Category

dressage

The sport of dressage is so difficult, it is an excellent way for mere mortals to learn humility

dressage, dressage competition, dressage training, equestrian, horses, natalie perry dressage

All the Pretty Horses


For reasons I’ll never understand, I was born with a fascination for horses.
I was the kid hanging her head out of the car window, admiring horses in pasture, dreaming of owning one. I remember the sense of longing and my pure adoration for them. I read horse stories, drew pictures, collected Breyer models, and convinced my mother to get me riding lessons as often as she could tolerate.
Where did this come from? I doubt we’ll ever know.
Some people speculate that those of us who are ‘horse crazy’ have a primal sense of connection to these animals, due to our ancestors’ early dependence on them. If this theory is correct, we have an innate understanding of how important horses have been to our species.
Bullshit? Or not? Who cares — it’s fun to ponder.
As I’ve started prepping for this year’s show season, I’ve noticed how much more critical I’ve become of horses and their way of going. Call it education if you will, but I’ve lost that innocent admiration for each and every horse.
As I watch YouTube videos of riders competing, as a way to learn my tests, I find myself ‘judging’ each horse’s gaits, conformation, and temperament.
Still, I find myself fall in love from afar quite frequently, thinking, “I’d love to own that one.” (I have a strong preference for those honest, forgiving, yet forward horses who look more like lovers than fighters.)
I also spot the ones I’d prefer not to own. “That one’s gorgeous but looks like a fire-breathing dragon!” (Death by dressage still doesn’t appeal to me.)
As I look at my history with horses, I admit that I still don’t understand it but I’m grateful to have them in my life. I struggle, I learn, and I love. My life is so much the richer for it.

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canter, dressage, dressage lessons, dressage training, equestrian, horses, natalie perry dressage

DIY Dressage


I’ve always been a Do-It-Yourself fan. When it comes to riding, I usually enjoy doing the work myself and only occasionally ask my trainer to ride my horse. However, there are times when it is well worth it to ask my trainer to help us get over a significant hurdle.
In this week’s lesson, I had the strong desire to get off my horse and ask my trainer to please do it for me.
Natalie was yelling, “Don’t give up! I know it’s hard. Keep at it!”
I was cantering around in circles, feeling like the human fly. Micah was blowing me off. I have worked less hard mountain biking, nordic skiing, and running a half marathon.
Micah simply didn’t want to give up control of his right shoulder in the left lead canter and he especially didn’t want to give me a trot/canter transition while doing it. With Natalie’s encouragement, I ‘won’ (aka: got what I was asking for) but it was exhausting.
While I can’t wait to ride again tomorrow and test out what I learned, I also realize that having Natalie do some schooling will speed up the process. Micah’s the kind of guy who gives in once he knows the game is up. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when Natalie climbs aboard next week. She is my secret weapon.
While DIY is great, it’s silly not to use all of the tools that are available to us as riders. And, I’m having so much fun anticipating next week’s lesson. . 🙂

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dressage, dressage training, horses, natalie perry dressage, Outside Rein

Riding the Outside of the Horse

Micah says, “Mom’s finally getting it!”


I had an ‘ah-hah’ moment during last week’s lesson, thanks to Natalie’s choice of words.
We’ve been working on the importance of ye old outside rein for an eternity. While we’ve made progress, my work to the left is never quite as balanced and fluid as the work to the right.
To the left, my right hand (outside rein) tends to float up magically, as if someone else is controlling my arm.
Last week, as we worked to the left Natalie said, “Ride the right side of the horse.”
This gave me a visual/mental image of the right side of my body engaging with the right side of the horse’s body. It connected my right rein, arm, leg, and seat — which is when I said “ah-hah!” What a difference.
When I rode again today, I kept that image in mind and it worked wonders. Micah and I are more connected to the left than we’ve ever been before — and, not surprisingly, riding the outside of the horse improved our work in both directions.
We’ve all had those moments when a simple choice of words creates an image that clicks in our brains, helping us to accomplish things we may have been struggling with.
When a concept isn’t working for you, keep asking questions. A simple change of words may make a big difference.

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dressage, dressage lessons, dressage training, equestrian, natalie perry dressage

Resisting the Temptation to do What’s Easy

I’m learning a lot about training, thanks to our new puppy. Whimsy’s a bright girl who quickly realized who was in charge (mom) and who was Mr. Fun (dad).

Whimsy makes an honest attempt to pay attention in puppy class.


Dad spends a lot of time avoiding the things that set Whimsy off, into a frenzy of playful jumping and biting. I understand the desire to avoid conflict, but it’s clear that the more you avoid something, the more important it is to actually address the issue.
Of course I see the parallels in my riding.
Everything I do with Micah is more difficult to the left — due to issues in my body as well as his. As a result, it’s so much easier to linger on the right side, where everything is easier.
Two years ago, Natalie even said to me, “You’re riding Second Level to the right; First Level to the left.” Ow!
While we’ve made big progress and the issues aren’t nearly as glaring now, the right is still our preferred direction.
Thanks, to Whimsy, I’ve decided to renew my commitment to working on what’s difficult, resisting the temptation to do what’s easy.
Granted, there are times when it helps to get things rolling in the easy direction, then try to copy that ‘feel’ in the harder direction. However, I’ve let that become a crutch. It’s time to break the habit.
Today, I vowed not to start off to the right, where’s it’s easy. I picked Micah up at the walk going to the left, asked for a marching walk, asked the neck to bend in both directions, and gave a prompt correction if he slowed down or pulled on the rein.
It’s obvious that this work is going to be good for me, my horse, and my puppy. While it’s tempting to do what’s easy — avoidance doesn’t pay off in the long run.
Give this a try with your horse (dog, husband etc) and let me know how it goes!

