I am indebted to Amanda Pisano — or perhaps to the people who introduced me to her. She is an amazing riding instructor. Ah-mazing. Let me be perfectly honest here for a moment. Six months ago, my riding was in a world of hurt. It sucked. Now…I will say that I hadn’t had a lesson in 2.5 years due to back-to-back pregnancies. My horse and I had both been out of work for nearly 3 years. I could get on and yank my way through a 2nd level test, but it wasn’t pretty. And it wasn’t real. I had no seat. I balanced using the reins. My horse was a tense mess. I was a tense mess. Want proof? So why would I show? Well, the short answer is that I wanted to to show with a friend who was moving to England — and that was my last chance. It was a wake-up call too.
I rode with Amanda a long time ago. She initially helped me bring Jewel from a place of racehorse to the beginnings of dressage horse. Then life intervened and for one reason or another, it became a long time between lessons. A long time. The hiatus is over! Dave gifted me with a series of riding lessons as one of my Christmas gifts. This was the perfect gift for me and I have used them all since January. And, while it might sound like I’m tooting my own horn, I will say that I am really thrilled about how much improvement we have made. One of the biggest tangible changes is that we have lowered my stirrups 5 holes — 5 HOLES !!! — since January. I’m finally comfortable in my SEAT. My leg is long and I’m secure in the saddle. I wasn’t before. I can also feel when I’m tipping forward in the saddle and I feel like I finally know how to ride a proper half-halt. That’s not to say that I can actually do it all the time (that’s the challenge), but I at least know what it SHOULD feel like.
Probably the best part about it is that my mare keeps getting lighter and lighter in the bridle. There is no pulling or struggling, etc. There is contact with the bridle, but it is so light and so wonderful. In fact, our focus has been working on transitions without tension and our rides have been more harmonious than ever. Our most recent lesson was ah-mazing! We worked on really getting her to understand how to lengthen and follow my hand down to lengthen her frame — all the while creating MORE power in the hind end. Its been really transformational. I feel like we’re on a precipice of something truly amazing. I’m so excited to move forward!!
One of the best side effects from all of the focus on relaxation has been that I haven’t had the normal crazy “mare madness” issues this spring that have manifested each spring in the past. I have ridden outside — even done lengthenings at the canter — without any snorting, bucking, etc. I just have a very willing dance partner and its been unreal. I hope to actually have video of a ride in the near future. We will have the opportunity to put our skills to the test this coming weekend at the Hoosier Horse Fair during the ride a test clinic where we’ll be riding First Level Test 3 on Saturday. Hopefully I’ll have video to share from that ride.