For the past few weeks, Estella and I have been “stuck.” For some reason we both seemed to lose our creativity and motivation, which resulted in a lot of “meh” and unenthusiastic sessions. Maybe it’s the heat, or maybe it’s the absolutely insane amount of deer flies in our arena, but whatever the reason it left me questioning “what are we doing now?” and “where are we going?”
I have been riding horses since I was 3 and started dressage lessons when I was 9. I competed in dressage for a long time and even once I stopped competing, it has always been my true passion. I have such a love for the beauty, theory and art of it. So although I may not seem like a very dressage-y rider by most people standards, it is always the foundation of what I do. So when I started thinking about where we are going, my first thought revolved around dressage. I still have no desire to compete, but want to continue to explore more balance, more engagement, more lifting of the back, and so on. So I decided to get back to Straightness Training and even watched some Art2Ride videos.
I really love Straigthness Training; I think Marijke is phenomenal, I think the program is wonderful and I love that she incorporates the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the horse into training. So I got my cavesson back out and we did some straightness training! It went well, but it still lacked enthusiasm. That surprised me because I felt motivated and inspired! But a lot of times when I just go out and play with Estella, we have such a connection that it’s like she reads my mind and that’s the magic I crave.
I continued to feel frustrated and discouraged, by no fault of Estella’s. I decided to try playing with her in the mornings on weekends, which made a huge difference. Without the heat and bugs, we were both much more relaxed and energetic. We had a really wonderful session on Saturday morning and I felt immensely better. Saturday night was so, so beautiful, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go for a ride around the fields. It was cool and the bugs weren’t active, so I hopped on bareback and just went for a casual walk through the pastures. Estella felt wonderful and it felt like we were both really enjoying the ride.
As I was feeling very grateful for this place in my life, she surprised me with some energetic but collected canter. It was so full of power without being fast, I thought for a moment that she might be rearing until I realized we were still going forward, just not in any way that we have ever cantered before. It caught me so off guard, all I could do was laugh and thank her for such a gift. We haven’t been riding much lately and have only cantered once this year, so a surprise collected canter was absolutely incredible.
She offered this canter two more times and even a little bit of collected trot. This is so incredible for us because we haven’t played with any collected trot before. Her trot is always forward and pushing, so carrying isn’t something have experienced much. And again, she totally blew my mind by offering this out of the blue.
I thanked her and thanked her and allowed to her spend some time on the grassy pasture that she normally doesn’t have access to. As I spent the rest of my evening on cloud 9, it occurred to me why this ride was so different: like I mentioned in my Transitions post, I still turn on my inner “Dressage Rider” when I get on her.
It was that ride that I realized I have never “let go” of the expectations, rules, ideas, judgements, perfectionism, and so on in the saddle like I have the ground. It’s easy for me let her be loose in the arena and be open to new experiences and to just have fun together and think that everything is great and beautiful. It’s a lot harder for me to be in the saddle and let go of the control, “trainer mode,” and expectations of what should happen when riding. We need transitions and 20m circles and bending and flexion and thoroughness and on and on and on!!!
Even after that realization, I continued to be that same person. I might have thought I grew, but it was only in my mind not in reality. Estella showed me that when I am open to just being in the moment, when I take the lightest actions just for the fun of it, anything is possible. It seems like Bella and Estella are really working together to help me be present, without clinging to my past experiences. I may still be on the journey to understand who I am, but I am sure that I am not my experiences. I am thankful for these wise teachers who constantly encourage me to stay open and to look beyond.