Tuesday evening was my lesson with the new dressage trainer. This trainer is at a barn that’s about 10 minutes from ours. We can actually ride there (and used to when my husband took lessons with a different trainer who used to be there). Once we dragged Nilla onto the trailer and drove over to the trainer’s barn, I had time to tack up and walk down to the arena. I was going warm up a bit before the lesson but a different instructor was teaching a little kid on a pony and the pony was pretty freaked out to see Nilla so we had to stand around for a bit and let the pony settle.
Dressage trainer had those awesome in-ear headphones that connect to a microphones for lessons. Anyone ever used these? I’ve seen them before, but never used them. It was pretty cool until it fell out twice and we gave up. I told her a bit about Nilla and where we are and she had us get going walking and trotting around. Nilla was very upset and very distracted by it. She was actually braying which she has never done with me riding her.
The trainer had us work on lots of transitions. Trot to walk to trot to halt to trot and constantly mixing it up. Then we talked about cantering and I started telling her how I don’t canter in the ring with Nilla and she instantly said, “oh, you want me to ride her? I’ll ride her then.” And she went off to get her boots.
She rode her around and starting teaching her to canter at a kiss noise. Which is something Laura had asked me to do too. I can cluck all day long, but honestly I am terrible at kiss noises. I even had to stop for more water during the lesson to keep trying. Anyway, she cantered her in both directions a few times and walked me through what she was doing. She was moving her inside leg up, asking with her seat and kissing.
Then she had me get back on and told me to canter her. And I considered not doing it. I have real back pain issues (from breaking my back 2 years ago) that make it very hard for me to handle anything other than a smooth canter. Nilla still likes to crow-hop if she gets unbalanced and leap into canter, both of which are very jarring to my back. The trainer was understanding and said I could refuse, but I got the sense that I just needed to do it.
So we cantered. And it was not pretty. But you know what, it’s the first time I’ve purposefully cantered her in the arena ever. So, even if I had gotten nothing else out of this lesson, it was worth it.
I didn’t even realize I was doing this while cantering, but clearly I was reverting to very bad habits doing this. My hands are up this high because I’m so used to her rooting and crow hopping at the canter. I also have my leg back into a chair seat. So it’s pretty defensive riding. But whatever, it’s cantering. I can calm down about it later.
Nilla was good though. She had a few crow-hops and a few overly enthusiastic transitions, but she mostly just cantered. We also did a ton of transitions. We’d canter for maybe three strides, then trot. Trot a few strides and go right back to canter. The trainer agreed that she just doesn’t have the balance or muscles to handle much cantering so to keep it to just a few steps for now.
After cantering we worked on collection and bending. Here we had some major struggles. Apparently I cannot keep my outside arm back. The trainer had to keep telling me to fix it. At one point she was yelling at me (yelling just to cover the distance because we didn’t have the headset thing anymore) “Left hand back. Back. Back. No. What is your left hand doing?!”
And you know what, it was everything I needed. I need someone to yell at me when I’m doing things wrong. I want to get corrected. I’m paying for it. The trainer was quick to praise as well, but she kept on me when I wasn’t doing things right.
She also got on me about my position and kept nagging me to sit back and stop leaning forward. I don’t actually think I lean forward that much, but I do ride like a hunter/jumper, not a dressage rider. Honestly, I ride like an ex polo playing jumper who aspire to just ride like a jumper, but hey, baby steps.
We ended with some more canter including pushing for a full circle, which we sort of got. There was lots of praise and pats of the Nilla mule.
We scheduled another lesson for next week. Then the trainer and another trainer at the barn came out to help us get Nilla on the trailer after we said how bad she was. So, of course, she walked on without balking at all like some sort of normal trained equine. So apparently the best method is to stand around for 10 minutes discussing how to get her on before doing so and she’ll just do it.