Riding Again: Back Home in the Dressage Saddle
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Riding Again: Back Home in the Dressage Saddle

Walking around the arena on my mom’s horse waiting for her trainer to give me a dressage lesson felt so familiar, and yet so distant. It had been five years since I even sat the trot or put a horse on the bit while taking instruction from a trainer.


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I haven’t stopped riding, I just don’t ride as much or with the same intensity. Enjoying the occasional trail ride, and working my friend’s gaited horse is what riding is for me these days. Really schooling Dressage with connection, feeling and precision of aids under the eye of a trainer – not once in the past five years.

Horse Riding Past

Pony Club, Hunter/Jumpers, Eventing and Dressage, including a stint with a combined training instructor in Massachusetts and a summer riding Dressage in Sweden, were all part of my “horse riding past”.  I have thought about those days fondly over the years, and have wonderful memories of riding the different horses in each phase.

My most recent horse a Connemara/TB mare, “Katie”, was an unbroken four-year-old when I got her. I was pregnant with my second child and my oldest was 18 months. Katie was ridden for the first time about two months after having my second child. We trained about four times a week; working through the dressage levels – me having a 3rd child – and also showing in Dressage, from Training level through Third level.

About once a month, I would ride with an experienced eye coaching me. I progressed my Dressage career through my kids’ babyhood, toddlerhood, elementary school and beyond, while homeschooling them at the same time. I led a time-disciplined lifestyle. Katie and I earned the USDF Bronze medal and numerous ribbons and Championships throughout our 11 year career.

Horse Riding Present

I retired Katie about five years ago and lost her two years ago. Gifted with the opportunity to ride my friend’s gaited horse, I’ve applied Dressage principals and have improved her way of going. Yet it’s not the same focused connection with precision of aids, and there’s no trotting!

Theo

My mom, on the other hand, has been progressing with her riding exponentially through the help of her instructor Carlos Santos. She has become an effective rider, as opposed to a passenger. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Carlos through our travels to Portugal with him, but he did not know me as a rider. We’ve talked about me taking a lesson on Theo, my mom’s Connemara, but the timing hasn’t been right…until now.

An Opportunity to Reach Back and Progress Forward

That day came for me on a visit home recently. Carlos met me for a lesson in a ring in my hometown. I felt comfortable in the Dressage saddle; I was home in more ways than one. Yet, as I walked on Theo around the ring, I wondered,

“Is riding a horse like riding a bike? Does one have to relearn aids, connection and how to sit a trot after being out of the game for so long?”

As the lesson began and progressed, I discovered that the basics were there, and Carlos expertly helped me discover even more about connecting all the aids – each leg, each hand, my seat – every part working together yet independently of each other. Theo responded well; a frothy-foam dripped from his mouth. My seat stayed in the saddle at the trot and canter. I had to think about the aids for a half-pass at the trot, but everything else came almost naturally.  The best part, though…I still have room to grow.

Good to be Riding Again

“You were excellent,” was Carlos’s final encouragement to me. All the years of training and experience came flooding back. It was great to be back home – home in a Dressage saddle – to be really riding again. So yes, riding a bike and riding a horse are nearly the same. It’s never too late to pick it back up again. The next day my core muscles were sore, a good reminder that it is indeed good to be riding dressage again.

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2 Comments

  1. says: Chris Weigl

    Hi Sharon, Just had a lesson myself after seven long years of not riding. It was great to get back in the saddle and I discovered I still have my balance, but am a bit rusty! The horse I rode was so different from the horse I owned and rode for 23 years, and not in a good way. He was so uncomfortable, compared to my former mount who was smooth as silk and light in my hands. When I complained, my instructor said “Well you will just have to get your own horse.” So I did. There is just no comparing the comfort of riding an Arabian. I will never ride anything else again!

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