Related posts
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April 10, 2018
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dressage, dressage training, natalie perry dressage

Tough, Quick & Tactful

This week I asked Natalie to give Micah a tune-up.
The fact is, I’d gotten soft physically and mentally.

This week I’ll ask Clint Eastwood to remind me to be Tough and Quick. I’m counting on Natalie to help me to be Tactful.


Micah had experienced a brief lameness (happily resolved) and I’d been worried that he was out of shape and perhaps not feeling 100%. I asked less of him and he was happy to comply, with a distinct sluggishness under saddle.
When I reported my fears to Natalie she said, “Well, Hannah’s not having any problems getting him to go forward.”
 (Hannah’s a young rider who rides Micah three days a week.)
In that moment, I realized that I’d been had — my horse was taking advantage of me. Damn.
Since then, we’ve been working on getting Micah to be more forward. Things improved but I know he’s got more go in him than he’s been giving me. Which is why I asked Natalie to help.
It had been months since Natalie had given Micah a tune-up and I was looking forward to seeing her at work. Natalie is quick, tough, and tactful — a beautiful rider.
I’d warmed Micah up before Natalie got in the saddle, so he was ready to go. Within minutes, he was in trouble for pulling on the rein and slowing down. They had a ‘discussion’ wherein Natalie addressed the issue in no uncertain terms.
Micah rolled his eyes and looked over at me, asking me to bale him out.
“Sorry buddy,” I said. “You asked for this.”
Within 15 minutes Natalie had Micah forward and round. He looked terrific, like an upper level horse.
“Your turn,” she said.
I got on and could feel Micah’s forward energy beneath me. His engine hummed.
“So I need to stop letting him get away with so much,” I said. “Be tougher about all infractions.”
“Tough and quick,” Natalie said — emphasizing that I had to be just as quick to reward to correct response as an inappropriate or inadequate response.
The image of Clint Eastwood popped into my mind. His characters have never been tactful but they’re certainly been tough and quick.
This week I’ll try riding with Clint to toughen up my soft side but let Natalie’s voice remind me to be tactful.
“We need to do this more often,” I told Natalie – referring to her tune-up. The lesson was an eye-opener and extremely worthwhile. For once, Micah was more tired than I was. Note to self: use your trainer to your full advantage. It’s worth it.

Related posts
All the Pretty Horses
April 10, 2018
DIY Dressage
March 14, 2018
Riding the Outside of the Horse
February 26, 2018
dressage, dressage training, lameness, natalie perry dressage

Working Through Lameness

Micah’s had a run of bad luck in the past two weeks — first a minor lameness in the left front, then a small wound on the right hind. At Micah’s age (and mine), a few aches and pains are to be expected – but how we treat them is so important to recovery and longevity. That’s where I’m so grateful to have the help of my trainer, Natalie Perry and assistant trainer, Mari Valceschini.

Having extra sets of eyes on the ground is so useful when considering a lameness. I’ve gotten better at detecting which body parts are involved but it’s great to have those observations confirmed — and get some guidance about recovery.
Today I went out for a lesson knowing Micah had been sore. I was ready to take stock of his current condition and didn’t really expect to have a full lesson. (In contrast, when my very first horse, decades ago, came up lame I was a tearful mess.) I’ve been through this enough times through the years to know that it comes with the territory, so I came prepared to develop a recovery strategy. (I was also grateful that we’re not right in the middle of show season — so there’s no sense of pressure.)
Micah went nicely on the lunge line except for one rambunctious canter depart and looked reasonably sound. I wasn’t sure if he was dragging his right hind toe a little more than usual … or if I was being paranoid. That’s where those extra eyes come in.
Once Micah had warmed up lightly on the lunge line, I got on and let him warm up under saddle, adjusting to my weight. The trot felt pretty good and the canter to the right was close to normal. To the left, the right hind didn’t have quite the push it usually does, making it apparent that although Micah was showing improvement, he wasn’t quite sound.
Natalie suggested I go ahead and do some walk work and test him out again the next day. He’ll be restricted from full pasture turnout, so keeping him moving will be good for him mentally and physically. When on stall rest he gets terribly bored and is constantly calling out to remind everyone that he’s being neglected.
So, this morning I worked on Micah’s marching walk, alternating it with the stretchy walk. It’s good for me to work on lengthening and shortening the reins smoothly, without taking half the arena to get it done.
I also focused on keeping my right hand low, close to the saddle (an ongoing effort for me) and my left leg down and back (another issue). Rather than being discouraging, it was a productive little workout and I felt really happy to be spending some time with my horse.
As for Micah, he thought it was the perfect ride! Lots of treats and little effort. I’m quite sure he was happy we didn’t try to ‘push him through it.’
Again, I’m really grateful to have the support of Micah’s owner and our trainers as we work through this with the well-being of the horse as our foremost concern. I’ve found that taking time with lamenesses and developing a careful recovery program can be very successful — which is so rewarding.

Related posts
All the Pretty Horses
April 10, 2018
DIY Dressage
March 14, 2018
Riding the Outside of the Horse
February 26, 2018