Since lucky Megan is still in Florida, I lessoned with her awesome assistant Leandria today. Leandria is an eventer and is studying dressage very hard right now, so I knew my lesson would have a different perspective, which means lots of learning! And learn I did.
Our flat work began with posting the walk, which I don’t do often enough and it does wonders for my leg. Initially, my post was very little because my stirrups were far too long. They were free and came with my saddle, and I really need to replace them. Ugh, money. Once we rolled them, you could actually see my butt leave the saddle, so it made a difference. New stirrups move up my list of things to buy. Next came some double posting, another excellent exercise that I should probably be doing more of. Thanks for the reminders, Leandria. She reminded me of little things I need to fix, like not dropping my eyes and opening my shoulders more or not letting my reins get so long that I get piano hands.
Because the arena is still so open with only three jumps in the same pinwheel shape, it gave us a great chunk of space to do a figure-eight at the trot. This is a great exercise because I need to focus on keeping a consistent rhythm and pace on Audio, and something repetitive like the figure-eight is a perfect opportunity for Audio to quit on me. Thank goodness for spurs. It’s also reminding me to stay present in my ride, which isn’t always easy with my mental issues, but it’s a healthy way to fight my illnesses. My tendency lately has been to just space out when I do flat work, so Leandria was ever vigilant in reminding me to look around my turn and plan ahead. Because my depth perception is so screwed up, I was having difficulty in the end of the circle before the change of directions, especially right to left. Leandria laid down some ground poles to straighten out my path and give me a visual aid. It made a huge difference, but I’m hoping with practice I’ll be able to nail the exercise without poles.
We did a little cantering next with special focus on maintaining rhythm, position, and pace. Because we had a couple of breaks, my reaction was to really extend him out to a 14′ stride and have him really moving down the long side of the arena. But Leandria encouraged me to just relax and maintain the 12′ stride with more of a focus on the rhythm to prevent breaks. Lo and behold, it worked. It was a nice realization because focusing on the rhythm is much easier than trying to turn the jumper into a racehorse, not to mention safer for both him and me. Once I focused on the rhythm of the canter and simply correcting the errors then instead of rushing through the trot to get the canter back, we didn’t break. It even improved my canter transitions the rest of the ride.
Then came our over fences warmup. Leandria set up a 2′ crossrail and explained how it is a very effective warmup jump because it’s so inviting and has a very clear center. The exercise, repeated three times, was to approach the jump straight, land straight, and ride straight to the fence. The first time, Audio wiggled like a fish to the arena fence. The second time, I over released but he landed perfectly straight and found a much easier time going straight to the fence. The third time, we both nailed it! We repeated the exercise over a 2’6″ vertical, which was tough because the stripes on the vertical are apparently not center!
The last exercise we did was a figure-eight using the crossrail and vertical. The thing that Leandria pointed out that was the biggest difference in my ride was that the stripes were not centered. The center of the pole was a little farther over than I thought it was. We did it three rounds at a time. The first time was slightly disorganized, the second time was okay, and the third time Leandria assured me was my best. I didn’t like my turns, but I’m a perfectionist. I did the exercise one more time to finish on a high note. I was very clear about my transitions, planned my turns much better, and had a better ride because of it.
I love Megan so much and I have learned so much from her, but I also love learning from a new instructor. Leandria was very clear in all she said and used some great visuals so I could really understand. This is why clinics and shows are good. You can be critiqued by a fresh set of eyes and hear some different words to explain the same concepts. Having said that, I’m very excited for Megan to come home so I can show off all I practiced while she was avoiding the wind and rain and soaking up some Florida sunshine.