Ike November 2014

I have been trying to write this blog post for a few days.  I have struggled with what to say, what not to say, where we are, and where we are not.  Now that spring has officially arrived and the daffodils and crocus have popped up, show season lurks just around the corner.

I equate show season with the start of the school year.  You kind of assume that you are moving up a grade (level) with the new year (season)…and when you are a chronic overachiever, you expect that forward progress.  For years I have struggled to make the leap from a Training/First Level rider to one that can hold her own at Second Level.  While some people would say that reaching the FEI levels would mean the most to them, reaching Second Level has been the Holy Grail for me.  It is the level where it feels like the “real” dressage work starts – you have to show collected and medium gaits, you have to be able to move your horse’s shoulders and haunches independently, you had better be through and connected, and it all has to be done in sitting trot with an independent seat.

In January I honestly thought that we would be ready to try out Second Level Test 1 at a schooling show in April.  I was giddy when I thought about it.  This was it!  We were going to go out and show everyone that we do have some dressage skills.  There was work to be done on the simple transitions, but we had two and a half months, so it was not going to be a problem…and then the snow came…and All. Progress. Stopped. Dead.

As we have restarted, reality set in that we were not ready.  And then a bigger reality set in last weekend.  One of my besties with some serious riding skills came to the barn with me and hopped on Ike.  She last rode him 2 years ago when steering was still questionable most days.  She took just a few minutes to get a good feel for where he was, and off they went.  I will say it was nice to see Ike in action since I only get to see him on video with me astride.  When Miss L figured him out, his leg yield was stunning.  When asked for a flying change, Ike nailed it.  Whoa!  She then played with his simple changes and nailed them.


Then the clouds parted and the realization set in – poor Ike’s progress is inhibited by his owner’s lack of any dressage skills past First Level.  Poor boy.  He is clearly ready for Second Level and could enter Second Level Test 1 in April, but sadly, I am not.  Too bad he wouldn’t be willing to give it a go on his own.  Heck, I’m even willing to call the test for him.

It is a difficult realization to digest when you are usually at the head of the class.  You see your friends moving onwards and upwards, yet you still remain where you were last year.  It is hard not to compare your progress with others.  It is human nature.  I found a quote on Pinterest the other night that hit home and is going to be my mantra this year:

10426133_10152794349317621_1201164302458210363_nThis year will be about bettering our dressage skills and finally riding down centerline for our first Second Level test ever.  Until we are ready for that, we will strive to improve our weaknesses (turn those shoulders!!) and better our First Level scores from last year.  That is the beauty of dressage.  Even if you never bring home a ribbon in a class, you can still compete against yourself.  Wish us luck!



7 thoughts on “Stuck

  1. Alison, I am in the same boat (except not moving to 2nd level). With Lainey in Florida all winter and ROLEX on the horizon, I had no coach for the last 3 months, with one more to go. Timmy is behind the leg and a bit lazy so now we will work on fitness and forward with him. I have diligently worked on the “essentials”—mainly seat and effective/clear aids. Hoping to get our mojo back soon! Ike will help you get there. Look how far you have come! I am putting my money on you!

  2. I moved into dressage on my western minded Morgan. We had done trail and western pleasure for the first few years of our time together, but he loved the just for fun quadrille group at our barn. So off we went to try “Dressage” It was my time with him that gave me my competition mantra, I am competing with only myself, to do better than I did last time. Goal 1 was stay on my horse and Goal 2 was stay in the ring. Anything over that was icing on the cake! One fellow compettitor asked me how I could laugh while reading my test results, I told her that this was all about having fun and if my test results made me cry I was going about it all wrong.

    It sounds like you have it figured out, the most important part is have fun and don’t take it too seriously. This is your hobby afterall, and not your vocation.

  3. After reading the above responses to your entry, I am perhaps not qualified to comment. At all. After all, I had ridden for only eight months when I tried A and B, and rode a horse I’d only been on for three weeks. Ignorance is bliss. I can’t ride now, and I rode worse then. Yet I had a blast, loved being in the ring by myself with my lease horse, and reaped huge amounts of feedback to help me improve. In fact, I think the scribe ran out of room … 😉

    I can say from my decade of participation in another sport that your approach is great. I think the goal of improving one’s Level One marks is really good, and can only help overall. As is working on the weak spots. This makes you two better.

    I’m keen on your observation: “You see your friends moving onwards and upwards, yet you still remain where you were last year.” This would be me in riding. The one who had 10 months of remedial work without reins and stirrups just to try to get a marginally improved seat. While my friends were moving on with collection work. My lease horse can do a lot. I don’t have the skill to get him to do it though.

    One can’t help but compare! Comparison can fuel the imprvement fire. Even I compare myself with my two other old lady peers. The key, at least for me, is not to cross that line into extreme discouragement, as it is self-defeating and destructive to progress.

    A last bit here. Don’t know if this will help you or not. One of the things that helped me the most om succeeding in my ice skating test ladder was to stop thinking of myself as being at the level I was. While obviously increased, and new, skills were needed for “the next test”, things changed a lot once I said to myself “I am a (whatever test or level) skater.” It’s the mindset. Anyway ….

    So. Lots of well wishes – and here’s to you guys making that first trip down the centerline for Second Level!

  4. Pingback: “Un-Stuck” | ikescenterlineadventures

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