|Working on our jump in the canter|
Ben and I participated in our very first dressage clinic this weekend. Honestly, I was dreading the event and super stressed about it. Initially when I signed up I thought it would be a great experience. Then, not 2 days later, I found out that not only would I be traveling, I'd also be stuck in meetings from 9-5 each day in the office (on top of my day job (read: working at night as well to keep up)), which is a cool 2 hour commute to the barn many days of the week. This meant that my riding time would be limited to only the weekends. That is no way to prepare for riding in a clinic. Add on to that getting a respiratory virus during my work travels - I was really setting myself up for success [insert sarcasm].
With the help of my trainer Ben is keeping fit and ready to work. But me, I'm the weak link here. My body, specifically my hips, seize up when not put to work in the saddle. Day 1 after a long break (specifically one that included sitting in a conference room chair for 8+ hours) is hell - regardless of how much off-horse walking/stretching/exercising I do.
You might be asking yourself why on earth I didn't cancel. Canceling is not an option once you commit. Sure, you can "cancel" but don't expect your money to be returned.
True to form, when I first mounted, my both of my hips screamed and immediately cramped. Thank heavens no one was actually near the arena, because I had to contort myself in the saddle in such a way so as to prevent myself from screaming. It was really something, and definitely the first time I experienced both cramping at the same time. But luckily/thankfully, after a couple of minutes of deep breaths both passed and I was able to let my legs hang down and relax. A few more minutes of letting Ben's walk loosen them up, I was doing much better.
The clinician came down to the arena, hooked me up to her communication radio thingie, and we got to work. She already knew the backstory on Ben, and was ready to help us. We started with some in hand work, with her working the reins, me using my seat/legs. The point was to get Ben to accept the outside rein without pushing through it, while I asked him to step under himself. It was hard, but so helpful.
Then when we got to riding, my gosh. I had to hold Ben on a much stronger contact that I generally ever do on my own, but boy did it force the issue of really listening to my leg and pushing onto the bit, and then the contact got much much nicer. He showed me that if I am persistent, he can in fact carry himself.
The canter work, WOW. The boy is really figuring out his jump. We worked a lot on the jump, and getting it on a smaller circle - which seems to really help. It was a ton of work and we were both sweating buckets, but it was so worth it. There is SO much more in there just waiting come out - the clinician said now it is just a matter of time for him to blossom.
I began in much better form for this lesson. My body did NOT cramp up and felt pretty limber in general (okay so I was a little sore from the previous day's ride, but it was the good kind!). Ben felt tired but otherwise okay. We started with some in-hand work again, but this time with the rein-back. Once we got a nice soft rein-back, we were released on our own to do transitions from walk to halt, immediate rein back, halt, walk or trot out. We mixed it up with plain old halts as well, so Ben never knew what was coming.
That work really got Ben rocked back and starting to sit. The resulting canter work was amazing. His jump got super big. Not perfect, but he was really trying to sort it out, I could feel him trying super hard, and I was simply supporting and encouraging it.
He tired quickly and from there we transitioned back to trot work. The result was a big uphill trot with him carrying himself in a much nicer position.
He got lots of praise from both myself and the clinician, who said she has a lot of respect for us as a pair. She said while this is not easy, it is achievable and now it is just a matter of time.
I am SO proud of Ben, just thinking about all that he has achieved and how much of himself he gives to me brings tears to my eyes.
If you made it this far, here is a video of snippets of our ride. Go Ben!!