Last Wednesday when I picked Henry up from camp, Trainer hopped on him first to show me what she’s been doing with him and talk me through what I need to work on. On one hand I love watching her ride him, because she gets better results than I do. On the other hand, when I watch her ride him I can’t help but think “The odds of me reproducing this at home are slim to none”. Especially with the dressage work.
Dressage is obviously not my forte – I come from a hunter/jumper background, one filled with green horse after green horse. We’re officially at the point in Henry’s flatwork education where I’m floundering a bit… his level of education has caught up to mine. And, as Trainer noted, he’s really good at convincing me to take the pressure off of him, which means we’ve plateaued a bit. He’s improved so much, and he’s to the point where he can take some pressure, work through it, and come out the other side having learned something instead of just shutting down. I have to figure out how to ride this particular horse I’ve got at the moment.
Sitting there watching her do canter/walk transitions and counter canter loops (neither of which he knew how to do when I dropped him off a week and a half prior) I felt 51% determination and 49% dejection. The learning curve for dressage is so steep for me, at times it feels almost hopeless, and I get frustrated. I’m not a quitter, but this… this is the closest I’ve ever come to feeling defeated. Sometimes I long for the days in Jumperland where the flatwork part of the job was so much simpler.
Then Trainer reminded me how much better and stronger Henry has gotten. In my head he’s still the mess of a horse I got two and a half years ago, or the powder keg I was sitting on last year that I couldn’t canter in dressage warm-up. There was a time when any little bit of contact made him put his nose on his chest. Or when just breathing a little too hard sent him spurting into canter. We started out with a big deficit, so it’s gonna take longer and be harder to climb our way out of it. There’s a lot I don’t know and there’s a lot I’m not good at. But day by day, ride by ride, we’re gonna keep trying, even if I feel like screaming on the inside. I know there’s a decent dressage horse lurking in there, and I feel like I owe it to him to cultivate that.
At least until they give us a form of eventing where dressage is optional…