This weekend Fidelia and I rode in three lessons with Spanish Riding School Bereiter, Florian Bacher. I have ridden with him before with my client’s western dressage horse, Jazz, and I was looking forward for the instruction I’ve become addicted to in the last decade. Faith and I have struggled since she bucked me off before Thanksgiving. We had a great ride with Becky Knollman shortly after that helped my confidence a little, but then between weather and teaching extra and holidays and being sick, well, my horse is the typical Cobbler’s Child. So, that little seed of hesitation grew into a little sprout, which soon turned into a stupid, thorny vine of fear that twisted all through my brain. I felt stuck and frustrated and knew Faith felt the same.
We arrived at the beautiful Summerwood Equestrian Center on Friday and had a great schooling session. Like I said in some of her really early posts, she gets lateral like a gaited horse when she is super tense. Unfortunately that popped back up the last two rides before the clinic, so knew we were super off “the good path”. But, still, her head was in the game and that made me super excited for our rides.
Saturday rolled around and I was quite nervous. “My goal is to not get bucked off or throw up,” I joked with my mom. We started out our warm up with all four on the floor, but wow it was tense and icky. I was trying to keep her tempo slower so I could get a better connection like we had worked on with Becky, but spicy pants was not really having it. Florian had us ride really forward until she relaxed through her back and then worked with my seat to slow the tempo. My girl needed to accept the leg into the hand better. I needed to relax basically my entire body and actually ride my horse instead of perching up there like a defensive pigeon (my words, not his haha). Oh, did I mention also keeping it together in sitting trot? Eek, I haven’t been working on that with her, so it was a nice challenge for both of us. It felt like a hot mess, but looking back it wasn’t as bad as it felt.
Less than halfway through the lesson and we were both getting more confident and relaxed. We walked, trotted, and cantered and achieved a pretty decent degree of back to front connection. By the end, I felt like I had my horse back, the horse I fell in love with four years ago as a youngster. Hurray!
Sunday’s lesson started out better quality than I had achieved by the end of the first, so it was promising that the second lesson would be even better. I made a great game plan in my head and set a few riding position goals for myself to ensure I was riding my best for her. Legs on, relaxed seat, quiet hands. I felt more confident and she felt phenomenonal!
It’s so amazing to have my beauty girl rise to the occasion. Set that bar high and watch her go! We worked on more of the same but with so much less tension to begin with that we had much better connection so worked on more cantering in both directions with good success. She is so fine tuned and responsive off my aids that we had some super work in all gaits. Saturday cemented the principles and feeling more in my head. New goals for Day Three: no pulling, (not even a smidge), more consistent legs on, quicker connection into the bridle.
Today’s lesson was the best yet. I feel like Faith and I made a complete 180° from where we started in Friday, and I no longer feel any fear or anxiety when I get on. She is confident, relaxed, and so willing to work. I am confident, relaxed, and with a great plan of action to take her training forward. We worked on more connecting in the trot and then, since she was very accepting of my leg so quickly at the beginning, got to work sooner in slightly more collected work. (Collection being a relative term in comparison to the nicely forward trot I use to get her in front of the leg and through her body). We worked on a 10m circle at trot and canter and also did some leg yielding to a larger circle at the trot.
You guys. My horse knocked my socks off today. Remember that bar? Set it high and she rises to it every single time. I am absolutely on Cloud 9 with how much we accomplished this weekend. I feel absolutely confident with her again and know we are on a good path to success. I got so many compliments on her (including being asked if Marius helped me pick her out!) Faith is such a special horse to work with. Our partnership has grown another big leap this weekend, showing me again and again how sensitive and willing she is to work. I can’t wait to develop her slowly and correctly so she can blossom as an FEI horse someday.
Again, a huge thank you to everyone who made this possible! Florian for his time away from home, teaching in the US. Jorie for organizing the clinic, Teah and Summerwood Equestrian Center for hosting, Janice for letting us use her trailer. My mom and Laurie for driving down for support, Rachel for your friendship, grooming, and videoing. My awesome sponsors and companies I am delighted to support: Equus Couture, FreeMotion Equine Massage, County Saddlery, and Grand Meadows Supplements. Without this village of support, I would be nowhere!