From Stressage to Dressage

The trainer had decided it was time to focus on dressage. Dressage being the first element of the 3 in eventing and on a side note, my least favorite. 

Dressage is often called the ballet of the equestrian world.  It is 'the highest expression of horse training'( so says FEI);  it is incredibly difficult, powerful and only interesting if you actually know what's going on.

I have never studied dressage nor used a dressage saddle, not practiced the movements and yet dressage is necessary to ensure your horse is moving right, effectively and with impulsion in all disciplines. Ideally the better at dressage, the better you are at riding.

With the intent on dressage, it means long painful and very frustrating lessons in the saddle with legs that ache for days.  I use parts of my legs I don't think my legs even know exist. 

To take a dressage test also means learning the test. At best I can barely remember what I did yesterday. 

My problem is not understanding what is being asked of me: more leg, more bend, more impulsion, MORE CONTACT. I get this.

My problem is execution. 

My seat in the saddle is still weak, my pelvis is slightly twisted, my left side collapses, I have a frozen shoulder and knee issues. Can you imagine if I didn't do yoga? I shudder to think. 

 

Dressage is the element that I find the most difficult. It requires absolute presence; you cannot let your mind wander.   The same applies when doing a headstand in yoga; alignment, presence, and awareness are key.  If you throw yourself up, you risk injuring the tiny vetabrea we like to call your neck.  A headstand without proper alignment is potentially dangerous; the same goes with eventing. It is imperative you have a responsive, willing and listening horse. With show jumping, I can get away with a certain amount of lack in my riding ability, mostly because the jumps are small.

Point horse and jump. I cannot fake dressage. 

I am ill prepared for what I've chosen to do in this Wobbleberry Challenge. I don't own a proper riding jacket, nor a stock( still trying to figure that one out) my one show shirt is over 7 years old, my pair of beige jodhpurs do not stretch and fit poorly inside my boots. *took me years to realize I'm a breeches only girl. I'm seriously lacking in the equestrian kit, however, if you need yoga leggings, let's just say I stopped count at +20. Fortunately, my trainer lent me a beautiful vintage Caldene jacket and a stock that may have needed some ironing. Just saying. 

After many session of working 'dressage', our test was booked. My trainer decided since we were making the drive, it made sense to do not one test, but TWO! Great. How is my memory to cope? 

I wasn't too nervous, mostly because in dressage there are no elements to jump. This causes much ease inside my stomach. And why did I pick eventing?!

My trainer works me in the warm-ups which is slightly sadistic that I am afraid to admit I both like and hate. She works me so hard that I want to get off and cry. She doesn't give me an inch, not one. It's work. every. stride, every damn one.  It gets the grey matter in my head focused and I dislike it because it's bloody hard work. I feel like I can never do what she is asking, all I do is turn more and more red in the face, not a look I like and probably why I stay away from hot yoga. *I'm only half kidding here. 

With my mantra being 'not to stay no',  this means I attempt everything she asks of me, even as I'm suffering and dying on the inside cursing myself for the immense love I have for this sport. 

Honestly, I'm becoming to think yoga is easier than dressage. 

There was no let-up, even on the way into the test.

Work. Every. Stride.  

 Moments before the first test.

Moments before the first test.

Well, we didn't disgrace ourselves. I remembered the test and all the movements and I may not have saluted the judge properly but I think my big sloppy grin of relief hid that fact. 

 Starting to look the part but seriously, how handsome is the Ginger?!

Starting to look the part but seriously, how handsome is the Ginger?!

During a short break, basically to find the toilet before back to the warm-up for round 2. After another short agonizing warm -up of  'will I ever get this?' we went into for our second test. 

 The closest I have to smiling. 

The closest I have to smiling. 

We made a small mistake, which was totally my fault and spoke to the kind judge after. She gave me a few tips like saluting the judge without the whip in hand, which I thought was a valuable piece of information for the future. She also reminded me to breathe and after looking at the photos from the day, I pretty much grimaced the whole way round. 

Aside from that we did pretty good, in fact, we did bloody brilliant! We placed 1st in BOTH OF OUR CLASSES!  AND won a special prize for having the highest Wobbleberry score. *in fairness, there was only one other wobbleberry and she WON her class too! Win win for the Wobbleberries!

My first dressage experience was amazing. My hope was to do well, but I wasn't expecting to place first! Twice! The whole process is  completely addicting however I have realized I've set the bar quite high for myself now. 

The venue at Fenning Farm was lovely, the cake was gorgeous which I've realized is quite important when attending shows and everyone was so nice. 

 I cannot thank the Owner/Trainer enough for all the work she does with us. She was a brilliant groom who definitely inspired me to want to groom for her one day; I still have quite a bit to learn but I love it. Her coaching was the key to total success and because the Ginger is so wonderful I want to do a good job with him.  Those agonizing hours in the saddle were worth it and Frog was a superstar. I'm beginning to think as long as I can keep the vomit down in cross-country, we will be able to complete our goal of an 80T.

Time to prepare for cross country training. Even as I write this my hands are starting to sweat.  WIsh us luck, I'm gonna need it!