I broke in the trailer this weekend by hauling the horses a few miles down the road to a dressage schooling show. I opted not to show, but the horses’ regular lesson kids did two tests apiece. Both horses were deeply suspicious of the trailer, which I figure is because it smelled like a new trailer, not horses, and it has a ramp, which I don’t think either horse has seen before. They bravely climbed on after a few minutes and we went on our way.
Since I wasn’t showing, I left the kids and the horses to their own devices and headed up to the ring where I spent the morning volunteering as gate keeper. It’s one of my favorite jobs, because I get to chat with riders and make new friends (and, of course, visit with current friends). There were several beautiful tests, a couple of hairy moments with green horses bucking or jumping out of the ring, and lots of joking and camaraderie in the warm-up area.
Moe and Gina did pretty well with their kids, scoring solidly in the 60s. They improved their scores from their last show and are in the running for year end awards. I’m always impressed with how well their kids ride and how gently the horses treat them. Even weirdo Gina was solid in a brand new arena with lots of banners flapping in the breeze and a scary white tarp at one end.
The judge was Claudia Misner, an FEI competitor with her USDF Gold Medal and a USDF “L” Graduate with Distinction. She’s a petite German woman based in Arkansas who works with our club frequently as a schooling show judge and instructor for clinics and our junior rider camp. She offered to stay an extra day to do lessons with anyone who was interested. Several months ago, I won a free lesson with the instructor of my choice from the club, so I signed myself up.
Claudia promptly identified the same issues Anne did a few weeks ago: I need to be softer with my outside rein, ride with my hands more even, and actually use the outside rein, especially on circles and corners, to prevent Gina from falling in. It was hard work, but there were some really nice moments that made me think “Well, jeez, maybe Gina isn’t a decrepit old witch after all!”
- I’m accommodating Gina too much. She gives me something halfway right, and I say, “Okay, Gina!” without demanding the correct thing.
- Even on straight lines, Gina carries herself on her inside shoulder too much. I need to shift more of her weight to her outside shoulder so she’s even.
- Insist on the correct form, but don’t drill. Give Gina lots of breaks, because the work is hard and redeveloping her muscles won’t happen overnight.
- “Oh! You asked her to do that, and I think her feelings are quite hurt!”
I was also heartened that Claudia thought most of Gina’s unevenness behind is due to how I’ve been riding her. While that doesn’t sound like something I should be pleased about, I am- it means that she probably isn’t lame and old and a crippled mess; I’ve just been riding her in a way that develops her muscles incorrectly. Claudia pointed out that Gina was not uneven after cantering- in fact, her trot had improved dramatically from where it was at the beginning of the ride because I was riding her better. Which means if I continue to ride my horse better, my horse will (probably) stop being so stiff and weird.
Imagine that- riding better makes your horse better! Who knew? 😉