And We’re Moving On Up, On Up…

005Well, okay, we are not moving into a penthouse suite, nor are we moving to the top of the training scale.  Only in my dreams do we piaffe and passage with the best horses and riders.  No, we are moving on to the next level of Ike’s dressage education which means we will begin schooling first and second level concepts in earnest.

The game changer was last Tuesday when Ms. C rode Ike.  She now knows exactly where Ike stands with his training.  Poor Ike can’t hide behind my poor technique or lack of skills anymore.  Ms. C likes how Ike responds in the Neue Schule bit; he is not too heavy, nor does he avoid contact with it.  She believes that he will have excellent lateral work.  She also said that he now has the physical and mental strength to handle the greater demands that he will now face.

Soooo, that meant that during my lesson on Saturday and my lesson today, I had to be focused and mentally ready to really ride my horse every single stride.  As I’ve stated in past posts, I have a tendency to turn on the cruise control and forget to half halt, shift my weight, move my leg, or do anything to improve Ike’s way of moving.  Ms. C yelling, “why are you letting your horse flatten?” or “where is Ike’s shoulder headed?” usually bring me out of my cruise mode and back to reality.  I’d say that having the ability to focus and ride every stride are probably two of those key elements that separate the talented riders from the rest of us.

So first on the list of skills to master as we embark on this next phase of our training is focus – I knew how to do it when I ran hurdles as part of my high school’s track team.  I could run by bleachers filled with screaming people and not hear a thing.  Nothing.  Nothing but the sound of my shoes hitting the pavement.  Not sure when I lost that ability.  Is it part of the aging process?  Maybe I need some ginko biloba to increase blood flow to the brain and thus, the brain’s capacity to think and stay focused.

The next skill to master is relaxing my arms and legs so that I can improve my sit trot.  If we are moving on with Ike’s training, then I need to be able to keep up as he masters the new skills.  What good is it to have a horse that is ready for Second Level when the rider is still struggling to keep her ass in the saddle without shooting her legs out and bracing.  This isn’t water skiing.  My sit trot during my lesson today was better than on Saturday.  I’ve noticed that there are times that it is still better to rise than to hunker down and fight for the sit trot.  With Ike, when I ask for a trot lengthening, it is better for me to get off his back…at least at this point in the training.  Today I would sit the short ends, lengthen the long sides, and then go back to sit trot.  While it might not have been the prettiest, I do think that we did okay with our efforts.

I’m very excited with where we are with Ike’s training.  I fought for seven years with Cigar and barely made it out of Training Level before his career ended.  He challenged me every step of the way and at times, I would get very demoralized.  I pretty much decided that I had no idea what I was doing.  Ike has helped me regain my confidence and realize that progress is possible.  It might even happen faster than I anticipated…

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