I laid in my bed the morning of the Melissa Allen clinic repeating “I will have fun”, as the winds gusted at 40 miles per hour outside my window. The weather had taken a turn and predicted temps were forecasted to be in the 20s for the low with the high barely reaching 40. I can handle riding in the cold, but the wind was going to make it miserable!
Horse people show up whatever the weather, so I gave myself a pep talk and layered up. While it had occurred to me that I must be crazy to go riding in this weather, I knew that once I was on my horse, it would all be worth it. No one ever said the journey to your dreams was on Easy Street!
Josie was “up” due to the weather but she handled herself like a lady at the trailer while I wrapped her legs in bright white polos and quickly put the saddle on over her white dressage pad before it blew away. While white is not a requirement for the clinic, I feel that it adds class and respect to my dedication of the art that is dressage.
I had come prepared for the weather wearing winter breeches, insulated boots, a base layer, a wool layer, a down coat, a vest, and a giant coat. The only cold parts were my face and hands. We were off to a good start.
I had planned to warm up in the outdoor, but the ground was half frozen, and to be honest, it just wasn’t safe. The wind was insane! I heard my name being called from the indoor that I could come in. Thank you, Jesus! The indoor is covered with open sides and provided more wind break than expected. We might actually be able to get some real work done!
It had been 6 months since I last rode with Melissa. During that period, we completed a successful Training 1 test and trained twice with Jeremy Steinberg. We entered this clinic a much different pair than back in September! Not only had we significantly progressed in our training, I was more confident in our partnership. I hoped to present an accurate description of our training over the past 6 months to Melissa and provide training issues I would like her to help with.
While Josie and I began our warmup, I explained how our partnership has developed, what I’ve learned about the way Josie learns, and the challenges that we are facing in our everyday training which include:
- keeping relaxation and working through tension
- getting stuck in our transitions
- falling on the forehand from canter to trot
- my level of experience and struggling to understand the correct feel when we try something new
I really felt that being prepared in my introduction created a fantastic starting point for our lesson. Melissa was able to address the problems that we were having at a pace and level that we both could understand. At one point during our ride, I exclaimed “This is what dreams are made of!”
Our lesson consisted of a purposeful warmup focusing on keeping a tempo that was in balance so Josie could find relaxation. I was reminded frequently to ride both sides of the horse!
Melissa guided us through leg yield and shoulder-in exercises to help create suppleness behind the saddle, which helped our canter transitions tremendously! We did multiple transitions from trot to canter to trot, using shoulder-in, to help build engagement. I had to be reminded to not lose our forward feel when we incorporated shoulder-in. There are just so many things!
Josie’s trot and canter continued to improved as I learned how to put her body in a better balance. I loved Melissa’s approach to teaching the horse new skills. She approached every movement through a series of building blocks, confirming that Josie understood the concept before moving on.
The weather improved on day 2, and while still cold, was much less windy thank goodness! Josie felt like she had a full tank and was not tired from our previous day’s adventure.
We revisited the shoulder-in and leg yield from day 1 and confirmed her understanding of the exercises. Time to move on. I went into a full panic when Melissa casually asked us to ride a 10 meter circle and then haunches-in. I quickly gave her a jumbled reply that Josie had never done that before, I had never done that before, and we needed thorough instructions! Help!
The remainder of the lesson included me shrieking with excitement as I got to ride my first haunches-in, lots of smiles, and numerous good girl pats for Josie. We also got to address my struggles with lengthening the trot and had a lot of “Ah ha!” moments.
I have 5 pages of notes from re-watching my rides! This information did not come cheap and I’m not taking it for granted or let it trickle out of my short term memory. I attribute much of my progress with Josie to my dedication of videoing each ride. I spend many evenings watching the playback and analyzing how things felt versus how they looked.
In lesson and clinic situations, I sometimes hear things on the video that I don’t remember them saying. Huh? Where was I during that part? For the first time, I got out notebook and took notes while watching the playback. I have to say, “Why haven’t I done this before?” A 45 minute video just got condensed to a few pages in a notebook that I can quickly reference in the future. How many times have you heard great riders tell you to take notes?! I can definitely see this in my future!
Here are the full videos from day 1 and 2. Happy auditing!*
*Just a reminder to be kind if you are sharing my blog or videos!
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