Archive for the 'Dressage' Category

The Do Over: Update

amywink April 9th, 2012


Wildflowers are in full swing this year, a wonderful sight and evidence of the ended drought in Caldwell County. Will has been having a relaxed spring but we got back to work yesterday with my newest goal: ride. After some recommendations from Francine, I’m moving forward to see what he remembers from his riding days, some 6 years ago now. I had a huge triumph with Saturday’s riding lesson. I rode outside for the first time! And I had a great time! Moving out of the enclosed arena, and the very controlled environment, could have triggered a set back but the experience was a resounding success. I rode the entire dressage field, which I am used to driving, and was able get Dol collected and steered correctly. My obsession with driving straight lines (and yes, circles) paid off and I was able to do a pretty decent straight line as well. Next time, I may strap on that GPS and see what a riding lesson looks like!

Because of Saturday’s triumph and with the recommendations for seeing what Will remembers, I saddled him up on Sunday and lunged him at all 3 gaits to see what might happen. Nothing happened. Whew. He walked well, trotted well, and trotted *very fast* well though I asked him to canter. He eventually oooooomphed into the canter with a little heave (not really a buck) and did reasonably well too. Of course, it was clear that his off time had caught up to him and he was more than a wee bit out of shape. We’ll be doing some lunge work to get him back in shape and improve his topline. After our lunge work, I harnessed him up for a nice short drive too and we enjoyed Easter Sunday together in the spirit of renewal and rebirth.

Blessing continues to impress in her training and looks wonderfully fit and completely gorgeous.


She’s looking at a miniature horse here and getting ready to show her stuff. Somehow, though, she’s taken on her brother’s forelock and clearly needs a bit of product to get that unruly thing under control!

Of course, in harness, the forelock is not important and she showed her stuff on the dressage field. As usual, every week, she’s more and more confident in her work and looks fantastic.


She is still concerned about unusual things but her response is relatively calm as she gets a bit taller and looks hard at any concern. Here, she’s noticing a person walking down to the dressage field, still pretty and working but cautious.


But after checking things out, she got back to work and did her job very well.


I had another ride along, though no photos because of the jiggling, and can’t wait to get into the driver’s seat for a test drive. It may be a while still, since she’s just 3 weeks into her carriage work. She looks so good, it’s hard to remember she’s only beginning.

Ride to Drive

amywink February 20th, 2012


This is the lovely Dol on a sunny day earlier in the month. In the midst of Saturday’s rain storms, I had my third riding lesson with her– in the cozy and covered arena. It is certainly a good time to take up a horsey activity that can be conducted indoors. I am leaning toward being very tired of the rain, though we now have an Official “Much Improved” outlook for the drought through May. I will keep riding if it keeps raining–though really, I am unlikely to stop riding even if it’s not raining!

I am gaining confidence and strength with my third lesson and many things are clicking into place–leg position, foot position, seat position as I get more and more relaxed in the saddle. My hands, it seems, need the least adjustment. Whew. I’m also not nearly as sore as when I began! Morning yoga has definitely helped.

At my last lesson, I noticed how much more swiftly I could tell what issue Dol and I were having and quickly correct it–getting deep into the corners and bending in the turn, for example, which can be Quite A Lengthy Discussion while we drive. It’s also becoming clear how she gathers her entire body to move correctly forward, rather than simply faking it with a nicely curved neck. Of course, it’s quite different than the experience from the box seat. Instead of watching her gather herself correctly, I can feel her collect her body and feel her elasticity in the movement. Once I get back to driving, I suspect this will enhance my interpretations of what I am seeing as well.

My obsession with driving the perfect circle did pay off yesterday when Malen asked me to trot a 20 meter circle and I was able to do it! Everything Francine taught me about driving the circle translated to riding the circle. Riding the circle underscored the importance of excellent body posture to create the circle. My tendency to lean forward and into the circle while driving is not at all practical in the saddle and thus was instantly corrected!

