silver linings

On Thursday, after all of my epic dressagery earlier in the week, I had kindof a waste-of-time ride on Murray that put me in a fairly foul mood.  I had to stop in the middle of my ride to get something, and Murray ended up sitting around a little longer than I wanted while I sorted it all out.  That was only 15 minutes into my ride though, and I really wanted to practice some of the walk-canter transitions from my lesson, or at least get something other than a warm-up done, so despite my better instincts I got back on and kept riding.

To nobody’s surprise, it was unpleasant.

Getting back on was not the better choice, riding-wise, and I go back and forth on whether or not I should have done it at all.  There will be times in the little horse’s life when he has to perform after sitting around (you know those pesky things called shows), so there’s something to be said for practicing that.  But at the same time, part of me feels like it’s more important to keep Murray feeling good about dressage, and not worth the fights.

Anyway, a friend and I had committed to taking some video of one another during our dressage rides, as we’d both had wonderful lessons on Wednesday, and take video we did.  And I’m super, super glad I got back on and took the video.  I wasn’t asking Murray for anything challenging — just to stay steady in the contact and give me some sold trot-canter transitions.  Nothing surprising there; I ask Murray to give me quality trot-canter transitions during every ride, so his assholery was definitely in protest to something — either five straight days of dressage or the thought that he was done for the day already.

So mostly, this is what I felt like I was riding.  Inverted giraffealope is not an urban legend.

5-21 dressage 9

But the video evidence suggests that I was actually managed to get a fair bit of this.

5-21 dressage 8Whaaaaaat a dreamy pony right there!!

We weren’t totally steady in the contact or through, but we definitely had moments.  Much better moments than in the past.  Compared to our December humble-keeping ride.

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5-21 dressage 3Bigger stride and lengthened topline for the win!!

To say I’m pleased with the improvement is underestimating it!  The photo from December shows pretty much our level best (at the time), and Thursday’s was a bad ride for us, and we still got better moments!

Murray’s deeper in the contact (a huge goal of mine), and his back is more lifted.  Even when he’s not totally through, at least he’s tracking up and using his whole body to trot.  We used to get this shitty little typewriter trot when Murray would lift his head, with steps about 6″ long and the jerkiness and absurdity that went along with that.  A year ago that was basically what I got in errrrey dressage ride.

5-21 dressage 5DSCF9901March 2014 at a show.

Our canter work has also improved a ton!  Murray’s left canter used to be full inverted giraffealope, even while his right lead was coming along nicely.  While he’s not quite as soft and low as I’d like, he is at least using himself here!  I recently learned how to trick him into softening by overflexing him through the inside rein, and gently balancing with the outside rein.  When I added a more open hip angle and soft dressage legs to the equation, Murray realised that he could, in fact, canter left and accept the contact.

5-21 dressage 7

So despite my general disappointment about our ride Thursday, I found a huge silver lining.  I’m so glad I have the footage to watch over and over (and ignore the crappy canter departs).  Silver linings areeee the best.

best riding friend

When I started riding with Alana, it was in lessons with a friend of mine from graduate school.  I ended up being an adult among many juniors, like, for real young juniors, kids who rode for fun and did a great job but were kids.

Thug Pony Lyfe

I started taking semi-private lessons with the aforementioned friend and after two lessons Alana said “look, you don’t necessarily need more weekly lessons, you need more saddle time.”  So I started leasing Mighty, a twelve-ish year old ottb who was well-known for taking care of students and generally being a really solid guy.

I met my to-be Riding Best Friend (we will call her RBF from now on for ease of typing for tipsy Nicole), when she started taking a semi-private lesson with me.  I wasn’t super confident about riding at the time, but when I met her I apparently said “I’m sooooooooooo glad there’s another adult here I can talk to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

(Writer disclaimer: I have had a lot of gin and I don’t remember this moment at all, regardless of the gin I just had!!!  However, I do recall being very excited to have a new riding friend.)

It didn’t take many lessons for RBF and I to start riding together outside of lessons to.  We would coordinate our lease rides so that we could sit the trot or canter without stirrups together, and then bitch about the pain and the glory of it.  You know how some people are just totally easy to ride with?  You just stay out of each others’ way and don’t have to worry about what the other person is doing, and can even work together?  That’s what riding with RBF is like!

might bigger“Mighty Adonis” an ottb better known as “Mighty Mouse”, when we jumped 3’3″ for the first time

So then I went to live in Kenya for the summer and do some pilot research, and RBF stayed home and honed her dressage skyllz.  I did not hone any riding skills in this time, and when I came home I started leasing a new horse.  Quincy was going to teach me a lot about riding, I just didn’t know it yet.

Quincy is like “No, Nicole, dressage is NOT for you right now.”

RBF and I could no longer take lessons together, which was sad, because we were at totally different levels.  I was back to jumping 2’3″-2’6″ and learning how to get stronger and straighter and avoid runouts on a horse that wasn’t going to do it all for me, and RBF was training for Novice level with her horse.  But we still drove out to the barn together all the time, and I somehow ended up watching a lot of her lessons.  I had way more free time then.

derb hugeRBF’s horse in his first day back in “work” after six weeks off for sarcoid removal.

After two more years apart — I went and did research for a year and came back, RBF moved away for a year and came back — we still ride together all the time.  We would send one another dressage articles constantly, and were always chatting about our ponies’ progress.

Why do I love riding with RBF so much?  It’s always fun, even when it’s a hard ride or a bad ride.  We put things in perspective for one another, and can reflect on our rides together.  We can be helpful during our rides, or before or after them, and I think we’ve both learned a lot from one another.  We have the same philosophy, make fun of ourselves for the same things, and of other people, and we’re always there in a pinch.  Last month when Murray squashed me in the wash rack and then bolted when I was trying to poultice him, RBF was on the other side of the stables when she saw Murray loose and immediately ran over to the wash racks because she knew it was nothing good.  Then she poulticed and wrapped my renegade demon horse, after wrapping me with an ice pack!

Everyone should be so lucky as to have an RBF as good as mine!