I am not a stuffy elitist. I promise. I do, however believe that there are certain standards of conduct and a way in which one should present themselves when they count themselves as professionals and are representatives and proponents of their craft.
For example when I teach I wear a polo shirt or a CERT shirt (T-shirt with my logo and such on it) with jeans or breeches (I.e. clothing suitable to ride in) and boots. A student may find me occasionally in my kick around shoes when they first arrive as I'm prepping but before the official start I'm in my boots. I always wear close-toed shoes around the horses (because you know the one time I didn't I got myself stepped on). So I wear the same things I'd ride in, no excuses because I don't need a kid saying "but you're wearing shorts!" or some other such thing. I'm suffering in the heat with you my long pants and polo shirt. My driving instructor is always in breeches and boots with a t-shirt. The guy that I drove an hour and a half one way to ride with was always dressed to ride.
I pulled up to the place where I going to potentially start learning a bit more about Dressage this morning. The goal is to see if I can't get myself to the point where I can feel comfortable with all of the movements and not feel like I'm going to have to flounder with Z as she starts to progress in her training beyond my skill set and I end up holding her back. Admittedly I do have a good two or three years before that is likely to happen, but I definitely want a head start in this and if I want to ultimately pursue the medals I have to start somewhere. I got a bit of a taste for it driving out to Peoria, but that avenue closed with the onset of Summer that year and the doors did not reopen. The place sits on possibly five acres with irrigated turn-outs and a barn that holds a tack room and a half dozen stalls. I met Juliet who was in her sweats and sneakers as she was finishing up morning barn chores. She walked me out to get the horse I was going to ride, "Baby." We walked past their covered arena, which I am terribly jealous of with its even footing, letters, and most importantly SHADE. They also had a good-sized grass area with a little bank and some jumps.
Baby was close to if not 17 hands of flea-bitten grey warmblood. Seventeen hands isn't nearly so tall when it weighs only 1300 pounds instead of 1700. He is a bit lazy and shows some wear. His feet were really long and I worry about his general soundness. He does have super-short cannons, roomy joints, and withers that go forever. I was worried the saddle was a bit wide for him, but I'm defaulting to it being their horse and they knowing what fits and what doesn't. It was pretty casual, which I don't mind. I was pretty much left to my own devices tacking up and wrapping his fronts. Juliet gave me a set of spurs and his bridle. The bridle worried me slightly, the leather in places is stiff and cracked and could probably use replacing. Juliet said that one of their students liked to rinse the thing down with water after her rides and it "was a little dry." I think that was a bit of an understatement.
Colter came out as I was about to get on. I don't know, maybe I am a stuffy elitist, but I had a hard time getting over the fact that he was in flip-flops. Flip-flops! I had to double-wrap my stirrups and still ended up on the top hole (dang short legs). I also noted that the stirrups are those fancy angled things that supposedly make it easier on your legs. I took Baby out to warm up and wasn't terribly impressed with is way of going. I'm sure at one point he had nice, even gaits, but time and injury have taken their toll I think. He did have his moments of some brilliance, but much of it was trying to compensate and absorb his little hitches in his get along and he had a couple of bad steps, most likely exacerbated by his long toes. He's supposedly a schoolmaster in pretty much all the movements and I think I can feel a bit of that in there, but at the same time I'm wondering if he should really be asked for such things at this stage in his career.
We worked on getting him round and forward, emphasis on dropping his head and raising his back. We did some leg-yielding at the walk and moved up to doing the same at the trot and adding in shoulder-in as well. We played briefly with flying changes in the canter, the instruction of which consisted primarily of saying "now" when the time was and also noting that it is cued for on the downswing. I had to take a couple lot breaks to recharge at the walk as absorbing his trot is a bit of work. Towards the end of the lesson I was really hating the angled stirrups. I think my right one was more offensive than the left and I dropped it a few times. It was a bit better without it, but I didn't really want to ride stirrup less so I reclaimed the annoying thing.
I could feel some of what must have been Baby's former brilliance here and there and I know why they use him as their litmus test for new riders. He may move better once his feet are back in balance. I was hoping to ride something that felt a little less lame, but okay.
I asked Colter if there was anything particularly good, bad or otherwise and he noted that I need to step in and insist on more forward as I was a little sucked back at times and needed to go a bit more leg into hand. I was left to my own devices to cool out Baby and caught some snippets of Juliet teaching her lesson. From just the snippets I caught I think her style is more to my liking, but she is the jumper and lower-level coach and Colter is the dressage coach.
And I'm using the term coach on purpose. I don't know if I would really label him as an instructor at this point. Most of the instruction sounded like this: "more forward, rounder, more forward. Now go down the centerline and leg-yield to the rail. Do it again. Shoulder-in down the long side. More forward, more forward. If his head were down two inches he'd be on the bit. Now canter. Circle, more forward. That's better."
I'm going to give it another lesson or two and see how it goes. I'm not terribly impressed to start, but I think there is potential there. When I told Suzy who I was riding with she had heard he was a brilliant rider, but not so good on the teaching end. I may believe that. I'm going to wait it out a bit longer, though. A lot of it is that I know the principles behind a lot of this stuff I just need the opportunity to DO it and get the muscle-memory for it. I think that is more where I am at right now in my training and perhaps just being told what to do and figuring out what works and what doesn't is where I'm at right now rather than having someone blather my ear off about basic principles and exact technique.
I don't know. A little discouraged, but we'll give it some time to see how it plays out. My other option out here is CARA, but that is $56 for a half hour or 45minute lesson. I don't know if I'm ready to fork over for that.
And speaking of lessons I need to get out and prep for teaching mine,
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