Sunday, July 31, 2016

New Instructor: Lesson Recap 7/24

As I've mentioned previously the barn that I had Katai at temporarily is going to be my new barn and L's instructor who I'm calling Jane is going to be my new instructor. It's really bittersweet because I really like L as an instructor and as a person. We get along really well and we've come through a lot with the pony together. She knows and gets both Katai and myself and is the first instructor I've had that seems to understand my goals. She actually wants a pony (probably a GRP) and it's fun to be able to talk top ponies with her.

Mostly she's just taught me so much and took Katai from a disaster to a really amazing and talented dressage pony. I'm sad to be leaving her and frankly if this weren't about my budget I wouldn't be leaving her. However, I'm very excited to be going to a barn where I can take regular lessons with a dressage instructor and specifically one that took L up the levels!

At my lesson with Jane this past Sunday unfortunately (fortunately?) Katai wasn't her normal self. She normally settles right in at a new barn but as soon as I pulled her in to tack her up all of the horses started running and screaming and that was just too much for her. She panicked and I had to fight with her just to get her saddle on and then she was very up when we got her to the arena. Jane was really helpful and gave great and calming advice about how to get her lunging better and once she was in a good place I got up.

She lost it a bit, more horses screaming, while I was trying to get her to stand still as I mounted but eventually I got on and as normal she was much easier to deal with. However, she was still having a pony mare meltdown and was tense and less compliant that she has been. She was also rushing badly, tight through her back, and not listening to my leg aids, just using them as an excuse to go faster. Frankly she wasn't that much better than she was when I moved to my current barn.

Luckily she got better quickly but still just wasn't herself. I didn't mention any of this to Jane since what was important was riding the pony that I had then and Jane ended up focusing more on me anyway. In our 45 or so minutes she identified a few things that I've been struggling with but didn't even realize that it was why I was struggling. The first is that I'm arching my back.

Great example of the arching
I know that I have been but it hasn't come up in lessons so I haven't done anything about it. It mainly crops up when I'm tensing up because Katai is rushing or not listening but it's sort of there all the time. When I was working with J I got waaaayyy better at this. She worked on this with me a lot and I never felt more proud of my position but of course everything else fell apart with her and I guess I wasn't quite sure what to keep from her and what to let go so this fell away along with pretty much everything else I learned when I was working with her.

The other thing that Jane focused in on is something that is completely new to me. She let me know that when Katai is losing momentum I sort of push her forward with the front of my pelvis. She said that I sort of "throw" the front of my hips at her like I'm trying to make a swing go higher. That throws my position off and, more noticeably, makes her hollow her back and throw her head in the air. I felt like a lightbulb went off and for the first time I understood why I've been struggling with transitions.

Jane had me sit into the transition, she told me not to be in a hurry to post, and keep my position more stable. Then once Katai was going nicely she had me start rising while focusing on "pulling" my belly button back into my spine. It was amazing the difference in Katai when I did this.

During the lesson I felt huge improvements but of course when I tried it on my own, once I got back from WA, I felt all over the place and Katai wasn't as inclined to listen since I'm sure I wasn't being as consistent or honestly even getting it probably. However, she still was really good and in the moments when I think I was close she felt great.

I'm looking forward to resuming lessons with J in September and until then I'll be working on my homework!


  1. Learning new things and then doing them on your own is hard! I'm glad that you have an instructor though and things to look forward too. I also hope that the horses stop screaming!

    1. It is!! It feels so awkward and everything else falls apart since I'm concentrating on something new. I do too, they certainly weren't helping haha.

  2. I am a back archer too. I got it from years of Hunter/Jumper lessons. I feel like a fall back on the way I rode as a kid when things get stressful. Sounds like a very productive lesson!!

    1. Me too! I started as a hunter/jumper rider and still revert to that when I'm in a tense place (or sort of all the time right now haha) but Jane was awesome because she also started as a hunter/jumper rider and wasn't letting me use that as an excuse ;-)