From Endurance to Dressage
After that marathon post from yesterday, I figured we could all use a break so this is just a looky-lou post. Okay, some reading might be necessary. Either hit the play button, or arrow through the pictures.
But first, a lesson in how we learn.
When we learn anything new, especially like dressage, there is language that must be learned as well. We learn the vocabulary and the speech patterns necessary to participate in the learned activity. Often times, the activity has a language of it's own. If you don't golf, try participating in a conversation with an avid golfer; it will sound like Greek. It is no different with dressage.
Even though we all speak English, many of us, in all honesty it's probably most of us, are not yet fluent in the language of dressage. During my studies of language acquisition (I hold a B.A. with an emphasis in language acquisition), we learned that it takes at least six years to become completely proficient at a language, even our own first language. Have you ever noticed that it's much easier to speak to a six year old than a four year old?
Is it no surprise then that it takes years and years to become proficient at dressage? It's not simply making your body respond in a certain way, it's also about learning the language in order to effectively communicate with your horse, other riders, your trainer, and the judge. The USDF handbook actually has a glossary of Judging Terms.
Stephen Krashen, a noted linguist, developed the Input Hypothesis in the 1970s and 1980s. The Input Hypothesis is actually a series of five hypotheses that describe the process of acquisition of a second language. Stay with me here, there is a dressage connection. The fifth hypothesis, the affective filter, is that one that holds most adults back from learning.
While I understand the affective filter, I am going to let Wikipedia explain it for me. Wikipedia?
The affective filter is an impediment to learning or acquisition caused by negative emotional ("affective") responses to one's environment. It is a hypothesis of second-language acquisition theory, and a field of interest in educational psychology.
Did you get that? If not here's an example of what happened at the clinic that almost caused me to pack it up and go home.
I was feeling a lot of anxiety (negative emotions) about learning in front of other people. I was afraid of being laughed at and made to feel foolish or out of place. I was particularly worried because I knew Christian might ask me to do exercises that I didn't know how to do, which is exactly what happened.
Christian asked for a change of direction. Now remember, I work in a ring filled with jumps. There is no crossing the diagonal. When JL asks for a change of direction, I pick the first available space and do a small figure eight, changing the bed on the one or two straight strides that I get. So that's what I did during the clinic. Christian's comment rang a bit sarcastic (to my anxiety-ridden ears), and the auditors laughed.
I felt my face flush, and tears threatened. I was humiliated. How dare they laugh at someone who had ADMITTED to being a lower level rider without a dressage instructor. I took a deep breath and pressed on. Not long after, Christian asked me to do a leg yield which I was unable to do. I simply didn't understand the exercise, which was to come up centerline, leg yield left to the rail, turn back down centerline, and leg yield left again. It sounds so obvious now, but when I got to the rail, I didn't know I was to turn down centerline again. Even after getting there, I kept getting confused about which way I was to leg yield.
Finally, I simply halted and verbalized that I didn't understand what was expected. Christian's comment had something to do with what kind of endurance rider must I have been to not know my left from my right. The auditors again broke into laughter. Right on the spot, I had to make a decision: was I going to cry and walk away, or was I going to stiffen my back bone and show them what I was made of?
Of course I toughened up, but it was a close call. Once the decision was made, I decided that I needed to get the upper hand (according to Krashen, build self-esteem). I may not be fluent in the language of dressage, but I do have a vast skill set. I am not stupid (as many second language learners are perceived to be) so I fought back.
I completed every exercise with zero complaint, and I did everything the instant he asked for it. While I had watched the other ladies ride, I noticed that most of them asked for a walk break at some point in the lesson. I knew that I wouldn't need a break, and so I decided to let that be my little success in school that day. I can work very hard.
As Speedy and I trot around, I let fly a little comment like, oh, and by the way, I can do this all day. Bring it on! Christian doesn't speak English as his first language so some of my quips had to be explained to him. He asked what I meant, and the auditors told him that I just thrown out a challenge. In reply, he told me to cross my stirrups over my saddle. The spectators laughed again, but this time it wasn't at me, but with me.
I confidently crossed my stirrups and went on at the sitting trot. It was ugly, of course, but very quickly, the ladies started offering me margaritas after the lesson. I gaily laughed that I wanted three! I also started to hear lots of positive comments coming from the auditors. Hearing me laugh, Christian told me to switch to the rising trot which I did with no problem.
I don't know for how long I rode with no stirrups, but I didn't ask for a walk break, and I just kept on going. Before long, I could feel that the ladies were rooting for me and so was Christian. At some point, Christian of course called the lesson to an end, and I let Speedy amble over to him for some final words. I was no longer embarrassed or angry. And I realized that no one meant any harm in their laughter.
When our "affective filter" is raised high, we are not able to learn as the filter blocks any input. Once I realized that I was not in a learning frame of mind (by being embarrassed), I decided to tear down the filter by demonstrating what I am good at. I empowered myself which restored my self-confidence and helped me to get what I needed from the lesson.
