Time is flying by way too fast this time. My last couple of rides went very well. More great changes, some beautiful passage and she is really developing nicely in the pirouette work. I was able to have some of my rides videoed and look forward to sharing these training moments with everyone.
Today is my second to last ride and Imke wanted to focus on the pirouettes. I was excited to see what we could get if we asked her to step up to the next level. I warmed her up in some lateral work, using shoulder-in and travers to improve her lateral flexion and get her quicker to my aids. We also schooled some half-pass in trot focusing on more lateral ground cover. She loves to cover ground forward, so this challenged her to react quickly to my leg aids without driving beyond the boundary set by my outside rein. It took a bit of balancing to explain what I expected from her, but as soon as she understood, the half-pass blossomed. They were beautiful sweeping steps that were fully controlled from beginning to end. It felt fabulous to be so connected with her. We were dancing together…
We began preparation for the pirouettes on a 20 meter circle with perfect alignment. I really kept her ultra straight with my outside rein and leg and focused on maintaining activity in the inner hind leg. All of the lateral work during warm-up helped make this possible. We brought the circle down to a smaller size, first maintaining the straightness and eventually adding inner bend to begin positioning her body for the pirouettes. Horses need to lower their haunches and shift their weight into the hind leg in order to balance correctly during pirouettes and with her confirmation, this is not very easy. As I ask her to shift her weight back, she tends to slow her tempo too much. It feels like it is a combination of her really thinking about the movement and me feeling the amount of effort that she needs to put into good pirouette work. This is not the worst thing that could happen, but when she slows her tempo too much, she cannot activate the canter properly. As we began moving into a schooling pirouette, we focused on maintaining a certain level of activity even as the pirouette became smaller and smaller. As a rider, this requires a lot of balance, timing and organization. I could feel everything she was struggling with, but cannot allow it to effect me, as I am in charge of riding this pirouette successfully.
She also had a tough job though! She needed to maintain activity, use her body in a way that is not totally natural for her and listen to my aids that are directing her moment by moment. She did fabulous! I was pleased to see on the video that it did not look as difficult as it felt for her. All of the previous days of development and taking smalls steps to get her to this point really paid off. Something very important to me was that was not nervous or upset that we were putting greater expectations on her today. She gave it her best and I was very appreciative of her efforts…
Our last ride together was the best. We did a little bit of everything and she tried her heart out. I have fallen completely in love with this mare and am going to miss her for sure. When I left last time, I felt as thought W and I shook hands, said “good game” and “good bye”, but leaving this mare felt as though I was leaving a friend. By this time, she would talk to me when I walked into the barn every morning and she started to really enjoy being the center of my attention. We made a special bond together and it was a pleasure to be a part of her development.
Later that afternoon, I was able to take part in a very special experience. Imke’s mother Tineke invited some of the riders to sit with her during one of their training sessions. In addition to being included in such a personal moment between them, she opened the session up for questions. This particular horse had a bit of crookedness over his topline and they have been working on not only aligning him, but teaching him to use himself in a straight and efficient way. I experienced first hand the degree of straightness that Imke required of us during our lessons, but it was interesting watching it from this viewpoint. Not only was I watching her from the same position that she watched me, but I was able to listen to Tineke direct her towards perfection. The amount of straightness that she was working towards was incredible. She watched his footfall, the degree that he used his joints, the length and depth of his steps, the oscillation of his hips and the way that he used the individual sides of his topline. It was a very eye opening experience sitting next to her as she explained what she was looking for and what was going well now and what will need improvement in the future.
She was gracious enough to teach in English and answered as many questions as she could in English as well. There are some Dutch words and phrases that pertain to training, feeling or ideas regarding to dressage that don’t easily translate to English. I will be learning as much of these phrases as I can before my next visit to hopefully absorb even more of her wise words.
Imke touched on various movements and exercises during her ride and showed us both his highlights and his weaknesses. It was such a wonderful experience. After this session, Tineke invited us into the library to have further discussion on the session between her and Imke, our own rides and global dressage in general. It was such an honour to sit next to her and ask her opinions about training and competition. She talked about her riding history as a young girl all the way up to what she is working on currently. She touched on current and past happenings in dressage and her hopes for the future. She was so open to talk about anything that we wanted to ask of her. It was such a pleasure to be able to ask such a true master anything you want. I will never forget this day.
I took lots of notes during both the session with Imke and our talk in the library and will include them in the next post of “training notes”.
After the discussion, I took a trip to the grocery store and grabbed some of my favourites for a cozy night in. They had some beautiful fresh baked bread in the bakery, bags of Asperge soup, metworst and my favourite garlic and herb butter spread (this stuff is so good that it actually improves the taste of bread). I snacked on the couch while I finished up my notes from the day. I went out to the barn one last time to give Ms B a hug. I sure will miss you girlfriend…