It's my favourite time of the week again! Riding!
My week has been filled with pacing my activities and recovering from my lesson last week. My FMS pain and fatigue levels has been up and down, and the other symptoms nagging at me, but this week has been an ok week, illness wise.
But, I have been going through everything my instructor told me last week. Trying to memorize everything I had to do to get Pink down on the bit and moving forward as well as my position.
I am pretty determined to improve and to be the best I can possibly be. My main problems are keeping Pink going and keeping his head down. My legs tire very easily and so sustaining trot for very long becomes tiring and very painful.
I received my dressage test via email at the weekend so I printed it out and drew it out in an A4 piece of paper with the letters of the school around the outside edge.

I am getting more excited about the competition now and I am finding myself even more focused than I have ever been before. I am putting everything I am told in to practice and I'm sure I am improving each week, at least I hope I am!

My lesson started with me warming Pink up. I rode him around at trot with periods of walking in between so I didn't tire to quick before my lesson even got started.
My instructor asked me to do a 20m circle at trot, with which Pink and I complied. I had pink going quite nicely by this point.

I rode Pink through my test a couple of times and found a few areas which needed attention.
My turns were bad and my transitions were sloppy.
So we focused on the turns first and after a few goes I got Pink turning reasonably nicely. We moved on to my transitions and I picked that up pretty quickly, getting Pink to walk dead on the marker at one point - If all my transitions are like that I will be very very pleased!
I just have to remember it all for next week!

I finished the lesson very tired and sore, my pain levels starting to increase from their normal levels.
I got home and fell into bed for a lie down to rest my muscles and took a pain killer.
I hope I will recover enough for me to get the best out of my lesson next week.

As I write this I am feeling exhausted and my body hurts like I've been bashed about, but I am happy, I had a lesson where I felt I have achieved a lot, Pink went well for me and I was very pleased with it. I am really looking forward to the competition and riding the best that I can!

A HUGE thank you to my instructor and and all the helpers at our RDA group for their valuable time, and of course to Pink!

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Comment by Jackie Cochran on April 30, 2009 at 5:26pm
Dear Cat,

I have MS, different disease but ALOT of the same symptoms, especially fatigue, lack of balance, lack of a proprioceptive sense (I often don't know where my feet or arms are), and general confusion. I have ridden for 38 years, with a 5 year gap of no riding but owning horses.
I hope that you accept my advice in the spirit it is offered. I tried the dressage position, and found that it took so much of my strength that I could only ride in it for about 5 minutes. After a few times of me rapidly becoming a completely ineffective rider, I decided to go back to the hunt seat (I ride Forward Seat, Caprilli's Italian Sistema) which tires me a lot less quickly.
I really admire your strength and endurance to be able to ride dressage for 30 minutes, because I sure can't do it, and if I worked hard at it I would probably provoke an MS attack.
As it goes I can only ride 30 minutes, on a REAL good day I can ride 45 minutes, and usually ride once or twice a week. I usually have to collapse the rest of the day, and have to take it slowly the next day. I really admire what you are doing, because I have some idea of how exhausted you must get, though there is no way I can imagine the pain you experience.
I realize that most horsepeople assume that dressage is the answer for people like us. However through all the decades I have ridden, I am MUCH more secure and a LOT LESS TIRED using the forward seat than I have ever been riding the balanced, dressage or western seats. I do not jump now, I ride Forward Seat on the flat, and I am SLOWLY working now on getting strong enough in the jumping position so hopefully in around six more months I can start trotting over crossed poles. It has taken me 2 1/2 years to get to this point. This will be a big step forward for me. I never really felt secure jumping, and stopped thinking about it when I learned I have MS, figuring that it was completely unfair to expect the horses to put up with my lack of balance. I just realized recently that a large reason that I was such an awful jumper was that I WAS TOO WEAK TO MAKE UP FOR MY LACK OF BALANCE. Anyway I am stronger than I have been for decades, and maybe, with patience and a lot of 30 minute lessons, I may graduate to trotting over cross poles in six months.
Always remember that even a person as weak as we are can become effective riders. I ride at two stables (bless the stable owners!) and have been working on reclaiming 2 ruined Arabs (one at a time) at one and redeeming a British Riding pony, an Arab-Welsh, and a half Dutch Draft horse/half Irish Sport horse at the other stable. These horses were either abandoned at the first stable, or donated to a riding for the handicapped program after they had been ruined at the second.
I am not against dressage done properly. I have learned alot about the correct timing and coordination of my aids from books by dressage masters. By all means enjoy your lessons and learn as much as you can about WHEN during the horse's stride is the best time to give an aid, rein, seat, or leg. This will save you alot of energy during your riding life, and it will make you a better and more effective rider than most people. But if you ever think that riding dressage is too challenging physically, remember that there is an alternative riding style.
I hope that you enjoy your competition. However well you do, I think that you should feel really good about your effort. When one looks at it from an energy expended angle, you have put in more of your energy to prepare for the competition, and the competition, than most people ever put into their riding.
Sorry about not being able to write too well today, I just had my riding lesson today on a horse that required a lot of leg to extend his walk.
Get some rest and enjoy your riding.
Sincerely, Jackie

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