New City, New Barn

Forgive me for being a bit MIA the past month. Between moving in to my new place, starting a new program at a new university, and working like crazy to stay caught up on the readings and course work, things have been busy to say the least!

As a result, this post will be short and sweet. I just want to jot down a few things about my new barn, coach, and the horse I’ve been riding so I can consciously try to improve for my next lesson (on Monday). One thing that is really unfortunate is my only being able to afford to ride once per week with the cost of the lessons at my new barn. But they are really high-quality lessons, and it gives me more time for school work. I just can’t wait for the day when I can finally own and train and build a bond with my own horse. Until then, however, here’s how things are going.

The barn:

  • Dressage barn – very dressage
  • The coach is a Grand Prix rider who has qualified for the Olympics in past, she was also declared coach of the year recently in Canada
  • The facilities are nice, nothing over-the-top fancy, but they have a nice overall atmosphere
  • The few people I’ve met seem friendly
  • Very close to where I live

The lessons:

So far I’ve only been taking private, just to get to know the place. I’m going to try group lessons with another university’s dressage club, and see how things go. I’ve been told by a friend that her group lessons aren’t great though, because she teaches in the German style and has each horse follow the one in front. I will give them a shot though, because they are much more affordable and then I can ride once per week, rather than alternating weeks.

She thinks I’m a lot less experienced than I actually am, because I’m having a bit of trouble connecting with the horse. The first ride I couldn’t get Bam, the PSG trained horse I ride, to connect with the contact. I guess he is accustomed to a very light and steady contact, and I am used to a heavy contact with Katie. I probably pull a bit too much too. But I guess it’s good to ride a horse like Bam who will really improve me in this way. His transitions are impeccable and his gaits are gorgeous. But I haven’t gotten to do much besides for a bit of extended canter and leg yield, because she thinks I’m a total beginner based on my inability to establish a connection. But I guess riding is a humble sport and she will probably see me improve quickly and help me to progress. Part of it is nerves, of course, that were getting in the way of my first ride, because the second one was a lot better. I could keep ride Bam into the contact pretty consistently on the right rein, but the left was giving me enough difficulty still that she whipped out the side-reins (something to consider – what is the difference between the two sides? What am I doing differently? Steadier outside rein required?).

So what can I work on to improve for tomorrow’s ride? I think I need to keep the following in mind:

  • Light, steady contact. Keep my wrists relaxed and loose so I can follow the horse’s movement
  • Flexing him a bit to the inside helped to prevent him from throwing his head in the air
  • Keep my fists together, and they will place my wrists, elbows, and bit in-line (means raising my hands a bit higher than I’m used to)
  • Keep my eye over the poll, not to the inside (especially on circles)
  • Rhythm and forwardness are key – really need to establish this before she will let me do anything more fun
  • When sitting trot, keep my thighs lose, don’t grip them to the saddle
  • My calves should always be in light contact with the horse’s side
  • Don’t be afraid to use my spurs once to get him going, as opposed to nagging more often
  • Roll my shoulders back
  • Pay attention to my straightness over him, and his straightness under me
  • Good exercise: leg yielding on the circle – ie. push him from inside leg to outside rein to get him supple

That’s just about everything that I can remember! Hopefully things continue to improve. Right now I don’t really feel like I’m being challenged enough, because I’m used to doing so much more. But I suppose it will be beneficial to take a step back and re-learn how to do some of the basics the correct way. I’ll let you know how things develop!

Oh, and here is a photo of my new friend, Bam. He is very sweet, kind and patient with me!

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