dressage courtDressage tests are a formalized sequence of movements, with transitions between the three gaits (walk/trot/canter) at designated points along a 20 by 60 meter arena, marked by letters. For instance, the rider and horse enter the arena at A, proceed to X (the center of the arena), halt, salute, proceed toward C at a trot, turn left, canter in a 20 meter circle at E...etc.

So, needless to say, success in dressage requires at a minimum the ability to ask your horse for -- and get -- transitions from walk to trot to halt to trot to canter...you get the idea. As someone who had her confidence crushed by a lesson horse who ran away at the canter, one of the things I loved about Samba from the beginning was her Whoa. She had a great stop button on her! Unfortunately, by June, that seemed to be her only button under saddle. "More Whoa than Go" was a description I thought I wanted in a horse, but the reality of a horse that refused to move at all, let alone pick up an upward transition from walk to trot, brought me to tears. I knew that if I couldn't solve this issue, Sammie would be for sale within the year. I just can't afford to keep an unrideable horse.

Lisa and I had begun the process of ensuring Samba was not in any pain. We knew the saddle fit was ok (not great, but certainly not causing discomfort), and had gotten the equine dentist out to pull her wolf teeth. Getting her out of Clancy's backyard and into a professional barn with quality (safe) footing was the final step in our transition to a forward-thinking horse.

When we got to the Heavenly barn, Sammie started to blossom. The first thing I did was sign up with Meg for part-training, meaning Meg works with Sammie three days a week. Any or all of those three days can be spent in a lesson, as opposed to Meg training or riding Samba. I opted for a once-weekly lesson and two training sessions.

Meg began working Samba on the ground, as she still needed a week without a bit in her mouth in order to heal fully after the dental work. Once Meg was able to start working Sammie in a bridle, she quickly taught her that forward was the new buzzword. I was amazed at how quickly Sammie bonded with Meg, and how willing she was to do everything Meg asked of her. I shouldn't have been amazed, though. Sammie is a very intuitive mare, and she seems to know instantly who she can trust. It was the same with Lisa, and Meg's experience and confidence translated instantly. We were off and running!

I soon learned that I have a long way to go toward earning Sammie's respect. I don't have the strength or finesse in my seat and legs as Meg does, and Samba requires a great deal of convincing that I really mean it when I ask her to trot. Some days, it takes the better part of 20 minutes to start getting consistent walk-trot-walk transitions, but I've learned to ride Sammie "Survivor" style: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.

As the 2009 show season draws to an end, I decided to verbalize my 2010 goal to Meg, and I'll (gulp) announce it here: I want to ride Sammie in a rated show at Training Level. I realize that the progress Sammie and I are making together is quantified in baby-steps right now, but as long as we're making forward progress, I am optimistic for a March debut at Introductory level in a schooling show, with our first "official" competition in June.

Stay tuned for future posts about our progress...and cheerleaders welcome! :)

From my blog: Green on Green

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Comment by Lee Kelly on November 2, 2009 at 12:08pm
great post, I am sure you will progress enough for the show in the spring and then it is onward and upward from there. Looking forward to hearing about Sammie and your progress.
Comment by Ferrous on November 1, 2009 at 11:03pm
Hehe... if she comes here the Squirt may give her lessons in climbing apple trees (or at least trying to). *lol*

If you need some go, try a foil wrapper or a rapidly opening umbrella... they seem to currently push the Squirt's "rocket mode" button! ;)
Comment by saddlebroke on November 1, 2009 at 10:54pm
Thanks, Ferrous! Here's to hoping the progress is "forward" progress! And if you ever want to borrow some "whoa", I'll send Sammie up for a while. She's got plenty to go around! LOL
Comment by Ferrous on November 1, 2009 at 10:47pm
Thanks for yet another great post! I'm currently in the process of installing one of those "whoa buttons" on my lad (the horse not the boyfriend *lol*). ;)

We look forward to hearing all about that first show in the spring... and about your progress leading up to it. :)
Comment by saddlebroke on October 31, 2009 at 8:49pm
Thanks! I really appreciate all the encouragement I get here at Barnmice.
Comment by Barnmice Admin on October 31, 2009 at 8:41pm
I love these posts. Thanks for sharing! :)

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