Saturday, April 4, 2009

March 2009

NEWSFLASH: I HAVE BEEN AWARDED A TRAINING SCHOLARSHIP BY UTAH DRESSAGE SOCIETY! I plan to use this scholarship towards further lessons with Charlotte Nord-Nielson. I learned so much in one 30 minute session, and was really challenged to face the sport psychology aspect of riding, without that actually being the topic of our lesson.

Two weeks after the February show, I attended another show in Las Vegas, this one hosted by La Madre Equestrian Center and organized by Desert Dressage Association, a new GMO. I rode only one test each day, both days riding Second Level Test 4, in an attempt to get our second qualifying score for Regional championships. The judge was General Jonathan Burton. We earned very good scores both days, and I am thrilled with our overall improvement in accuracy. Charisma has become much more rideable and submissive, and I have put a lot more effort into expecting her to accept the work. It is funny how horses(read-people) will very often live up(or down) to our expectations. In the past, my prior trainers would have called her unwilling, unable, unsubmissive, and not rideable. I've had a very reknowned international judge and clinician stand on the ground and tell me "She just doesn't try for you." Who am I to argue with such an authority? And Charisma would inevitably live up to these expectations. But, she is not a pair of old jeans, to be thrown out and replaced with a fancier, more spectacular pair that will make my butt look good no matter how big it gets. And so, I made a conscious decision to set aside all negative thoughts, and simply work on what I COULD fix: me. Could I ride better? Absolutely! Could my position improve? Definitely! Could I be more precise in my aids? No question! Could I be more thorough in my daily training? Positively! How many times have I been told: Charisma can't do the work; She can't carry herself uphill; She doesn't try; She doesn't have the right kind of movement. And she lived down to these expectations, without fail. But, once my attitude changed, once I decided scores no longer mattered, whether or not Charisma could ever look like "those" horses no longer mattered, as soon as I decided to just work on ME, I suddenly had a very willing, focused partner. All that mattered was...the journey; the education; the bonding; the pride. And for the third show in a row, that horse layed down the best effort she had in her body, FOR ME. Did we get our second qualifying score? No, not quite. Four tenths of a percentage shy on Saturday(63.6%), and, two tenths of a percentage shy on Sunday(63.8%). While I can't deny I was initially disappointed, the reality is, at no point in our career together have we ever worked this much in harmony or been this undeniably consistent. And not just run of the mill consistent, but, consistently GOOD. I was actually happier with some aspects of the rides than I was about the ride at the prior show that earned us a 64.2. And the most important improvement of all, that tells me we are finally on the right track in the training, is that, at neither of the last two shows did we receive a single comment that the carriage was not uphill enough for the level. I now feel very strongly that, while we are doing very well, we can still do better. "It can always be better" is no question the mantra of dressage...but, while I always understood "it" needed to be "better", I never thought we could be better. That feeling, that we CAN, has created a quantum shift in my approach to training my horse, and all horses. Success is relative. For the likes of Courtney King-Dye, consistently scoring above 60% at Second level would seem very inconsequential. But, we all have to start somewhere, and it isn't as easy as it may seem, when you are not riding a horse with extravagent gaits and extreme talent for the sport. I know one thing, I will never doubt a horse's abilities again, but will instead look more to the intangibles: character; heart; the rider's influence; diet and overall happiness; and a basic desire to please.