I have to admit that when I started my riding lessons, I thought my riding goals would be minimal and mainly a single one: stay on. But now, just a very short way into the journey, I have tripped some cognitive switch and the links between riding and driving are suddenly illuminated and the way once dimly lit now blazes much more intensely.

Little Dressage Princess

amywink January 24th, 2012


Blessing continues to blossom in training and is turning into quite the little dressage princess. Though she has expressed Certain Opinions with her elegant tail, she remains fairly willing her education. Here she is after a difficult side-pass (moving to the side while remaining straight) img_3423.jpg While it certainly must be a challenge to figure out where all four legs must go at the same time, she is figuring stuff out with only a little display of ire.

Generally, she’s doing extremely well and I can see excellent progress on her part. Will may not recognize his little sister once she graduates!

The Big Picture

amywink September 30th, 2011


Look at all the pretty circles. This is the GPS map of my lesson last week. The lesson felt as lovely as it looks and I was so pleased to see how good it looked from the satellite. Though I can see several issues on my individual laps (which I am not posting), the entire map shows a quite lovely drive. Sometimes it’s best to look at the big picture.

I got back to driving this month, the weekend the horses came home from their evacuation, and we are slowly preparing for our first Horse Driving Trial, at Haven Hill in November. It’s been 2 years since I’ve been over there and Will and I have come along way from our training days!

This is also part of my “5 year plan” to compete in an HDT or CDE. I have now been driving 4 years, and Will for 3, if my calculation are correct. I had actually devised the goal, oddly enough, as an example for a writing class I was teaching at Southwestern University in 2005. I’d sort of forgotten about that goal, leaving it written down on an assignment sheet will do that to a personal goal! But as I sent in my entry form this year, I thought about that 5 year goal and the long arc we’d taken to get to the actual fulfilling of it. And that big picture came into view again. As Martha Beck wrote somewhere, it’s important to have both the eagle view and the mouse view.

Right now, I am also looking through the mouse view. I am working on memorizing the Training Level Dressage Test 2, which I am concerned I’ll forget in the middle. The first time I drove a dressage pattern, I felt so good about half my circle that I totally forgot the other half…..thank heavens it was only a CDE clinic. This time, I want to make sure I have it down so I can enjoy the dance.

To that end, I have gotten a bit obsessive about learning the pattern. I created my own dressage field on paper, using a spreadsheet I could print, then I spent some time “driving” the test on paper during my lunch hour at the office (yes, students, your professor really is obsessed with carriage driving!). As soon as I got the basics down, I decided to practice “on the field” instead of just on paper so last Friday, I spent some time walking the arena. I “performed” the test twice, talking my way through the gait changes. I got all the actual elements right in my memory….but I can not walk a 40m circle to save my life:


Can you believe those… those….. footballs?? Yeesh.

Thankfully, I *drove* the test this past weekend and I can drive a much better circle than I can walk.



And yes, yes, I understand the prevailing theory of not driving the dressage test so your horse doesn’t memorize it and anticipate the movements wrongly, but I needed to try it, and well, *walking* it was clearly not going to do it! Interestingly, ridden dressage websites recommend riding your pattern once a week. So, what’s the difference between driven and ridden memorization, I wonder. I will break it apart in several different sections as we get closer to the actual competition.

So, the weekend approacheth, and it will be back to driving. Last week, I finished my lesson a little after 9 and had enough time to drive Will before it became blazingly hot, at 11:00. The weather people promise us that the 100+ temps are “finally broken” but we shall see. They’ve also given us the festive news that we may be in a 20-40 year drought cycle. So when did that clock start???

Home Safe

amywink September 12th, 2011

We brought everyone home safely Saturday. The horses seemed to survive their week’s vacation just fine, though they were happy to see me when we arrived.


They are looking more and more alike–and maybe I noticed it more since they had been away.


To celebrate their return, and because it was cool enough, we drove on Sunday. It was great to be back to driving. We just took it slow and steady, working out the kinks after our 6 week break.

I will have to step it up a notch, however, since I have decided to try to compete at the Haven Hill Driving Trial this November. We have 8 weeks to prepare and learn Training Level Dressage Test 2.

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