Forward forward forward

I’ve been feeling the urge to write about Robbye lately, but that’s tough to do when all we’re accomplishing is slow, steady, excruciating, exuberating, exhilarating, long-awaited, oh-so-satisfying, I’ve-been-waiting-years-for-this progress.


A few weeks ago I printed out Second Level Test 1 – not to learn the whole thing, and certainly not to prepare to show it, but instead to see what was on it and pick pieces out that I knew I could practice on my own. I was a tad disappointed to see a whole lot of “collected trot” and “collected canter” in the test. We can practice shoulder-in, and I can ask about learning haunches-in, and we’re already fairly strong in 10 meter circles and counter-canter, but “collected” anything hasn’t yet been on our radar…and pretty much everything in second level dressage is “collected”.

So I spent a couple of days fiddling with the test: stringing the shoulder-ins together, analyzing the transitions, identifying the holes in our training.

(That’s one thing I love about practicing dressage tests even with no intent to show – they really illustrate holes. Can’t execute four transitions between S and C? There’s a hole there!)

But between each movement, where it called for collected trot or collected canter, I just asked for our normal, working gaits and resolved to ask our trainer, Kim, about it at our next lesson.


Our next lesson arrived; I was excited and nervous.

“I’ve been looking at the second level tests,” I said. “There’s a lot there we already know.”

Kim nodded.

“But between every movement there’s collected trot and collected canter. Even the centerline is collected trot! And we haven’t really worked on that yet…”

Kim smiled and shook her head. “Pick up a trot,” she said.

We did, and it was good. (Pretty much everything Rob does is good, now, and wow does it feel weird to write that.)

“Make it a little more,” she said. We did. “There’s your collected trot.”

I was astonished. “This is our regular trot…?” I drew out the o in trot, questioning.

“And it’s collected,” she insisted. “You’re a second level pair, now.”

At the moment I found it hard to believe, but in retrospect it’s easy to see. When I watch our work in the mirror, I see a knowledgeable, competent team. I see harmony, obedience, and a bit of brilliance.

It’s easy to hear compliments (my barn friends are so gracious with them!) and brush them off as “You are doing so well…for you.” For years Rob and I struggled to make any progress at all. She stopped at fences. She bucked me off. She refused to give an ounce of submission. We were the crazy pair, at the show and at home.

I’m beginning to believe, now, that the compliments aren’t a “…for you” sort. They’re not just impressed that the crazy horse isn’t bucking across the ring, riderless. They’re just plain impressed. We’re doing real dressage, and we’re doing it well, and every week we get a little bit better.

So that’s what we’ve been up to – printing out a second level test just to see what the future held, and discovering instead that we’re already there.



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