And damn, has it ever paid off.
For many reasons, the dressage trainer we started riding with in November is exactly what Paddy and I need right now. She's got the patience and the attention to the exact right details, and as a result we've just been making breakthrough after breakthrough. Every ride has been exponentially better than the last. I really wish I'd had time to blog about each and every lesson, because each one has been like gold. My riding has really progressed, and with it, Paddy's rideability.
It's a big personal journey for me. I'm learning the feel of things like never before, and I'm so much more body-aware. The more I learn, the more I realize just how far I have to go, and how we've been coasting along on what I thought was correct. Honestly, it leaves me wondering how we ever got the scores we got last year, considering how wrong we were doing things! But the feeling of doing it right, of feeling the flow and harmony... it's really awesome.
We're no longer spending 45 minutes trying to get Paddy focused on his job. It doesn't take 10 minutes to get his attention back after a walk break. I'm (mostly) not pulling on the reins, my core is stronger, and Paddy is so light off my seat sometimes I have to remember not to ask so "loudly". Don't get me wrong, we still have so much to work on - but things that were a huge source of frustration only a month or so ago are not even a blip on the radar now. We've moved on to tackling the next problem, and the next, and the next... and as I get better and better, he goes better and better.
Unfortunately I only have a bit of video of our last lesson (in the dark), and maybe it's because it's dark that it looks so good... but damn, y'all, I feel like we've come a long way in a short time.
This is why I ride. It's the journey, it's the learning, it's the progress. It's the feeling of being one with your horse - of making it look effortless because it really is just a shift of weight or the tightening of a muscle, instead of pulling and pushing and kicking. I'm not just riding my horse anymore - we're actually doing dressage. :)