Reading Notes: The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage (Pride)

"Humility speaks truth to power. Knowing your weaknesses has 
advantages, because knowledge is power"
-Puterbaugh, The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage

For my birthday, my wonderfully thoughtful sister Abbie gave me a new book: The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage, by Douglas Puterbaugh. I’ve written reading notes for the first two sins, Ignorance and Timidity, and now it’s time for the third!

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Puterbaugh’s third sin is

Pride.

Puterbaugh declares that pride has no advantages. Though you (me!) may think that it can be good to feel pride, Puterbaugh believes that it will always, always detract. I’m not sure if I 100% agree with his assertion, but that’s the context for his chapter.

In what ways am I guilty of pride? I took very few notes for this chapter. Though I am a proud person outside of equestrianism, I learned the hard way in high school that it’s not a good way to present oneself. Consequently, I’m constantly checking myself to make sure I’m modest.

And of course, I find it impossible to maintain any pride around Robbye. She is the ultimate humbler. Plus, journaling, especially in a public space, requires oodles of introspection; Puterbaugh defines pride as a lack thereof. It’s hard to be proud with a partner who provides constant reminders of my ignorance and with a hobby which requires constant self-analyzing.

One area I can definitely use work is in the context of aids and punishment:

Punishing your horse without first considering that you might have made a mistake is an act of pride…The best riders are not so quick to blame the horse. Rather, they first question the clarity of their aids.

try to remain vigilant regarding my aids, and I certainly am conscious of my own ignorance, but it’s hard not to get frustrated when I feel like I’m asking perfectly and I’m still not getting the response I want. I need to try harder to look at first myself, and then Robbye.

How can I fix my pride? Puterbaugh recommends overcoming pride by using our reason: “Realize that dressage is difficult, and that all riders struggle on the long journey to become proficient”. Realize that everyone learns from someone; even the great stars and best teachers owe debt to other stars and teachers.

(Although I realize now that I probably highlighted this part not because it’s humbling, but because it’s uplifting. Wow, does that tell you something about my head-space or what?)

If geniuses need help and develop only slowly over time then what does that say about the rest of us? Dressage is a discipline that gives up its secrets only grudgingly. They have to be earned through grit and determination. Nothing of value comes easily.

What else did I learn about pride? Overall, I seemed to learn very little in this chapter. I hope that’s because I’m humble and sensitive to my own pride – and constantly working on it, since I know it’s a vice that I already have – and not because I’m too proud to recognize it.

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Journal (with Lessons): Sunshine and Fresh Air

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I’ve been so bad about taking photos lately. Most of the ones I do take are horrible. I’m sorry!

I was excited to get views and comments on my last journal post. I’d like to inject a little more nerdiness into the horse blog community 😉

My last equestrian journal was…more than a month ago. I’ve adjusted to my new work schedule, however, and am optimistic that I’ll be able to get back to blogging and commenting on blogs. I really really want to!

The past month of riding has had two main themes: submission and focus. Above all, I’ve been insisting that Robbye is submissive to me at all times. Eventually, I hope that this becomes a given in our relationship – we can be friends and have a happy relationship, but I’m the boss mare! Additionally, she must always be focused on me and waiting for her next instruction. Distracted by the dogs across the road? NOPE! We’re going to do twenty transitions. Flipping me off by powering out of the arena? AW HELL NO, we’re going to gallop across the diagonal in a frame.

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I guess we’re back into relationship-establishing mode. Which is great – we’re both going to come out of this happier. It just takes a whole lot of effort right now. Constant vigilance!

Midway through March, a few days after I rode Cupcake, I got to ride Zap, another draft x at the barn. He’s super broke, but not as fancy as Cupcake. It was nice to see the other side of the well-trained coin – a broke, submissive, easy to ride horse. Truly, Zap is an ammy’s horse and Cupcake is a professional’s horse. Knowing my goals, Kim has set me on the path on making a “professional’s” horse – sensitive, forward and driving, and reactive in the best way possible. Very cool.

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Robbye says, “Helmets are for cool kids!”

March 31 I had another lesson with Kim. We worked on installing light aids under saddle, but that turned into a discussion about groundwork. Something else I skipped erroneously with Robbye. Kim taught me how to teach Robbye turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches from the ground, along with incorporating back and forward work. Of course this practice also contributes hugely to submission and attention. Like longeing in side-reins, working on groundwork is a way to start my rides by emphasizing submission and attention.

After this lesson, I spent another week working on submission, installing in the ToF and ToH and working on them from the saddle as well, and asking for a round front end as well. I also started working her only every other day – a huge departure from the six days a week I’ve been doing for the past two years. I’m not sure if the lighter schedule actually helped her or if she just appreciated having to work less – needs more experimentation 😉

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2’3″. New record for Scaredy Annye!

