We got to pick our trainer for our Thursday lesson. I choose flat with Dorothy Crowell. #1 I had not gotten to ride with her as much as I had wanted. #2 we have done enough jumping on an out of shape horse for one week. It was set up for a 45 min semi-private lesson. She wanted it to be 20 minute private. She felt like she could be more personalized this way. We warmed up and watched some lessons before us. Then it was our turn. She said since she hasn't seen us do much to go ahead and do walk/trot/canter in each direction. Other than Steady's head being higher than normal I was very happy with the go around we showed her. I was hoping for a "that was nice", "you guys are doing great" or something along those lines. Instead we got, "that is kind of what I expected, you are a very correct rider, and look nice up there." Oh yay, she thinks we are great! "but you are what I would consider pretending to do dressage" Whaa? :(. She then gets on Steady and explains that he needs way more work on stepping under himself. Ok I can say I have heard this term a million times and even thought I knew what it meant but she set me straight and I can see what she meant by the pretending dressage statement. Though probably kind of harsh lol. She took the time to really make me understand what and how to get him to step under himself. She got him to do it and was fairly happy with how quickly he caught on.
Steady: "Argh this sucks!!"
Steady: "what in the world do you want from me woman?"
Best part about him is he will keep trying till he makes you happy.
Then I got on for a couple minutes so she could try to get me to do it. Hmmmm I think she is chasing me saying "I am going to grab your had if you don't start holding it up!!!" Uhhhh who me??? Me don't get it?!
She made a comment that I thoroughly didn't understand and that I thought was kinda rude. "you may just have to do this exercise for the next 5 years and then maybe you can start doing real dressage". Are you kidding me? Walking in a cirle for 5 years? NOT gonna happen. After getting Steady put away that statement was still bothering me and I really wanted to go chat with her about it but I knew she was busy and running behind and it wasn't the best time.
By Steady's face it is clear that he is thoroughly enjoying his lesson with Dorothy. <---insert sarcasm here. I still love the photo. Thanks Karen, from CONTACT!So I ate lunch, good bye wonderful food made my personal chef, ok she wasn't my personal chef but close enough. Packed up and made our way back home with no excitement. Thank God. I plopped on the couch and there I stayed for the remainder of the evening. My truck stayed packed for 2 days before I finally mustered the energy to unpack it with the help of my lovely family. In that time I couldn't stop thinking about Dorothy and her comment so I decided to email her and just ask her what she meant instead of drive myself crazy over it. I found her on Facebook and sent her a short email thanking her and asking her what she meant. Her response was quick and short. "Too long to explain over email" then included her cell number and said, "call me". I was impressed with her by that alone. She was done with her 'job' and did not have to take the time to email me let alone have me call her. I called her a couple days later and I had an amazing conversation with her and she changed my thinking forever but more on that in the next paragraph. She first appologized if she seemed snarky in the lesson. She admitted she was tired(as were all of us after the week in that heat) and that she kinda had a bad attitude because she really wanted to be on XC instead of flat. She had spent most of her time doing flat and like every eventer really just wanted to be out on XC. Now that I can understand. She said she was trying her best to give everyone because we deserved it but feels she may have been a bit off. She went on to explain that her statement was sarcastic and she never meant we would spend an actual 5 years on it. But that it would probably feel like it will take five years. Oh, phew that is a relief. So take away from both flat lessons. Lateral lateral lateral lateral lateral. I cannot stress enough how much we will be working on lateral.
The rest of our conversation was started when I mentioned the fact that Steady was not acting his regular self for most of the week and I explained to her how he had progressively been getting worse and worse. Also explaining our XC experiences. Which led to the conversation that will forever change the way I will see and deal with Steady.
What I now know and have in the past failed to recognize but has changed how I will deal with my horse for the rest of his life; I have always grouped him in with the run of the mill OTTB group. So I read and learned alot from OTTB owners. Alot of that information has been extremely helpful in our transition from track to home life. But what I failed to recognize was something that Dorothy helped me to realize is that an OTTB that has won $350,000 and ran for 9 years is not the typical OTTB. The only reason he lasted that long at the track is because he was extrordinary at what he did. You don't hear of many OTTB's that have had that long of a career nor won that kind of money being retrained for anything and for a reason. So to group him in with the OTTB's that didn't 'make it' at the track is doing him an injustice. That he must be treated and handled completely different for those reasons. So if something isn't working for him I better listen up figure out why and how to fix it. I explained to Dorothy the situation that came about every time we got out on XC with other horses cantering around. She said that he has no business ever having to be put into that situation and that I have not just a right but an obligation to speak up before hand to any trainer and tell them that we either go first and be done or don't go at all. She said a good clinician will know that is what is right and if a clinician won't do it then just accept the fact that you wouldn't want to learn from someone like that anyways. Take the loss of money and know you did what was best for your horse. WOW! I first of all never knew I could do something like that and secondly would not be surprised if I got dubbed as a diva. But Dorothy covered that too. She said I shouldn't care if people think I am being a prima donna(Thanks Kelly :) because if they think that then they don't know what they are doing anyways, so who cares what they think.
That information alone was worth the cost of camp and that is no joke. She gave me the confidence to go with my gut and if people don't like it screw em'!
She didn't stop there she also offered me the opportunity to come to her farm as a working student and that is something that will most likely be on my list for next year. Possibly in place of Event Camp. We shall see.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my camp experience. I cannot tell you how much it has helped me process all of the information to write it all down. I came home so overwhelmed. I knew I had had a good time and had learned alot but couldn't understand why I actually felt more discouraged than anything. Now the discouragement has faded and in its place has come a new rider. The experience has changed me as a rider forever in so many ways and the more I get on my horse post camp the more I am realizing it. I now know that discouragement feeling was simple information over load and if I can just take that information and properly put it into my daily work Steady and I will be at an entirely new level by next year. All that said I am still undecided if camp is the best place for me and Steady to learn. There are many reasons why and it did take some processing to come to that realization. It was also one big reason why I was discouraged. I went to camp hoping to gain ground in our training and came home feeling like we had lost some. Having had a few post camp rides I realize that is not at all true but that it was just an unhealthy situation for my individual horse. I became so much more intuned with him over those 4 days than I ever have before. We also developed a much stronger bond. So event camp was a huge success and now I will linger on those memories for a long time to come. I will leave you with not just my all time favorite photo from camp but all time favorite of me and Steady!
Just goes to show that the correct positioning of the tongue is key in jumping! But DAMN we look good. If I do say so myself :)