Just not correctly. Well, after two weeks of non-stop rain and Flash healing from his soft tissue injury, we finally had a chance to take a dressage lesson this past weekend with our trainer in Riverside, Ca. The weather was beautiful, warm, (about 80 degrees), and windy. It had been about 6 weeks since our last lesson and only two or three chances to ride since then, so my expectations were not high. The two times I did ride Flash in our arena at home, he was sluggish and stiff, and a little bit out of shape. After a half hour, both he and I were exhausted. The lessons with our trainer are intense. Usually 10 minutes of walk to warm up, then a good 40 minutes of non-stop trot and canter work.
My wife and I trailered Flash and Jackson up to the lesson and she rode first because she makes those decisions. Besides, I'm the designated photographer and had to take photos of her lesson. I tacked up Flash real fast, tied him to the trailer with a hay bag to keep him company, told him to stay out of the wind, and not to bite the airplanes as they took off over his head from the small airport next door. Then I went to photograph Annette and Jackson in their lesson. Flash was real good. He just sat there eating his hay. Once Jackson called out to him, complaining about having to bend and not being able to canter right away, and Flash just called back and said, "Chill dude, you'll get your chance".
Annette ended up having almost an hour lesson, and then it was our turn. I got on Flash, did a little warm up, then we started to work at a forward, bent walk. Almost immediately my trainer started correcting my body position: elbows into my side, left shoulder back, heels down, chest out, look straight ahead, not down, too much outside leg on the left lead, not enough inside leg on the right lead, keep your hands still, thumbs up, firm outside rein, no, too much firmness, lean back, watch that left shoulder again, it's coming forward. At this point I have to tell her, "hey, I'm a guy. I can't multi-task. Isn't it time to pick on Flash?" She said "No", Flash is doing the best he can with the rider he has". It was not quite like that, but pretty close.
Flash and I are just at training level. He doesn't really have any aspirations to go higher, but our trainer is talking about first level and what is needed. I listen. Flash just blinks his big blue eyes and says, "Dad, just try to find some spooky sensory stuff, something that will hold my interest like walking under a multi-colored parachute, pushing a battle ball with people behind it, doing the teeter-totter bridge backwards, or just chill'n with my best friend, "air-man", flapping all over me".
Well, half way through the lesson my body position gets better and Flash and I start to click as one. He is stepping under at a trot, really using his back. At canter he is nice and bent and "popping" into each stride. Then our trainer wants to work on immediately going into canter at a walk. Well, Flash doesn't immediately go into anything unless it is to tell Jackson to get away from his hay. But we try. The first time was a no-go. The second time my trainer said to ask immediately and reinforce it with a hard tap of the whip. Well he did it, correct lead and all. And he learns real fast too. The third time I just asked with a little slide of the leg to the back, and he shot off like a cannon. The left lead was better than the right, but it gives us something to work on.
Our lesson lasted well over an hour. When we finished we were both extremely tired, but happy. My wife said Flash looked like a warm blood towards the end of the lesson. I asked her if I looked like Steffen Peters. She gave me a blank stare and said, "you've been sniffing too much compost".
It's good to be back in the saddle.