Last Friday I set up some cavaletti (18″! Woo!) and a small x. Robbye was lazy and bored with the small height, which I appreciated. I need to do small jumps a million times to gain my confidence back. This Friday I bumped the jump up to 2’3″ or so and put it outside, which evoked a lot of fear on my part. But I’m proud that I did it, and Robbye took great care of me. I’m slowly, slowly, getting back to where I was last Fall.

I’ve also been working on my tiny, subtle cues. We had several rides just at the walk, where I made my walk > halt and halt > walk cues as light as possible. I was very very please with Robbye’s responses; I realized that the first step to these tiny cues was insisting on her constant attention.

Every time I write a journal I feel like such a noob. There are so many things I’m just now learning and realizing. Simple, silly things. Will I ever feel like I understand this sport??

🙂

Clinic Recap: Centered Riding and 2-Point

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No riding photos 😦

The more I learn about Centered Riding the more I like it. The clinic today had a recurring theme of analogous parts – our own body parts all have synonymous parts on our horse, and those parts link up. Hold tension in your back, your horse holds tension in her back. Hold your breath, your horse holds her breath. I’ve learned this lesson before, but seeing this illustration really made it click for me:

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Thank you for the illustration, Pony Club!

A year and a half ago, I wrote about how Adriene identified the tension in my chin, neck and jaw. That was causing tension in Robbye’s neck and jaw. Well apparently I’ve released the tension in my jaw (I HAVE been working on it for…a while), but I’ve intensified the tension in my neck. When I hold tension in my neck, it shortens up. When Robbye holds tension in her neck, it shortens up. Completely the opposite of what I’ve been working so hard to fix the past few months.

So I’ll be practicing lengthening my neck and releasing the tension from it so that Robbye can work on doing the same thing.

That was my main takeaway from the lesson, but of course there were others!

  • I need to put float my hands (like there are balloons attached) a little more and put more weight back into my elbows. This is something I think I’ve improved a lot on in the past year, but still needs more.
  • I reverted back to pulling on Robbye when she’s being distracted or silly. I thought this was a habit I had finally broken, so I’m disappointed in myself. I always feel more comfortable with her silliness the more forward we go, and I need to remember to let that forward out!
  • I need to steer more with my seat and less with my hands. Another habit I’ve been working on but needs more training on my part.

The lesson was supposed to be a jumping one, but we spent so much time dealing with tension that I ran out of time. However, I did get to express to her my frustration with my jumping seat: although I know that my position is horrible, and I know academically what 2-point is and how to achieve a nice one, I have struggled and struggled to actually translate to my own body. It’s gotten to the point where I dislike jumping because I feel so ugly and ineffective in the air.

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Standing 2-point. Eugh.

So with the time remaining Adriene coached me into a nice 2-point (on the flat). First, she lowered my stirrups (interesting – this is the second time in a row she’s lowered them…and she was the one who put them all the way up in the first place. I wonder if my body is changing from all the dressage? Is that even possible?). That made a huge difference in where my thigh and lower leg hung. Plus, I no longer feel like I’m launching myself out of my saddle when I post!

Next, she changed where I place my stirrups on my feet. She showed me that there’s a specific place on the foot where the “springs work best”; the ankle knee, and thigh flex easily and naturally, but the position isn’t compromised.

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This photo looks better, but I’m excited that I can critique exactly what I’d change instead of just knowing that it’s wrong. I need to establish a steadier lower leg so it doesn’t swing back. I need to open my thigh so I’m not pinching. And I’d like to tighten my airplane seat-belt so my hips are pulled further back.

Finally, she showed me what the position is supposed to be like. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to achieve it – goodness knows I’ve read enough articles and watched enough videos, but I think I finally understand what it’s supposed to feel like. I let my weight sink into my lower leg without letting it wander forward or backward, pulled my thigh off the saddle (no gripping!), imagined I had an airplane seat-belt on to pull my hips back, and let my upper body naturally go where it would.

I think that may have been my misunderstanding – I was trying to fix my upper body without knowing what my legs and hips were supposed to do.

(Analogous parts! A nice front will follow a correct hind! Full circle!)

After trying to commit the feeling to memory, I walked and trotted around in my new 2-point. I started to feel the muscle ache, which I was very happy about – my standing-in-the-stirrups version of 2-point took zero effort (and was ugly and I’m sure Robbye hated me for it). I also felt my legs turn into springs – something Adriene said will help my sitting trot as well. YAY.

Even though the lesson was a whole lot of talking, standing, and walking, I came away with more tools to deal with tension and with an epiphany about what 2-point feels like. I’m really really really excited to get back to jumping now – finally.

Journal: Life Update

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I’m currently sitting in the kitchen watching (husband) Zeke make salsa and enjoying my kitties – I think five of the seven have visited so far. Right now, Tabbye is pulling magnets off of the fridge and Charllye is making sure she does it correctly.

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Pulling magnets off the fridge? NAW. We’re just sitting here, Mom!