I had a fantastic time at dinner and even sat beside Christian. No one knew that the initial laughter had embarrassed me and nearly brought me to tears, (although they do now!). But it's okay. It wasn't personal; it was simply how I perceived it.
Jen, the clinic organizer, kindly pulled me aside on the first day and explained the rule about crossing the diagonal to change direction. And during the second day's lesson, Christian pointed out that he wanted me to change my posting diagonal closer to the letter. Somewhere I had read that when crossing the diagonal, it should be done at X. From Christian's comment forward, I changed my posting, and the bend, just before reaching the letter. I am a quick learner.
I had a wonderful time at the clinic and came back with a lot of information. Much of it will no doubt need time to be absorbed and fully understood. You know that I am always honest here. The honesty is to myself first. If I had let my own insecurities rule my day, I would have simply wasted hundreds of dollars and come home empty handed. Be honest with yourself, let go of your fear and anxiety, and ride your horse!
Bring it on I say; I can trot forever!
Even though we just returned home from two days of intense riding with a clinician, I had a lesson with my own trainer last night! I really felt it was important to discuss what I had heard with her while it was still fresh in my mind. I am glad I did as the lesson was really, really good. But all about that on another day.
I still want to share my feelings on how the clinic went, but before I had the chance to sit down and sort out what I saw and heard, Sarah, from Eventing in Color went and did it for you! In fact her synopsis of the clinic was far better than what I would have done so I am hijacking her blog post and sharing it with you here. If you would like to see it in its original form, including a photo, please go visit her blog here.
I was pretty nervous about riding in front of so many advanced riders. I was especially worried about riding in front of a clinician of such high repute; he's an international judge for Heaven's sake! When I read Sarah's post, I was a little wowed by it. I couldn't believe that I had participated in such an event. You see, I was so emotionally connected to the riding part that I wasn't able to be such a neutral observer, and I certainly didn't remember with such clarity the finer points of Christian's instruction.
After reading Sarah's account however, all of what he said and did came flooding back. Sarah hit the nail on the head. Please read her review of the clinic; it's what I wanted to say, but she did it even better.
Here's Sarah's Post. More from me tomorrow ...
You might get tired of this series as it might take me the whole week to share how it went. This morning, I am tired and don't have much time to share. In fact, I am writing as I pack my lunch and make my breakfast!
Everything went great, Speedy was a champ, and maybe best of all, I spent the weekend with the nicest people. Sarah, of Eventing in Color, came to the clinic to meet me! She is a lovely, lovely person and gave me some excellent feedback after my Sunday ride. Please check out her blog to read more about her OTTB Hemie. I got to meet him, too!
The ladies of the Ventura County Chapter of the California Dressage Society are simply fantastic. I have never been made to feel so welcome at an event. The property owner sought me out several times to see if I needed anything and then even made a point of inviting me back in June.
The riders and their friends and spouses went to dinner on Saturday evening. I was so pleased to have been invited, and then to prove that they could be an even nicer group than I thought, Jen, the clinic coordinator drove me to dinner and then brought me all the way back to farm.
Enough for today. Here are a couple of photos.
I've been trying to prepare since this past weekend, but last night I really wore myself out! Of course it was raining lightly, which is a good thing as we desperately need it, but it made loading a bit of a pain.
Speedy gets really excited when he sees me loading the trailer so I had to let him burn off some of the steam that was building. There was no way that I was going to risk a pulled shoe or other freak calamity so I pulled out my 30 foot cotton rope lung line and let him work out his wiggles that way. He can get ripping around pretty good with 30 feet of rope. After he was done, his legs were covered with wet sand/mud. It was worth it though; he'll be quieter this morning for having worked off some of his energy.
Last weekend, I gave Speedy G a partial bath: head, neck, and legs, but after his evening "turn out," I had to give him another leg bath.
I also loaded my trailer with most of the other stuff that I need for an over night ride: the generator and gas can, the trailer batteries, saddle, show bridle, schooling bridle, pads, boots, helmets, shavings, feed, braiding box, and on and on. Since I've never been to a clinic quite like this, I really don't know if I should bring my show stuff or my schooling stuff so I am just bringing everything. I'll watch a few riders go and then decide how to dress both Speedy and myself.
I also tackled Speedy's HORRIBLE mohawk. I've "hidden" it in recent pictures because it so awful. Over the winter, I've been letting some of his bridle path grow out. It's a section about four inches long that is currently sticking straight up about five inches. I decided to braid it, but it didn't turn out very well. It's better than it was, but it's still a bit of an eyesore. Pictures later, I promise. I also braided his forelock which always turns out well. I'll braid his mane just before I ride as the running braid is quick and easy to do.
All in all, I was at the barn until six which meant that I was doing a lot of those chores in the dark with my headlamp, even the braiding. We'll see what that looks like in the light of day! I packed my riding clothes and food this morning and with any luck, everything will make it into the trailer.
I am looking forward to the opportunity to improve on what we've been learning and to come home with some extra confidence for this year's show season. In case you missed it, here's the short video I shot of Christian Schacht at Horse Expo last year. See you on Monday!
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: