All along in our dressage adventures I’ve always felt that the majority of Henry’s shortcomings are a reflection of my own. And in a way – they are. Of course they are. But he did come with plenty of baggage himself, and I’ve tried like hell along the way to do what I’ve felt is best for him and his brain and his future, to the best of my ability. Lately in particular I’ve felt like there are a couple things that Henry has been juuuuuuust on the edge of grasping, but I’m not quite educated enough to really help him make that last little step. I asked Dressage Trainer to ride him this week so I could watch and see how he handled certain things, and so Henry could be helped a little bit more. This is a first for us, so I really wasn’t sure how it would go. On one hand you’re like “maybe this’ll be the magic bullet” but then you’re like “Oh crap, that would mean I really do suck.”. And then if you’re like me you curl up in fetal position and chant “Dressage is too hard” over and over again. But back to the trainer ride…
So Trainer hopped aboard and got to warming up. Henry did pretty much the exact same things for him as he does for me. First thought “Oh thank god, I’m not totally retarded”. Second thought “Well this means we still have a ways to go”. Henry isn’t bad. He’s never ever bad. But he’s tense, he’s an overachiever, he’s very sensitive, and he comes undone pretty easily if he feels trapped or confused. He’s very simple to ride, but he requires a lot of tact and precision. The mental baggage from his past shows through a lot in the tension. It was awesome to watch this happen with Trainer so that I could see what he did to work through it, and be able to see the exact moments of change in Henry. Feeling it is one thing, seeing it is yet another level of education.
Of course Trainer said he liked him and he was a talented horse and he thought I’d done a good job getting him to this point, etc, which were nice things to hear. It’s easy to get so bogged down in progress that you forget where you started and how far you’ve come. A year ago this horse was in a hackamore because a bit sent him straight nose-to-chest and made him very nervous. I have to give him a lot of credit for that, and need to do a better job of keeping our journey in mind. He tries hard, his canter is lovely, and he has definite moments of brilliance.
Trainer got more true shoulder in and shoulder fore work than I am able to get – I can tell I’m doing too much with my reins there. He also got better trot-canter transitions than I do. I suspected those two faults had a lot to do with me and I think this confirms it. Something else to work on. Otherwise I think, and Trainer seemed to agree, that we’re on the right track but he’s just gonna take time. We’ve got to get him to relax more and connect better and really give his back and his ribcage – he’s still protecting himself and hesitant, and who can really blame him. He’ll get there one step at a time. It’s a lot harder to undo and redo than it would have been to start from scratch in the first place.
I do however feel more confident that I’m doing the right things, and that eventually I will have a pretty nice horse when we get through all that. For now I’m happy with where we’re at and know that we’ve just gotta keep chipping away. Trainer ride: success!