Johanna is a classical dressage and Centered Riding coach. Which means, of course, that my seat is going to be messed with. While my flaws and the corrections are not new to me, she always finds a way to build on what we did before. It's never overwhelming but it is often right at the edge of my abilities and forces me to push myself.
Work was pretty intense right up to the day I wanted to leave for the clinic which didn't leave much time to prepare. So I parked the trailer by the barn (sorry Ed, I know that's not where it goes) and packed it over the week with the last stuff going in Friday morning. Julia came to help to which was awesome. Carmen was a bit tense about the trailer which is opposite to what I want. Rather then load her right away I let her graze for about 10 minutes until I saw her begin to relax and then I loaded her.
When we arrived at the clinic site she backed out, looked around and said 'oh, here. Okay then'. And that was her attitude through the entire three clinics. There were no meltdowns, spooks, tension or issues. It was incredible.
|pretty much her approach to the weekend|
I'm not going to do a lesson by lesson recap. Instead I'm going to focus on my learning and how it impacted my riding and Carmen's way of going. This means I may skip around a bit to help it sound cohesive (well at least that's my goal).
My goal for the clinic was to really figure out the bend for Carmen and I. She tends to get tight and really stiff. To sort this out for us the focus of the three lessons for Carmen and I was on two main things:
1. slow Carmen down. Don't worry about impulsion because it makes her rush. Instead slow her right down so that she and I can feel each step. Then add impulsion. (all of this is an oversimplification but I'll talk about it later).
2. Use my seat to control speed and transitions (then add leg/rein as needed).
Slowing down is hard for both of us- we both tend to want to hurry. Which I realize is counter productive but I wasn't being effective in slowing her down without an argument. The first lesson we spent a lot of time on it and it was hard. However, I could feel how soft and easy it was really helping with her bend. At first she was a bit resistant but as she began to understand it Carmen became quite obedient.
|screen shot of us doing a shoulder in on the first lesson. Look how|
correct and soft everything is!
I love how soft everything is. It's not that she didn't try to take advantage at times- she totally did (she is Carmen after all) but it wasn't major and it was more like 'okay okay'.
|I'm giving Carmen a massage while listening to|
Johanna explain something. Look at her face.
Our canter work was incredible. Starting on the first lesson- I asked her to step into canter and she did with the lightest and fluffiest of canters. It felt balanced and together and was so easy to sit- it took very little muscle to stay centered and balanced. I honestly didn't want any of my lessons to end.
|from Saturday's lesson|
|and Sunday. I loved the lighting in this one|
I would find the feel, lose it, regroup, find it. Johanna always gives you time to figure it out. Once she has you doing something she tells you to go off and play with it while she advises in the background. It's different and can be difficult to get used to not having someone direct your turns, shapes etc but it's so valuable. It creates independence and understanding with her there to mentor you. On the third day I spoke with her about what I was feeling in my warm up and wanted to know if that was what she was seeing as well. Fortunately she confirmed it which made me happy because I need to know if I'm doing it right when I'm riding on my own.
I told Johanna that I really wanted to work on having my seat so engaged and having Carmen respond to just the seat but that I was likely going to have to use my legs and hand to help her understand and to make sure I get what I'm asking. She said that of course I would because Carmen needs to build her understanding. She then said 'but I know you will get this' with total confidence. Which made me feel really good because she doesn't say things like that willy-nilly.
In my last ride (on Sunday) right at the end, Carmen and I were in the groove when Johanna called out 'now add impulsion'' . I sat up and asked her with just my seat and a little leg. Carmen lifted her whither and went into what felt like an extended trot. At the very least it was an awesome lengthen trot. I was able to sit it half-way down the long side and then had to post. Her front legs were flying in front of her and her hind legs were pushing us. It was like being in a plane at take off. Unfortunately, there was a glitch and this did not get recorded. But that's okay. I have the feeling in my head. I brought her back to a walk and told Johanna that that felt like a good place to end. Which is also what Johanna encourages- stop when the horse understands and feels good about herself.
While Carmen is often difficult on the third day of an event this was not the case this weekend. She must be starting to understand better or feel okay with the new place. Because she never spooked once (I know I already said that but it bears repeating). She loaded quietly and unloaded calmly as well. In the stall I took off her halter and she gave me a gentle nudge before ambling out to the pasture. In the past she usually trots off without so much as a 'see you'.
What a great experience. Thank you Johanna for teaching us (and Karen for organizing, and Stacie for hosting and Jill and Angie for being supportive and fun).