To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement! I am also incredibly eager to soak in as much as I can! One of the first things Michael said to me was “Dressage is for every horse, but every horse is not for dressage!” I would say the same for riders! “Dressage is for every rider, but every rider is not for dressage.” This week, dressage is for me!!
To me, I can see both sides for the riders and the horses! Dressage at this level is very focused for both. It takes unbelievable concentration and body awareness for both the horse and the rider, which makes it intense. But on the other hand it is very simple, based on very clear progression of development. But that doesn’t mean it is easy! But I am game, so this week I am honored to be here and immersed in learning all that I can and sharing my discoveries along the way!
I spent most of the day sitting next to Michael or Gwyneth listening to them coach and train. The work session for the horses are always less than an hour and may involve ground work on the lunge and riding depending on the lesson they are working on that day. The horse is ALWAYS considered first! If you know me, you would know I could not sit and watch anything where the horse’s learning and safety were not THE PRIORITY.
After lunch and the student group lesson, I got a private lesson with Michael on Lewool, a grand prix horse of Michael’s. There are no pics of this as I didn’t have anyone to hand my camera to and to be honest I was so nervous I forgot!
1) Never show up to ride with a Dressage Olympian without having your training pyramid memorized! I was mortified but will never forget Rhythm, Relaxation, Connection, Impulsion, Straightness, Collection and be able to spout it out backwards forwards and upside down! lol! So know your training pyramid so you can see and say where the horse or the rider is mistaken. “you are out of Rhythm, there is not a connection there, you have lost your impulsion, etc.” (yes, when asked I could not respond quick enough with the steps of progression!)
2) Work your horse with the stirrups down and watch what the stirrups do and how they move with the horse. That is what your legs should do. EVERYTHING you do MUST be done in Rhythm with the horse!! The first step in the pyramid! (I have done this but not absorbed it and will be doing it more on each horse!)
3) Your hands, wrists, and forearms belong to the horse. They are quite and steady but not tense. Neither your fingers or your wrists move, they are the horses and the gateway to your feel. You move through your shoulders and down through your elbows to influence your horse in RHYTHM with his movements. It’s a feel! (Mine stinks! I am either too firm or throwing the horse away.)