I ride with two different trainers, one for dressage and the other for jumping. I find both of their methods to be helpful, encouraging, and effective in improving both the way I ride Foster, and Foster’s way of going. However, they have two very different backgrounds, and very different ways of teaching. So imagine my surprise when recently my lessons feel like déjà vu over and over again.
A couple lesson cycles ago, the emphasis on the flat and within our jumping canter was on the under neck. Specifically, re-teaching Foster how to balance himself within and between the gaits with a more correct, supple topline. At the same time, again in both lessons, we were also asked to create a much more active canter behind. Coincidence? I think not. Since then, I have been working hard to make his canter ‘bounce’ and not get flat like he wants to do. It was a mark of success to me, then, that when a very talented dressage rider at my barn hopped on him last week while I took a breather she specifically called out the quality of his canter in a complimentary way. An 8 on a canter circle at the last show, and an improved feeling in showjumping similarly confirm some improvement.
Now, in the last week or so, yet again I am hearing similar advice in my lessons. In our jumping warm-up, legthening-to-collected transitions help get him listening and in front of my leg, but I am constantly being told that the transition is not sharp enough, and that he shouldn’t take so long to transition within the gait. On the same note, in my dressage lesson Wednesday, I learned that I need to make him more reactive. Coasting along in a pretty frame is not going to cut it anymore, and I should feel like I have both a halt and lengthening accessible at any point in my ride. Right now, I have those tools, but within a matter of 2 to 3 strides.
Seeing these patterns within my lessons tells me several things. The first being that these issues are not to be ignored, and that solidifying these skills will make his job easier whether it be over fences or in the dressage court. The second is a sense of confidence in the training program I have, that there is consistency between the trainers I employ even though we are not working on the same things.
It is now my responsibility to school him in the way they advise, and raise my standards so that Foster and I can continue to grow together and improve our abilities. Time to expect more from him, and myself as a rider/trainer. Adult amateur though I may be, it’s my influence that will over time have the greatest impact on him, as it’s my butt in the saddle first and foremost. It’s our moment to up the ante!