Ike – May 2015 – Photo by K. Childers
Well, it is just about here…our Second Level debut. To say that I am excited about it would be an understatement. It has only taken me 10 years to finally get to this point in my dressage journey. Yes, that is not a typo – 10 years. Go ahead and make fun if you must, but I believe that all things and events come into our lives when we are ready for them.
My first years of dressage training were a challenge since 1) I had no clue what a half halt was, and then 2) once I did, I had a horse who thumbed his nose at the concept. God bless Ms. C for her patience with the two of us. How challenging it must be to try to teach a concept to a student with a horse that fought every step of the way. No wonder progress moved slower than a snail’s pace. Cigar and I were at odds for 6 years before his knee fracture forced his retirement.
If I wanted to get to Second Level sooner, an experienced mount would have been a wise option when shopping for Cigar’s replacement…but those experienced horses were well outside my budget and unfortunately, no one was offering to syndicate a horse for me. Buying a green horse was my best and only option. All I could do was hope that my two test rides on Ike were a good indication that we could form a partnership.
Thus far, I have been very fortunate with my green horse gamble. Ike has very few foibles under saddle and truly does try his best to understand what we ask him to do. I still clearly recall that steering was optional at the canter and that I nearly lost a knee cap on more than one occasion. There was no half halting of the outside rein to stop the outward spiral towards the fence. The inside rein and a prayer were all I had some days. Poor Ike also had to finish growing before he could finally operate all body parts in a synchronous way. Truth be told, I didn’t think he was ever going to stop growing! Thankfully, it appears that he has finally reached maximum height and length.
And, if I am being completely honest, I needed to learn some new skills before we were ready to move beyond First Level. Moving to Second is like jumping from elementary school to graduate school in one leap. You can muddle through Training and First Levels with a basic knowledge of dressage, but you had better put on your big kid boots after that. Yikes! The sh#% gets real…real collection, real medium gaits, real transitions in and out of those medium gaits, 10 meter canter circles, simple changes…there is no way you can fake your way through a Second Level test. I think I can finally identify a collected trot versus a short, choppy trot. I can finally ask for a simple change and get it most of the time. I can finally position my horse in a correct shoulder in rather than a “neck in.” It just took me a little longer since we were also teaching Ike at the same time. Again, I think I got very lucky when I picked Ike. Not every horse is so tolerant of learning new skills from a green rider.
So here we are, just a few months shy of our 4 year “gotcha day” and we are preparing for our first centerline at collected trot. Hoping for the best and trying to remember to breathe.