humble keeping

I tricked asked a friend to take pictures of my dressage ride today, for feedback and comparison to earlier. I have next to no footage or photos of us doing dressage, which means that my learning is all based on feel.  So I was really happy that Tati was willing to take pictures of me.  I’ve also been feeling kinda like the shit lately with dressage, ever since that lesson where Tina told me that Murray was a star.

So obviously I had my world rocked.

IMG_8304This one is pretty cute.

We had a good ride.  I was trying a new bit, and Murray was about as compliant and through and reasonable as has been his standard lately.  It was not an unmitigated disaster.  However it was not the gorgeous, through, round, bulging-back-muscles dressage beast I thought I was riding.  It was a bit of an awakening.

So in addition to realizing how much I’m nagging Murray with my legs (like every stride), and how inconsistent in the contact he really is, there are some pretty specific things I can see in the pictures.  A couple of them show how twisted up my body really is — which is sooooooooo frustrating because I’ve been trying really hard to twist my body the right way — but for the most part I’m doing a bit better in keeping myself straight.  I need to lengthen my upper body too, and sit up straighter, because I am evidently riding quite lazily.



This picture was the shot immediately before the first picture, just one stride or two apart (I think).  So you can see how inconsistent he really is — his head is in a way different position between the two shots.  I’ve highlighted in red the things I really hate, the big one, consistent throughout our ride, is that Murray’s dropping the base of his neck.  I’ve been babying him lately while I have been trying to sort out my own position, but I think I just need to remind him exactly what this whole dressage thing is all about.  A few good things before I get to what I hate about this: he’s not dropping his back, even though he’s not really lifting it that much either.  He’s also totally tracking up, which is great, because when I first started riding him he really wasn’t tracking up at all.  He’s also trotting uphill, which is wonderful to see, since Murray tends to be on the forehand.

So, my heel is up and too far back.  Which I hate.  I hate it because it’s bad position and it reflects an ongoing problem I’ve had, which is pinching with my knees and letting my heels come up.  However, I hate it for more reasons than this.  I hate it because I was asking for a shoulder-in here.  Do you see Murray bending around my leg?  No?  BECAUSE NEITHER DO I.  I think I can even see his inside hind swinging further in than his front a little, exactly the opposite of what I was asking for.




This was our “stretchy” trot.  Mmmhmmm.  Stretchy, right?

I’m only having a tiny pity party about this though.  There is still a lot to like here: Murray is moving out, tracking up, he’s relaxed, his back is lifted at least a little, and he was even a little foamy during this ride!  Our leg yields are getting straighter in both directions, and even if our shoulder-in leaves much to be desired, he was trying during the ride (even if it’s not evidenced on photos).  For a pony (and rider!!!) who looked like this eight months ago, we are definitely improving.


I’m kinda peeved I noticed this right before I leave town for ten nighs so I’m not going to work on this really at all until January.  Whatever.  Bring it on, January.  I’m going to kick my own ass and Murray’s along with it.


5 thoughts on “humble keeping”

  1. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Dressage is a process. It’s like weight lifting. You have to take it slow and do all of your homework to slowly build the strength you need otherwise you end up injured. Weird analogy… but I hope it makes sense. Use this as a basis of comparison in a few months. Focus on the positive and keep moving forward. You both will improve as you gain strength. For the legs, if you’re pinching, pull your legs completely off his sides all the way up to your hip and them lay them back down again. It helps settle your leg down into the correct position. Also a couple of things my trainer told me that was helpful is think about pointing your knees to the ground and instead of thinking heels down, think toes up. 😀 It made a big difference for me. Keep up the great work!!

    P.S. It’s really hard (and I still suck at it) but make sure to look up. Looking up will help you position and balance more than you think it will. 😀


    1. Thanks so much! I really appreciate the tips (especially about looking up, which I completely know to do and somehow constantly find myself looking down at M’s neck all the time!!).

      Yeah, I think I was just getting a little full of myself after having so many fantastic jump lessons lately, and I was a little extra disappointed when I realised I wasn’t quite as ready to debut at 4th level as I thought. 😉 I do love the process of dressage and am really glad that I have these photos to make comparisons to in a few months.

      And just to help things along, I booked a dressage lesson for tomorrow morning. 😀


      1. Awesome! I so miss taking dressage lessons. It’s so hard to remember all the things I need to do without someone on the ground helping. 🙂 When I catch myself looking down a lot I’ll sometimes look up more than necessary (roof or sky). It’s like over correcting helps retrain the muscle memory faster. My trainer had me do that with leaning back. I was bad about leaning forward and would never sit up straight when she told me to, so she had me lean back until I felt like I was going to fall backwards and told me when I was sitting up straight. It was eye opening and made me realize how bad I needed to build some ab muscles LOL!! Have fun at the lesson!


  2. While I don’t know that much about dressage, I can tell you that the picture at the top and the bottom look like an entirely different horse. I mean wow!

    I feel that a lot of riding is finding those moments of true connection, and stringing them all together. Even if you don’t have that dressage beast for the whole ride, it looks like you two are on the right path!!


    1. Aww thanks! Yeah, we really have come a long way. I clearly have a tendency to get ahead of myself in terms of how I think we should be progressing, even if I rationally understand that slow progress is much better in the long term. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s