concepts. Because I"ve been riding him horribly wrong and ruining him. Argh... So, Cindy is amazing, and I guess she kinda caught on to what I was feeling with the simple sentence I said to her. And she made it all better. She wasn't "oh, you're awesome, you're amazing, you don't need me", but she wasn't mean or harsh or even negative at all. She was encouraging and helpful. She basically told me that she wouldn't let me take the responsibility of ruining him because it's always a learning process and that you have to have mistakes to be able to learn from them. And that it's easy to get sucked into the same wrong riding when you ride the same horse all the time. And that he had a little bit to do with it too. In that he knew what worked to evade with me and what didn't. But I had to man up to it and change it now. More or less. Which is just exactly what I needed. Not a pity party.. not a big fat lie... and not to be told how horrible I was. So we just... went to work on it. And you know.... I didn't ruin him!! He was pretty dang nice today. It's all there.. hidden under all the baggage I've brought to the table. But when I ride like a real dressage rider, he becomes a real dressage horse. This was the first time in awhile I've had his back in a place that allows me to sit. Probably because it was the first time in awhile my seat gave his back a place to go. And I hate to admit it, because I'm proud, but I quit riding with my hands. Mostly. Bad habits are very hard to break. So..... phew!!! Pity party averted and back to movitation station!
So... things that I MUST remember for every ride!!!!! (Yes Holly.. that means trail rides too!). Because dang it... I'm not going to keep ruining him... I'm going to fix him!!! ( And yes... I KNOW all of this, and have known all of this. But for some reason, knowing it in my head, and even telling myself while I'm riding... doesn't always translate to me achieving it in my riding. I'm just... dumb like that!)
- Inside leg to soft following outside rein. Always!!! If his head comes up, the answer is to remain calm and push his barrel medially away from my inside leg. And if his head comes up, my reins can go up too and softly play with the reins WHILE MY INSIDE LEG IS ON!!!
- Not to worry about him throwing his shoulder to the outside as an evasion. If I get his back up, his shoulder realigns itself. I can gently use my outside leg as a buffer, but not actively. At least for now. Because then he changes the subject instead of answering the question I asked.
- It's not so much about the "frame' or getting his head down. It's about getting his back up. It's a healthy back... a gymnasticing oscillating flowing back! That's healthy for him too!
- Keep aiming for that lovely back!!! Insist on it from now on!
And would like to give a special shout out to Karen... for creating my perfectly wonderful horse, giving him the great training, and not cringing everytime she saw me riding him improperly, and for still being my friend. I will make it up to him!!!
And then... since I need to make myself feel less embarassed.... an awesome pic of the awesomeness himself...
Okay... a few more. Cause I love him and he's amazing!
Props to my favorite photographer, Mark at hoofclix, for taking this awesome photo of us.