Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Dressage Pony Has Skills.... Rider is Mediocre at Best

I only have dressage lessons every other week since my instructor's (let's call her IY) schedule is packed full. My plan is to continue to ride Dee in these lessons since Stressage dressage is our weakest phase. Anytime someone cancels, I have first dibs on their spot to have the occasional lesson with Ritchie.

For the first lesson back after the holiday break I ended up riding Ritchie. I've been struggling with sitting in his saddle and wanted some help. It's got big thigh blocks and my knees keep trying to creep over them. I also wanted to get an outside opinion on some of the crookedness I've been experiencing.
Kentaur Elektra. I find it less than ideal

Unfortunately IY confirmed my suspicions about Ritchie's fancy new saddle (Shimmer-E bought it for him a couple months ago). While it fits him well and is an 18" seat, it is actually too small for me. It's got a fairly deep seat and rides small. I'm obscenely long from my hip to my knee for someone who is only 5'6" (for reference, my jumping saddle is an 18" with a long forward flap and it fits me wonderfully).

For now I will be doing all my riding in my jump saddle (thank goodness it fits both horses). I may struggle to keep my upper body tall while doing dressage in it, at least I actually fit in it.

My other main concern was straightness. With Dee I struggle to ride straight becuase what feels like straight is actually crooked. We've been working on re-training my perceptions and I was concerned this would colour my perceptions of Ritchie.

Thankfully my thoughts about when we were straight and when we were crooked were spot on. Ritchie is stiff to the left, wanting to bulge his ribcage in and drift through the left shoulder (completely opposite of Dee). To the right he's super bendy and I have to be careful to keep solid outside aids to ensure he's maintaining the correct bend.

Random smile photo to break up the text monologue.

IY really liked him though. She told me that he is going to make me a very quiet and effective rider since he is easily offended. She also laid into me harder than she ever has before (and I've been riding with her off-an-on for something like 7 years). She saw me bump him with my inside leg 3 times without getting any response. I know this is how to deaden a horse and I still do it. So she stopped me and had a frank discussion about how I need to be more assertive, ask once and then correct with spur or whip. Basically, I need to rise to the level this guy is capable of, not him sinking to mine.

Every lesson I have with her ends up with me having sore abs. Every. Single. One. Apparently I am lazy about my core without someone reminding me 8-million-times. Now you add in super bouncy, swingy fancy-pants-warmblood and my ab muscles were crying. But he's so sensitive it was really cool to see how much my core control affected his movement.

Basically by better engaging my core I was able to help him achieve more loft and swing in his gaits. It only lasted a few strides before both of our muscles would get tired and wimp out, but those strides were beautiful!!

Also, if anyone is looking for a pretty cool young horse, one of Ritchie's babies is for sale. She's super cute, scored well at her inspection (including an 8 for movement) and super personable. So pass it along if you know anyone looking, the weak Canadian dollar could make her someone's pretty cool bargain. (Also, when she sells, Ritchie and I get a bigger show budget)
Because when you're born on May 4th, you must be Leia


  1. I love rides that make my abs sore :) That saddle looks so deep you could ladle soup with it!

  2. Trying to do dressage in a poorly fitting saddle sucks! I frequently have the creeping issue with the knee block and finally found a saddle that works for me. It is heaven and I will probably never be able to ride in less than ideal now that I know what ideal feels like. :)

  3. ha i feel like your trainer would have a field day with me - i'm queen of the nagging leg despite no response... really tho she sounds like a wonderful trainer and i love her philosophy of keeping the rider accountable to the horse's skill, rather than the other way around!