My younger brother, Eulan, just returned to the University of Kansas (rock chalk Jayhawks!!!) for his second semester. He is doing great! Before returning to school, he asked me if I had any advice for him.
I told him to just not procrastinate as much as I did and try to find manageable, focused challenges. Don’t try to just study for a test or write a paper. Be systematic and break it down. Don’t look at it as one big project but just a bunch of little ones. I found it easier to accomplish things this way. Maybe that’s why I love dressage so much!
As I was explaining this to Eulan, I was using dressage as an analogy, and it fits so well. Dressage is already broken down into focused manageable challenges for us.
We don’t look at a 3-year-old and say “OK, let’s make a Grand Prix horse.” We break it down. The scale of training is the first breakdown we have…but it gets even better! We have the U.S. Dressage Federation and Fédération Equestre Internationale levels to give us a roadmap. We even have the purpose for each level and the directives for each movement, thereby giving us the focused manageable challenges.
So I have to keep this in the back of my mind when I ride and teach. How can I take a big project and turn it into smaller stepping stones or pieces that will make it easier for the horse and rider to be successful? It is also more rewarding to ride with small challenges in mind because we can see and feel success quicker as opposed to waiting years for the big project to come together.
For example, I’m really having fun with a WakeUp filly who is working at about first level. She has a great canter and plenty of gas! Big Picture: I want her to be a great Grand Prix horse with super expressive gaits, the perfect light connection, listening to the smallest shift of my seat, eager, happy and proud in her work. (No small feat).
But breaking it down, I know I have to work on her straightness, and in order to do that I have to make her adjustable throughout the body, and in order to do that I need to work on her response to the leg and rein aids, and in order to do that I need to teach her that leg can mean something besides going forward, and to that end I will be working on leg-yields, shoulder-ins, haunches-ins and my all-time favorite, turn-on-the-forehands.
My huge goal just turned into a manageable challenge, and I have a game plan. Looking at the big picture, I probably won’t notice much progress today, but having broken it down, I know I will be able to feel the difference.
In other news: Wakey Wakey has torn out half his tail! I think it was in the blanket straps but I’m not sure. Any miracle tail growth products that anyone wants to suggest? Crying it back is not working.
But I’m loving how he is going! I have been working him only in the snaffle as we try to put things together, and he is lighter than ever. It really shows me how much strength a horse needs…but my goodness he is just SO much fun!
Erin and I are starting Willie’s freestyle. Strangely our music choices seem to be burlesque or fun military marches. Talk about different spectrums!
Oh, and I finally said “yes” to a dress!
Blogger Emily Wagner, 25, shows and trains dressage horses out of her family’s farm in LaCygne, Kan. Her WakeUp is one of the riding stars of U.S. dressage, having won the 6-year-old national championship in 2011 and winning the Developing Prix St. Georges national championship in 2013. Read her inroductory blog to get to know her better.