This feels like the first breath I’ve been able to take in a month. A very sudden project at work, which includes an extremely dramatic team of people and a ridiculously constrained timeline, plus a wedding in Florida for which I was the maid of honor, plus all of my normal stressors, have left me exhausted at the end of every day. It’s been a struggle even to maintain my current relationships.

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Me and the bride.

Through it all, thankfully, Robbye continued to impress and improve. I still plan on writing a more detailed journal about her – but really it’s been more of the same. Focus, roundness, and obedience. Every day!

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The candy cane is almost gone!

I finished book one of Wheel of Time. It’s so cute reading about baby Rand, knowing what he’ll become by the end. I’m definitely enjoying the series more this go around – I gave up at book 10 or so seven years ago. But that was also before the series was over – and before Jordan passed away.

I’ve been using a few minutes a day every day to obsess about pet collecting and leveling in WoW. Which is funny, since I have a collection of pets at home, too. But I don’t battle the cats. Or level them up. Unfortunately.

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Mom I’m going to need you to pet me, or I’ll use my Scratch attack.
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I suppose I could use my Headbutt attack instead.

Tomorrow Zeke and I are going to our favorite Friendly Local Game Store, Epic Loot, to celebrate International Table Top Day. As introverted and exhausted as I am, I’m actually really excited to do some gaming and shopping. The only issue is – what to wear? I want to be cute and stylish for the party, but too cute and I’m not respected as a fellow nerd. It’s a delicate balance, as a female gamer.

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(Has anyone else been following the drama around the Hugo Awards this year? Man, is there controversy. I really enjoyed reading GRRM’s blog series about it, though. And, to be honest, reading about the drama has been a fun way to get my mind off of work – though how some people can be so racist, homophobic, and misogynistic I just cannot understand.)

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Equine Affaire in Columbus is this weekend but the club decided not to go. We’re definitely going to Breyerfest, and that’s more fun for us. I’m relieved to have a day off on Sunday!

What’s everyone else been up to outside of horses? Anyone else reading or playing anything cool?

Happy Friday!

Lesson Recap: Cupcake Inspiration

(This lesson was two weeks ago and I’m just now getting to posting about it. The work situation is bad, I’m telling you 😦 )

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Cupcake

I think that Kim works in bigger chunks than Michele. Where Michele explains every step and every move I should make, Kim says “move his shoulders over” and expects me to do it. Where I appreciate and have learned a TON from Michele’s way, I think Kim’s way may mesh with me better at the moment. I’m too stressed, and already too detail-oriented. I need to focus on fewer details and more relaxation and feel.

When I drove up to the barn for my lesson a few weeks ago (augh!), I was excited and nervous to see a horse trailer in the driveway. Kim had brought two horses – one a Percheron/Arab named Cupcake who would be my mount for the evening! He topped out at third level, but he’s trained. He has all sorts of buttons and skills.

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Annye, turn your damn toes in.

Honestly, I didn’t learn a lot of “facts” from Cupcake. Really, I got him round, then trotted him, did some shoulder-in, cantered (WHOA that lift off), and tried to memorize what all of this feels like.

…What it feels like to have a sensitive, well-trained mid-level horse. What I want Robbye to be someday.

And that’s what Kim wanted for me. She wanted me to understand what it means to be on the aids, what it means to be forward, and what it means to be powered from behind. I can (and do!) watch all the videos, read all the blogs, and devour all the books, but if I never feel it, I’ll certainly never be able to train it!

After riding Cupcake for an hour or so, I tacked up Robbye and put her through her new-found paces.

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Ah yes, the ever elusive Submissive Robbye.

Kim seemed very very impressed with my progress with her. She was schooling her UL horse during our lesson, and at one point got distracted riding and talking to the barn owner. I took the opportunity to kick Robbye’s butt, and when Kim returned to us we were round and forward and the mare was submissive. I need to learn how to ride aggressively even when someone is watching me, or I’m never going to be able to show! A couple mechanical tidbits Kim pointed out to me, either while I was on Robbye or Cupcake (usually both):

  • I tend to bend backwards (to the outside) while going to the right, and tend to over-bend to the left. This is probably because of my own anatomy and left-handedness, and it a habit I need to break.
  • I’m back into the habit of breaking my wrists. Thumbs on top! I should feel like I’m holding a Little Tikes car steering wheel.

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  • To ask for the shoulder in, I pull the shoulders off of the wall, make sure I have the correct bend, then use my inside leg slightly forward to encourage the sideways + forward.
  • To ask for the half pass, I execute a shoulder in and then move the haunches over with my outside leg. If I lose the movement, start over with the shoulder in!
  • Pushing my weight onto my toes (without changing my seat!) creates an incredible downward transition. I felt it on Cupcake, and then it immediately made a difference on Robbye. This is like a reiner’s sliding stop, where they kick their legs forward, to a much much lesser degree.

I spent two weeks perfecting what I learned at this lesson, using the inspiration I got from Cupcake, then had another lesson with Kim this Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll get that recap written up in the next…month or so. I’m totally failing at this blog thing!