I've had an epiphany. Yes, it's true.
Merriam Webster defines an epiphany as: an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure; a revealing scene or moment.
After 30 years of riding dressage, I finally get it. Giving credit to my past and present dressage instructors, I've gotten it before in bits and pieces. I understand the theory and how it's supposed to work. I understand what it feels like to have a horse through and moving freely underneath me. I understand what I need to do to get my horse going correctly.
I just didn't do it.
Oh, maybe I'd do it in a lesson or after a particularly inspiring clinic, but it never lasted more than one ride then I was back to my familiar routine of circles, going large, and transitions to get my horse round, listening to half-halts and coming through. Those are all the things you're supposed to do, right?
Well, yeah, right.
Only it didn't work. Not for me. It didn’t take long before my big, opinionated mare started pulling, and I started pulling. She dumped on her forehand and went faster. I pulled harder. I'd go back to my repertoire of corrections. And things would get worse.
On paper I was making the classical corrections. On horseback it was a different story.
So what was this epiphany?
I was doing the right things but not in the right way with the correct amount of variety and difficulty. I was making it too easy and too boring. There is an exercise to fix every type of problem.
How did I come to reach this epiphany?
After fourteen hours of listening to Conrad Schumacher at a symposium last weekend, it hit me like a sledgehammer. The man is a master, and I bow to the master. Normally, I go to something like that and leave thinking: That was wonderful, but I could never repeat it at home. Not so with Herr Schumacher. He made everything simple and easy with his basic instructions and his exercises.
Most of what he said I'd heard or read before. It was a combination of watching several talented horses and riders and listening to what he had to say about systematic training that finally sank into my thick skull, and I knew I had it.
So how has this changed my riding? I stopped doing endless 20-meter circles. Now I do something on a 20-meter circle. I shoulder-in, halt, reinback, turn on the haunches, change directions, etc. I do lots of things and think about how those things affect my horse’s way of going.
So for the next few weeks, I’m going to post my notes from the symposium. If you ever get the chance to see Conrad in a symposium format move heaven and earth to go. It’ll be worth it.
I'm off to ride right now.