Monday, February 16, 2009

My first dressage lesson

Some years ago I worked at a dressage farm cleaning stalls, taking the horses out to pasture, feeding, etc. The people I worked for were wonderful, Christine, farm owner and my boss was especially sweet. There were dressage clinics held there alot and I was always watching when the chores were done, trying to soak in everything. I hadn't had my first horse all that long and was a real beginner. Christine gave me a dressage lesson in one of the clinics as a gift, and I was very nervous of course. I felt so awkward riding in front of the others, everyone was so much further along than me. I also had only a forward seat jumping saddle at the time, my older arab gelding "KCK HighPockets" had a slightly dipped back and high withers, so I had to pile on a little padding. Hardly a classic dressage pair.
The lesson started fine, I was still so uneasy about being in front of the people watching, but I was trying hard to concentrate. Then came the dreaded, take him into a canter. No, pleeeease not the "C" word. I was not comfortable cantering at all. I did as asked, and Pockets, though older, had plenty of spit and fire, trust me, you know those arabs. To get him to canter was easier than eating chocolate. So canter we did, but as we passed the opening on one side of the indoor arena, something, probably a two headed, fire - breathing blowing leaf startled my horse.
I know you have seen those movie scenes where the cars are careening down a winding road out of control because the brakes have gone out, and you know its going to end badly...... Meanwhile passers by must have thought there was a skeet shoot going on, as the instructor kept yelling "PULL!!!!!" "PUUULLL!!!!"
Well I would have, if the reins hadn't been so loose. Then the saddle started slipping and Pockets hopped to a halt, unceremoniously dumping me in the dirt. The word is "Mortified."
The funny thing is, that after that, I didn't care what anyone thought, I was a beginner and everyone has to start somewhere. I lost that " deer in headlights " feeling and set to work to improve. I never worried about the onlookers again.
When I had another lesson, I had a dressage saddle, a little more time in the saddle and the instructor raised her eyebrows and said, "much improved." I had two bad habits to work on. The instructor kept asking me " Why do you look down over his shoulder all the time ?" My guess is that I did that because I was probably headed down there, always look where you are going.
The second was that I was sticking my left leg out straight while cantering. I never even knew I was doing that ! Well, my guess on that is I was using the airbrakes. Safety first.
I have only had a few lessons all in all, but I have learned alot, and when I ride I look over the ears, and both of my legs are on the horse when cantering.
In the end, Pockets did me a favor by throwing me down, so that I quit worrying about what others thought and did what I was there to do - learn. Just another reason my heart stays in my "Pockets."


  1. Wow...I've maybe ridden a horse once, so I have a feeling I'll know what to "look forward" to!

  2. What a great descriptive, beautifully written piece on your first lesson! Seems there's always so much to learn if we but remain humble and open to it.
    Your piece reminds me of a little self talk I keep tucked away for when needed:
    "Feel the fear and do it anyway....."

  3. Great post! Gilly and I have yet to canter, he will for others but I am afraid I will take a fall. Being a lazy horse he tends to kick up a little when asked to canter so I am waiting a little longer. This year we will for sure, I have a new and much better instructor in dressage so I feel more confident. Gilly has a beautiful very BIG trot and a wonderful canter; I just need more ride time to feel better about my ability to sit him. He is also another year older and a little more settled too, goodie!!! :-)

  4. Beautifully written and a lesson I wish I could have learned years ago. I've ridden and shown dressage for 32 years now and for to many of those years I cared what people were thinking. Even today it's great to have the reminder. Thank you!

  5. I really enjoyed reading your blog and your dressage test, how brave of you. I have just tagged you if you want to play drop by my blog for the rules...Lindax

  6. Hah, great post! I've got a story of my own actually.

    I used to be a daycamp counselor at a camp that had a horse program. Since I was one of the counselors with any horse riding experience (what little I do have) they made me in charge of heading all of the trail rides. One fine day while leading a group on bareback, a bee stung my poor horse in the rump. I went flying, the group scattered, kids flew everywhere. It was a mess.

    I haven't ridden since. The end.

  7. Horses are so good at humbling us. They are the very best teachers of so many things in life. Great post!