Here’s to a ‘Not-So-Perfect’, but Amazing 2019.
As this is my first blog for Divine Equestrian, I’d better introduce myself. My name is Jessica Allies, and I’m a one-horse dressage rider based in Cheltenham. I have a small group of clients that I coach around a full-time job and have done a lot of work with ‘problem’ horses, and rider confidence. I’m pictured below with my dancing partner, Nabretto (Kirby to his friends), and have been a sponsored rider for Divine Equestrian for the past three years…time really does fly!
My Grandfather, who was mine and Kirby’s biggest fan, sadly passed away this month, but strongly believed that I should turn coaching in my spare time into a career, and leave the 9-5 slog of the office as a distant memory. With this in mind, 2019 is going to be an exciting year for us, as I open up my coaching hours, and go in search of a youngster to bring up the levels alongside Kirby. I hope you can join me on our journey as I make this a reality.
Kirby and I have been a team, with his owner, Aly, since 2015. We have learnt a lot of lessons along the way from prelim to training at Prix St. Georges, but the one I really wanted to share with you today, is very close to my heart… perfectionism!
The sport of dressage naturally draws in the perfectionists among us, ever striving for that illusive ten! Honestly, I could talk about this with you for hours but I think we’ll scratch the surface with ‘shaking the apple cart’.
Are you guilty of fixing yourself in a ‘correct position’ to the detriment of your effectiveness as a rider? Or are you worried to ask your horse questions just in case you disturb the training you have carefully built over the past few years? I know I was! I had a horse that was behind the leg and not interested in my aids, because I was too focused on being ‘correct’ and didn’t want to regress in my training, even temporarily.
I’ll give you an example; you’re riding a shoulder-in for a six at the moment. You’ve ridden a shoulder-in for a six for the past nine months, your horse is comfortable with that, you’re comfortable with that but you have a desire to improve. You’re schooling that movement over and over again in pursuit of ‘the ten’, positioning yourself to make it as easy as possible for your horse, but you’re getting the same six every time.
While you’re doing this, are you actually asking for more suppleness, for more weight behind, for more cadence or are you running through the motions expecting that with repetition, it will improve? If your horse doesn’t understand that you are now asking for a little bit more, how can you expect them to try harder for you? Yes, it’s important to build a stable foundation, but once you are comfortable, I challenge you to push yourself and your horse to past your comfort zone and be happy for things to get messy before you brush them up for the arena! When you’re training at home you shouldn’t expect it to always look as though you’re riding a test. It is so easy to get sucked into sacrificing progress in the pursuit of perfection.
With my coaching or judging hat on, I would much rather see a rider being effective, than sitting pretty with their ride going through the motions, completely switched off. Sometimes you have to shake the apple cart to stimulate a reaction! But don’t forget to always reward a positive reaction. My riders will be rolling their eyes by now…
American trainer, George Morris, once said, ‘Every second, you’re either schooling or unschooling your horse. There is no in-between.’
Want to see a real progress with your training in 2019? Shake the apple cart, ask your horse a different question, and tell them how wonderful they are when they go the extra mile to please you! Happy training! Keep up to date with my quest into 2019, along with things we learn along the way on social media. If this helped you to think about your training in a different way, check out some previous notes on fascia release, effective schooling and ‘what is bend?’ at www.facebook.com/JAdressage.