I'm starting to play with mid-level dressage and it's making some things painfully apparent. Such as I don't freaking know how a lot of things work. Which is frustrating when you've ridden something a bunch of times and think you know how it works, but then you realize you actually have absolutely no clue. Flying changes are a prime example. I've been doing them since I was ten. I've put a change on lots of horses. But when I had to actually break it down and think through how I was going to get what I needed because, for the first time, details count? Big black hole hidden under all those years of just getting it done.
Second level really is the great black abyss of training, as Janet Foy calls it. You can't do it unless you accept that the stuff you did up till now just isn't going to cut it. You've got to embrace the fact that you are still a beginner despite the fact that it took you years to get here. Or decades, in my case.
So young, so innocent, so clueless, such a cute pony
I suppose it's good that I'm now aware of just how far there is to go. In terms of 'movements', Theo's started on most of them. No piaffe or passage, of course, but flying change, canter half pass, and pirouette canter are starting to show up. The pirouette canter wasn't at all planned, but beginners really can't steer and Theo now understands that he can, in fact, collect the canter. So when I applied emergency levels of half halt and turn while cantering, we got our first steps of pirouette canter while he stepped around his butt to change direction and avoid the random appy pony coming at us with no steering and shaky brakes. Well, so that's a thing. My only thought at the time was 'don't hit the pony!', it wasn't exactly a movement with a plan. It certainly got me some shocked comments from the peanut gallery in the ring. Good boy, papi.
But hey, if he can do canter half pass and pirouettes and flying changes, he should be able to go right up to PSG, right? Right?!
Yeah, I'm discovering there's a very big difference between a horse that can step around his butt in the canter while dodging a pony and a horse that can do a proper half pirouette, on command, reliably, in correct balance, and make it look easy. I used to think I knew what collected felt like but now? I have no idea! Since it's a spectrum and not a button I push which is what I thought it was for a very long time. You don't just train a collected trot as opposed to your working trot. It's not a setting on the stove. You add collection until you've got enough. How much is enough? Dunno.
Is it a dressage horse? Dunno.
I say that a lot right now. Dunno.
Is this shoulder in good? Dunno. Are we ready to debut Second? Dunno. Is this thing collected? Dunno. Where the hell is my other glove? Dunno. Spoiler alert, Theo had my other glove. I did retrieve it, but I will be in the market for a new pair of silk lined SSG gloves.
My barn friends really don't get it. How can you not know if you can do it? Well, I don't know what 'it' feels like yet, so I don't know if I'm doing 'it'. I know things are happening, which is progress, but I don't know if enough things are happening. I need about a hundred reps of doing the thing and being told 'yes' so that I can lock in my brain what 'it' feels like because I've never tried to do 'it'. And just because something feels good doesn't mean I'm doing it right. I'm fully expecting to find out my new, much more pleasant to ride canter needs yet another overhaul and isn't going to be pleasant to ride any more. Which will make me sad. I'm enjoying his canter for the first time since we started out together. He's not falling on his face and dragging on me while trying to break with every step. Having him just freaking canter under his own power and hold his own balance feels so awesome.
Is it a collected canter? Dunno. Are those steps of lengthening starting to morph into medium? Dunno.
Past self had a rather inflated view of her skill set. I used to think I knew. Now I know I don't know. Yay?
I now know that this is not an acceptable First level canter. Progress.
All of this is why I have a guest instructor coming in. I've learned a lot, adding words and concepts to my gut feelings of 'good' and 'not good'. I know when a trot feels good, I now know that it's because he's really stepping under himself and swinging through his back with a relaxed, engaged topline. I can feel his shoulders come up and his booty drop as he takes the weight back. I'm discovering I now need to add all of those words to all of the other things I've been doing. That's a lot of things that need actual understanding. It's going to take awhile. I expect to be saying 'dunno' for many years to come.