Dressage training: Just think more rationally

On Thursday I had one of the most motivating and inspiring lessons that I've had ever since leaving the UK and my lessons with Lili from Brooksby Dressage. Sometimes it just takes a while to find to someone you can connect with and suits both you and your horse and I was quite bitter about having to stop my lessons with Lili when I moved back to Finland as she (like Andrew Fletcher before her) understood both Vallu and I. On top of this, ever since Vallu's injury I've been utterly paranoid about having lessons because I'm worried that a new trainer won't understand that he needs/I want to give Vallu lots of walk breaks when working so there is the smallest possible chance he hurts himself again.

I've been lunging Vallu over poles once a week for well over a  month now because I realised how absolutely bored he was with his normal lunging session. He put zero effort in until he saw he had to get his little hooves over the poles after which I built them up to tiny jumps and I now have a very happy horse whenever he realises he's being lunged. Despite this, I've not wanted to do pole work when riding on my own because I've felt very insecure and worried that I would mess up and somehow Vallu would end up hurting himself (see how my brain works now? #eternallyworrying) So you can image how much I was panicking for agreeing to a pole work lesson with M (I won't share her name because I'm not sure if she wants to be named on my blog!)
Vallu is a good horse in the way that he will change the length of his stride in order to get over the pole. M saw this straight away from us just walking over the pole a few time when warming up and said that he is incredibly good at changing the length of his stride to make sure he got over the pole. I never knew this about Vallu, so when M explained this and then said to trust him more I started to force myself to relax. The only one that was going to mess this up and risk getting us hurt was me! M pointed out that I'm lucky to have to a horse that will 'do the work' for me so I only have to point him in the right direction, keep the pace the same and stay calm and then everything goes well! Throughout the lesson I think he only touched the pole twice, and no falling over 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

There were several things that M pointed out which might seem really simple to others but they gave me massive light bulb moments, such as that if your horse is not straight before a pole, then he is guaranteed to touch the pole and there's a chance the horse might trip over it. Another way to avoid any chance of tripping over poles is to always have a collected trot - again, I just had not thought about it like this and once this had been pointed out I felt a lot more happy. I also got some tips for how to ride when Vallu is hot and spooky, I go into lockdown that means I am constantly blocking him from moving correctly. I'm just constantly holding back in two ways:
1. tensing my wrists so that there is a constant slight pull on his mouth
2. not moving my seat with his movements - just slightly out of sync with his body, especially in canter. 
So the solutions to stop me blocking him without realising it is to move my seat and hands with the movement of the horse so that I can keep my short reins without blocking him moving through his shoulders.
I know this sounds SO simple but for some reason the way she said unlocked something in my brain.
The most important thing that I took away from the lesson was to be more rational as a rider. One pole on the floor is not a reason to freak out because it is just one stride of trot/canter. Until M said this at some point in the lesson, in my mind it was not just one stride it was more five strides before a jump over the pole and Vallu buggering off with me afterwards! Once she said to just think about it as one stride, I was able to canter over the pole in both directions without hyperventilating or messing up Vallu's stride. And I had fun! Hopefully we'll be able to figure out a time that works for both of us with university classes starting again next week for me so that I have someone who keep me going forwards towards the competition season.

1 comment:

  1. That's great that you found a new trainer to work with!! That relationship is so important to me too. Seems like a great ground poles lesson too. Charlie could learn something about not tripping all over the poles from Vallu!!