dressage, equestrian, training

2nd Level to the Right, Training Level to the Left

My trainer's words bounce off my helmet, landing in the footing with a soft "poof".

My trainer’s words bounce off my helmet, landing in the footing with a soft “poof”.

As Micah has gained strength and balance, he’s ready to start doing more collected work. As usual, he’s ahead of me.
I’ve been struggling with issues in my riding that have made asking my horse for harder work unfeasible. If you can’t ask correctly, how can you expect your horse to give you any more than he’s already giving?
Those of you with unruly body parts will understand that despite the best of intentions, some limbs seem to act of their own accord. In my case, I’ve had a habit of allowing my right hand to be pulled forward when Micah and I travel to the left.
Micah asks me to do this because it allows him to pop his right shoulder and work a little less hard. He’s quite convincing, taking the right rein inch by inch. It’s a habit we’ve developed over time and it’s become so ingrained, I’m truly not aware I’m doing it.
To be fair, Natalie’s been working with me on this for ages. I’m fairly sure her words bounce off my helmet, landing in the footing with a soft “poof” before they disintegrate into dust.
Sometimes it takes something special for a message to get through the ears, into the brain, and truly understood.
One fine day, Natalie uttered these magic words: “To the right, you’re riding Second Level. To the left, Training Level.”
(Ow! Let that sink in for a second and feel my pain.)
“Micah, we have been dissed,” I said.
But Natalie’s words rang true, giving me a clear and effective image. Her words, combined with the demonstration of asymmetry that Micah and I provided got through the force field of my helmet, worked their way through my ears, and into a level of understanding I’d been missing.
Determination kicked in. I needed to ride both directions equally well. While that sounds simple, it is profound.
We went on to ride a series of figure-8’s at the trot, me working my heart out to ride both directions consistently. Steam whistled from my ears and out from under my helmet, as this is as much a mental exercise as it is physical.
Success is not an instant, but a process.
The result? We’re improving and moving on to collecting the canter — which you simply can’t do without a consistent outside rein. The work is really hard but so much fun, words can’t describe it.
I’m reminded yet again of the importance of position and the consistency of the aids. And I’m oh so grateful to Natalie for continuing to work with me, looking for those magic words that make a difference.
May you find those magical words and images in your own riding!