Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Dressage Arena…

…I ran into Bella, who said, “Hey, I’ll help, if you want.”

Hudson is over his abscess.  Despite the fact it’s in a terrible site, he’s standing in mud, and conditions are far from optimal, he’s…fine.  It’s healed over enough that a simple cleaning and (needleless) injection of betadine prevents evil bacteria from grabbing hold.

Hudson is sound, energetic, and good to go.  We’ve been working.  In the face of my trainer’s retirement, Bella offering to help me not suck is awesome for the following reasons:

  • I’ve been in deep dressage gloom. How will I ever learn?
  • She trained Hudson. She can look at us and know exactly what’s happening on both sides. She’s felt his evasions and when he’s trying to do it well.
  • She knows dressage, having shown successfully through Grand Prix.
  • I can hear her in a way I haven’t been able to hear other trainers.
  • She doesn’t ride “through” me. I can repeat everything she’s said when I’m not in her presence. It’s a miracle!
  • There is nothing vague about her instructions.  It’s all concrete stuff I can do now.
  • No difficult to grasp metaphors. Yet.  Metaphors are good. But I need a lot of specifics. I always tell trainers I missed some of the basics and need remedial help, but somehow they didn’t see that, and thought it was modesty (?). Bella sees what I missed.  Thank God.
  • After two days of practice, people were stopping us in the arena, and asking me what I did to improve so dramatically.
  • Her help is casual.  It’s short(ish).  It’s huge gift.

A few riders went so far as to claim I could clean up at first level if I’d just enter a dang show. (Doubt this.)  None of my previous training was wrong or badly done.  Good, kind trainers. Maybe I forgot stuff. Maybe I wasn’t ready.  Maybe I was too nervous.  Don’t know.

What I do know?


I had to write that in all caps, because it feels That Big.

Hudson, whom I thought hated dressage, is starting to become very interested.  He has to perform, he has to think.  Performing and thinking are his happy buttons.

He didn’t hate dressage, he hated how I was riding.  It was fine when I was catch riding, because we only did stretchy stuff, and he got his intensity fix from Bella and roping. When that stopped, he didn’t get his adrenaline fix, and was just…bored.

Now he’s extremely interested in what we’re going to do next.

I also get the best possible positive feedback: if he does it wonderfully, it’s because I told him how to do it wonderfully.

“YOU asked him to do that,” Bella says, when I’m awestruck by a result, “He’s just doing what you asked him to do, remember that.

It’s not a miracle.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s what he’s supposed to do when asked.

Really? There’s no secret club? No big revelation? You learn how, do it, and it works?

THAT’S the secret?




9 thoughts on “Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Dressage Arena…

  1. Yes! Where is the “like” button on your blog? This sounds wonderful. You’re hearing a trainer, she’s helping you, your confidence is booming, Hudson is excited and interested. What more could you ask for??? Just catching up — sorry to hear about the abscess but I’m glad to hear it’s healed!

  2. That sounds great Jane! Sometimes it’s one little thing that produces a miracle. Glad you and Bella are working together with Hudson. He sounds like he’s ready to go to a show with you. That would be fun I bet you two would have a blast.

  3. We have a correction to the above post, which is totally my error: Bella showed successfully through Prix St. Georges.

    Grand Prix, Prix St. George: they are equally unattainable to me. Himalaya mountains #1 or #2. My apologies for embarrassing Bella, who corrected me immediately. (Does it help that you’re Grand Prix to me?) 😉

    Of course I mixed them up. Anything above 4th and I’m lost. I’m the woman who knows where these letters are in the dressage arena: A, X, and C. The extent of my reliable memory. (For the non dressage rider, that’s a straight line in the middle of the arena.)

  4. Sounds like I need a Bella! Is she available for rent? NC is warm and nice! Congrats to you, I really wish we got to see videos of this, I am DYING for a video of you and Hearty-Butt!!

    1. I bet she could be! Bella off-handedly said “Oh we should probably video, so you can see what you’re doing…”

      My response? “NOOOOOOOooooo! I know what I’m doing. Riding very bad!”

      After months off, and no dressage work to speak of, I really did, um, completely suck. Like “pull your inside shoulder back!” and “do you know you’re twisting the wrong direction in the canter depart?” suck.
      But. I’m game for a video when I feel – not perfect – but in better shape. You know, the point when I think I’m not doing anything wrong? That’s when I really need the video, when I think I’ve got it down fairly well. 😉

  5. Great to hear of your progress! Isn’t it funny how the real revelations are always such simple, obvious things?!

    Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible for a horse to hate dressage. It’s like Jane Savoie says, it’s physical therapy for the horse, so how could he hate it? I think it’s because the rider isn’t relaxed, asking correctly, whatever. I don’t know too much about excitable horses, but it seems like if you really keep things moving, even those types of horses can stay interested and engaged in dressage. After all, all the top horses are super hot!

    And there is no secret. It’s just a lotta hard work and persistence!

  6. Isn’t interesting how you can hear certain trainers more than others? I feel the same way about our trainer. I hear and process and understand and remember her instructions and comments WAY more than I have with any other trainer. It’s awesome!

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