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Monday, 4 April 2011

Got the trainer, got the horse, so why aren't I a dressage diva?

We had to wait for several weeks for Winston to be shipped over to the UK as so many horses had been sold through the two auctions that had to be shipped all over the World.  Whilst Winnie was waiting to begin his life in the UK he wasn't being ridden.  He had only been broken in for a few months so this wasn't good.

He finally arrived one dark Thursday evening in November.  Adam, Rich and I were there to greet him.  He looked a pretty sorry state - so thin - even Adam wondered what we'd bought!  We settled him in, feeling both nervous and excited about the future.

Next morning I went back to the yard thinking I was just going to bond with him but Adam announced that Matt was going to ride him.  Winston went really nicely for Matt so Adam said that his new owner should climb on board.  I was a bit apprehensive but I had no need to worry, Winston was an angel.  I went home happy.

The next day I went back to the yard - an hours drive away - and once again Matt rode him first then I got on.  Obviously he had been tired from the journey the day before because today he was so much livelier and spookier.  Still, it was to be expected I reasoned.  He needed time to settle in and get to know us.  He'd just made a huge move from his life in Holland to the UK.  It must be scary for a young horse.

The thing was though, that I felt like I couldn't ride any more.  Winston had such a lot of movement and because he hadn't been worked for several weeks he felt really unbalanced.  I had been used to a short coupled horse with no movement and now I had this big gangly Dutch horse that seemed to move in every direction underneath me.  He seemed to catapult me out of the saddle in trot.  I couldn't imagine EVER being able to sit to the trot!  And because I couldn't sit - even for a few strides - it made the canter transition very difficult.  I would try to sit, would bounce, which as I banged down on his back would catapult him into canter and he would give a startled leap and career off round the school, trying to get away from this crazy woman banging around on his back!!!!!

Still, I told myself, it's early days, just keep practising.  So for the next few weeks we established a routine.  I would drive to the yard each weekday morning.  This was the old yard at Billow not the current yard.  Life was much quieter down there.  Most days Adam would be away teaching.  So, Matt and I would get Winston ready.  Matt would ride him first and then I would ride him.  Then once a week Adam would give me a lesson.

It wasn't getting any easier.  I used to dread my lessons with Adam because he insisted on addressing my problem with the canter transition so he would make me do transition after transition and I would brace myself for the explosion into canter that Winnie would inevitably make.  It became a real issue for me and as you can imagine it then became a real issue for Winston.  I would get tense so he would get tense and the transitions would get worse.

I persevered until just before Christmas then one morning I said to Matt that it wasn't working.  I don't think Matt knew quite what to say or do!  If you know Matt you will know how incredible that is!  Anyway, I think there were some hasty phone calls between Matt, Adam and Rich and a plan was hatched!

It was decided that Matt should ride Winston every day to make him easier for me to ride and that I should continue to have lessons with Adam on good old Indi to prepare me to ride Winston.  To be honest it felt like a backward step and I was totally deflated but things just weren't working.  Would I ever be able to ride dressage????

Straight after Christmas Adam and Matt moved to their current yard and our new regime started.  I would have three lessons a week on Indi and Matt rode Winston. It was fine, I was back in my comfort zone, but it was also really hard.  At Wyncolls - as you will know if you have been there - there are always people watching you.  All the previous dressage yards I'd been on were really snooty and everyone talked about and slagged off everyone.  So, I worried about what people were saying or thinking about me.  Everyone else, in my eyes, was better than me and I would never be good enough.  Not only that, I couldn't even ride my sparkly new dressge horse and I was back on my coloured mare trotting round doing a bit of leg yeild whilst everyone else was prancing around doing piaffe and passage!

Of course, they weren't really but that's how it felt to me.  I was totally wrong about what everyone was thinking too.  The staff and clients at Wyncolls are the most supportive you will find anywhere and they were and continue to be very encouraging and I love to get their feedback, be it good or bad, or just share with them how difficult this dressage game is.  It's fabulous to find out that even those people that you look up to and aspire to be like have the same insecurities that you have.

Anyway, January came and went and then it was February and I knew that Adam was going to tell me it was time for the regime to change.  I was dreading it . . .

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