Finding a dressage trainer - a REAL dressage trainer, who nitpicks every stride, doesn't ride in draw reins, and says something more helpful than, "mooooore bennnnnnd.... goooood... annnnnd twenty metre cirrrrrclllll" - has been something of a challenge. Years ago, I boarded Cash at a barn nearly an hour south of my house, and got completely spoiled by the Grand Prix trainer there. These days, high-class board and $100/session private lessons aren't in the budget - and finding time for an hour one-way trailer ride has been a challenge - so we've been trying to find someone closer to home.
I ended up using good ol' Google to find dressage trainers near me, and found a barn not 20 minutes away - with a COVERED arena. The instructor rides Grand Prix, but was going to be in Florida for the next 2 months or so. However, she had an Irish gentleman named Brian who would be riding her horses while she was gone, and she suggested I take some lessons from him in the meantime. His background was in eventing and foxhunting, so we decided to give him a try.
Unfortunately, my rides with him thusfar have been less than stellar. I've been riding Reddums, who tries hard but at the end of the day is not a dressage horse. Brian's first words to me were, "You've been riding a while, have you?" to which I replied that I had, but for the last 10 years it had been rather sporadic. I rode for him for about 10 minutes, and he stopped me and said, "You have a lovely seat, nice leg, and very soft hands... and you need a real horse." Poor Reddums. I mean, I get it - he's small, he's gaited, but sheesh, I'm riding what I have and doing the best we can! I don't think Red lets such comments affect his ego though, and I'm sure to tell him he's my star Reddums pony often. :)
Fortunately, the second ride went much better - Brian kept commenting about how nice his walk and trot were. Of course his canter continues to be lateral and unbalanced, but it's been getting steadily better (for him) over the last several rides. We've been working on keeping the contact in the outside rein - especially the right one - and not hanging on the inside rein when Red sets his poll and jaw and starts to gait (because hanging on the inside rein makes it worse. Who knew?). I've also been working on laterals quite a lot, and they're getting much better at the walk. The arena has mirrors, so I can see when I'm getting enough crossover and when I've let his hind end start to trail. Hooray! Trot laterals still take a lot of delicate riding on my part so that Red doesn't get his legs tangled up, but are starting to exist. I have also learned that I point my toes out when I apply my leg, and it's SUPER obvious in the mirror! Doh! AND I have figured out why my right calf cramps up on me sometimes - apparently when I'm asking for more forward, I tend to pretend to step on the gas (like when I'm driving) with my right foot. Do it hard enough and long enough and volia! Calf cramps. Sooo many bad habits to fix.
The good news is that hubby's lessons with Brian have been nothing short of a miracle. In just three rides, he's got his leg under him, is posting 1000x better, is getting control over his hands in the canter, and has Oberon making transitions immediately on request. Maybe it's because Brain is male, and this is the first male instructor that hubby's been able to ride with, but things are really clicking for him. So even if my progress hasn't been all that great, at least it's working out super well for hubby. I'm riding Oberon in our lesson Monday (hubby is out of town) so I'm hoping that perhaps the change of horse will challenge me and I'll be able to get some more work (laterals, medium trot) done. Fingers crossed!
I have tried to take some pics and vid of our lessons, but the covered arena is dark so none of them have turned out. Just imagine both Reddums and Oberon looking awesome!