Category

transitions

dressage, dressage competition, humor, transitions

A Safe Space to Be a Mere Mortal

It occurred to me that if I’d posted only those photos of my horse and I doing well at our most recent show, the response would have been enthusiastic but much less entertaining.
When I posted the photo of Micah taking a poo at M (for Manure) in my Walk to Poo Transition post, the response was terrific. My friends laughed with me as I sat through what felt like the longest nature break in history.
Following is a replay of that glorious moment, followed by my attempts to regain composure and continue the test. As you can tell, I couldn’t quite believe what had happened. It was definitely a good lesson in letting go and carrying on.

M is for manure. Photo by Andrew Martin

M is for manure. Photo by Andrew Martin


The numerous (and hilarious) comments on my personal Facebook (Lauren Davis Baker) and business page (Dressage for Mere Mortals), and soaring views on my blog (www.dressage mortals. org) told me I’d struck a nerve.
Leaving a steaming pile of manure behind, I try to regroup into a free walk. Photo by Andrew Martin

Leaving a steaming pile of manure behind, I try to regroup into a free walk. Photo by Andrew Martin


Clearly, people can relate to those moments when you put yourself on the line, only to be humbled by things beyond your control. When readers shared their own stories of moments of humility, we strengthened our community. For me, community is what this blog (and riding, itself) is about.
An eternity later, we make it across the diagonal and carry on as if nothing untoward had happened. Off camera, my trainer is (rightfully) laughing her head off. Photo by Andrew Martin

An eternity later, we make it across the diagonal and carry on as if nothing untoward had happened. Off camera, my trainer is (rightfully) laughing her head off. Photo by Andrew Martin


I’d love to post photos of my horse and I looking grand (and at times we really do!) but we see so many impressive photos of upper level riders with natural skill and ability (plus the time to ride), riding horses beyond our price range: horses with more talent and training than most of us will see in this lifetime. Sometimes that’s inspiring – but at times we need reminders that the struggle of the average rider is its own story, worthy of telling.
And so I share my weaknesses, knowing that it takes lots of small moments — and not giving up — to make progress. As riders, of course we have faults! But we live in a culture where admitting faults is sometimes seen as a weakness.
Personally, I’d like to create a safe space where it’s ok to say, “I love dressage but it’s really, really hard for me.”
I invite you to join me in that space. Or at least visit it on occasion, when you need a laugh or encouragement.
A better moment, during the same test.

A better moment, during the same test.

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dressage, equestrian, halt/trot transitions, horses, riding, transitions

Hesitation Blues: the Equine/Human Mind Meld

They say a horse can feel a fly anywhere on his body. This time of year, watching horses twitch, swish their tails, and stomp their feet, this does appear to be true. But can a horse feel a thought?
I’m not saying that horses are psychic but clearly my horse, Micah, feels every waiver of my attention. Let’s say we’re doing a leg yield and someone walks by the arena with a wheelbarrow. My eyes flicker to take that in and there’s an instant wobble in the leg yield. Micah felt my attention stray and his mind went off course with mine. The wobble was minor but real.
You could say Micah was paying such close attention to me and that he responded accordingly. Or you could say Micah took advantage of a moment. Regardless, he felt my focus fade and responded accordingly. No matter how you describe or interpret the behavior, it’s rare to find a horse who will go on auto-pilot for long, unless you’re asking for an amble.
I’ve begun to see just how important focus and the human/equine mind meld is in training. The other day we were practicing halt/trot transitions — an excellent exercise. I was trying to get Micah to move briskly off my leg into the trot. In my first attempts, Micah was sluggish. I realized that I was hoping he’d spring into the trot but not really following through with my body language. As a result, Micah would lumber into the trot, with me just a bit behind the movement. We’d pull it together within a matter of seconds, but it really wasn’t good enough.

Even at the halt, we need to maintain focus

Even at the halt, we need to maintain focus. Photo by Andrew Martin


Improvement only came when I made a full commitment to the transition. Instead of hoping Micah would trot off briskly, I rode him forward into the trot, expecting a crisp response.
In the first instance I was tentative, saying “I hope you’ll go.” In the other, I committed and moved with Micah into the transition. This time I said, “Let’s go!” and Micah heard me. The difference was impressive.
Moving out of the halt. Could have used more forward focus. Photo by Andrew Martin

Moving out of the halt. Could have used more forward focus. Photo by Andrew Martin


If you hesitate mentally or physically, you horse is likely to respond with a hesitation of his own. He’ll give you what you ask for: a half-hearted transition.
As riders, our attention has to be riveted on the task at hand. Our bodies need to commit, as well — going with the horse’s movement, anticipating a prompt response, and giving at exactly the right moment.
Try this exercise yourself and see what kind of a response you get. Once you fine-tune it, you should get more prompt trot transitions throughout your ride. You can work on all of your transitions this way. Let me know how it goes!

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cantering, dressage, leg yield, renvers, stirrups, transitions

Like Two Feet of Fresh Pow

I finally came up with an analogy to help my non-horsey husband understand why I’m cranky about leaving town right now.

I’m having so much fun with my horse and our barn community, I’m just not eager to leave. Micah and I are really starting to click. I’m dutifully working without stirrups, trying to improve my seat and memorize the feel of where my legs should be.

A minor adjustment to my position in the saddle made a huge difference in our last lesson. I was able to sit more deeply in the canter, with that mysterious sense of being ‘engaged.’ I want to own this. Micah came up and under me in a whole new way.

Last week's schooling show gave us great input as to what to work on next

Last week’s schooling show gave us great input as to what to work on next

I’d love another thousand hours of cantering without stirrups to help me get it right. Throw in transitions, leg yields, and changes of direction to challenge my stability. Add exercises like shoulder-in to renvers to make me move in the saddle without blowing my leg position. I love the challenge – both physical and mental.

Yet here we are, packing for a trip to Palo Alto. Not in the least bit a vacation destination. I am so grumpy.

“Imagine,” I tell my husband  “that it’s ski season and you get two feet of fresh pow.” (That’s ski-language for fresh powder, also known as ‘freshy.’ )

“Oh,” Al said, with a glimmer of understanding. Al’s the kind of ski-nerd who’ll get up early to put first tracks in the pow. He’d be crying if we were leaving town after a fresh snowfall.

Al on the slopes, his happy place

Al on the slopes, his happy place

“That’s how I feel,” I told him — although what I have is WAY better than even the best day on the mountain. Counting the days until I find myself back in the barn, working on attaining balance and feel.

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canter, dressage, horses, humor, riding, transitions

Whose Legs Are These, Anyway?

I’ve known my legs my entire life, and you’d think we would’ve worked things out by now. When walking or cycling, my legs behave as expected. I don’t even have to think about what they should do, they simply go through the motions for me. It’s fantastic!

On the horse, however, things are different. My heels slide up, toes point down, and the entire leg slides forward. No, legs, no!

IMG_0427

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canter, dressage, horses, humor, riding, transitions

Big, Ugly Frogs

In Japan there’s a saying that goes like this: “Eat your biggest, ugliest frog first.”

I love this phrase, which I take to mean, “Tackle your largest problems before anything else.” When it comes to riding, transitions are the biggest, ugliest frogs in my itinerary. Nothing else shows off flaws more quickly, other than falling off.

Continue reading…

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June 28, 2017
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