Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Or, "You don't know what you don't know until you discover you don't know it."

I keep running into this a lot with Cassandra. She makes assumptions and I make assumptions and then we both wonder why in the hell I'm not doing what she wants, then she corrects me and I cry.

Well, not really. At least not the crying part.

The rest though? Spot on.

When I showed as a kid, I showed Western. 40 odd years ago. In 4-H. This is wonderful when you are a kid and want ribbons and the right to earn rosettes at the State Fair, but doesn't really prepare you for learning dressage 40 years later on a horse that is learning with you and who might just be smarter than you are. So, every time I take a lesson I learn something I've been making an assumption about and finding out that I am wrong. Makes an ass out of me, because you weren't there, so it can't make an ass out of you.

Tonight I discovered that the heels down, toes pointed forward does not apply in dressage. It does in Western and for H/J too, but not dressage. My weight should be balanced on the balls of my feet. Or the Gushing Spring TiChi spot according to Cassandra. When done correctly I should be able to feel every twitch of every muscle, nerve and cell in both my legs. While also softening with the inside rein, keeping constant contact on the outside rein, tipping my heel and calf up against his side, holding my outside leg steady and also not whacking anyone across the face with my dressage whip.

I used to think I was good at multi-tasking.

The other thing I learned? That when we transition down into a walk from the trot I shouldn't immediately loosen my reins and let him drop contact. Even at the walk, I should maintain contact. What that means in practical matters is that I should keep my reins the same length, with contact the same, regardless of the speed of the gait. I've been letting Ashke go on a loose rein at the walk, which is bad, because I had to spend most of our lesson relearning and rereminding my stubborn white horse that he really can move forward with contact.

Cassandra laughed and said Ashke has been training me, which I think is a nice way of saying I'm an idiot. By the end of the lesson, I had a better grasp on how he should feel when he is rounding his back and lifting through his hips. I told Cassandra that it felt like we were walking through molasses, but she said he was moving very nicely and faster than I thought. I now know why Cali walks slower than Ashke. It's because when he is moving the way he is supposed to, it's pretty slow.

In 4-H, we were expected to have a booking walk, slow trot and slow canter. Now, the walk is going to be slow.

We worked a lot on trot- walk three steps - trot transitions. He got much better after doing those for awhile. It will give us something to practice.

We ended the lesson with a sweet canter to the left and a pretty much decent canter to the right. He didn't bring his head down for either of those two canters, but he also didn't run away with me either.

J came out with me and took a ton of video. I'm not posting it though, since it was just us walking in a circle, which is about as exciting as watching paint dry.


  1. OH I wanna try that walk/trot transition exercise with Q. I'll do it tonight!

    Isn't it funny (and frustrating as hell) to realize how well your animal trained YOU? Sneaky little buggers...

    1. The walk-trot transitions work best when the horse is in a frame prior to picking up the trot and then this exercise helps them to maintain the frame when returning to the walk. Ashke is pretty good at holding a frame at the trot, because I've been working on it, but in the walk I have gotten lazy.

      Now I know why N makes Cali maintain a frame 95% of the time on the trail.

  2. They really are smarter then us, huh? Or at least smarter in the "avoid working harder then I have too" part. They slowly train us so we don't really notice it's happening...very sneaky!

  3. "I used to think I was good at multitasking": that's exactly how I felt when I first started taking dressage lessons! And the leg position for dressage does take getting used took me almost a year to get the hang of it, because the position for H/J was the complete opposite. I promise there will come a day when you don't have to think about it anymore!

    In the arena, I ask for a frame about 75% of the time. On the trail, I've slowly started asking for it more - we went from no frame to being in a frame about 30% of the time now. If we're trotting, she's in a frame. If she gets high-headed, she has to be in a frame. If she's relaxed and chill, she gets to do whatever she wants. But this is mainly because we're still working on getting her to think trails = awesomeness. Haha...


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