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September 07, 2016
By: Maggie Carty
Last November, I moved my horse to my friend’s facility when my trainer moved to Florida. I was in my last semester of college, balancing my riding with school work, interning, working, and competing IHSA. With winter break approaching, I wanted to accomplish something that I had constantly failed at: having a round horse.
This may sound like something I should have taken care of when my horse was younger, and believe me, I wish I would have, but I just didn't get it – the importance of a solid dressage foundation.
Let’s start from the beginning: I grew up riding a lot of different horses, taking them swimming in ponds, running around the woods, and of course jumping anything and everything that was put in front of me, with or without a saddle. I got to the point where I was better bareback over fences than I was with tack. I spent a lot of time in the air and I loved every second of it, but when I went to show on the flat I did not perform well. Nothing says “winner” like getting two blue ribbons over fences and nothing in the hack. My little horse has consistent, smooth gaits but that doesn't matter when her nose is flying around in the air and her ears are pinned with a hollow back.
So, I began my mission. My greatest friend has a dressage background, and agreed to help me. We started incredibly slow, and eventually I got Paige to take TWO steps not evading the bit. Two steps walking slowly became a twenty meter circle in December. Yes, an entire month to walk correctly. Trotting was a whole new ball game, because now Paige had to go faster and keep it all together (while her pilot was learning too). Finally, and surprisingly the easiest, was cantering. We are not perfect, but it is amazing the transformation we have gone through (see photo exhibits A and B). Her jump is so much rounder, her top line is defined, and I won my first hack!
It was one of the most challenging things I have ever done under saddle, but it is so worth it! Now, I don't roll my eyes at the thought of a flat class. I have an interest in dressage at mini trials, and I genuinely enjoy my horse’s more powerful, balanced gaits. Needless to say, without my good friend, her talents and guidance, I would have never reached my goal.
Making time to develop our riding skills can be challenging, especially with work and/or school schedules, but in the end it truly does pay off. All the cold days when I didn't want to ride, I just remembered how much I wanted to better myself and my horse.
As equestrians, we should continuously want to learn and grow! Ride with new trainers. Take advantage of clinicians. Read books. If you feel like you have plateaued, look for a new challenge! And don’t ever think you can’t teach an old horse new tricks!
About our blogger: Maggie Carty is a brand ambassador for The Carousel Horse. Maggie is a recent graduate of Seton Hill University where she competed for, and was the captain of their IHSA team. Maggie actively horse shows in the tri-state area.
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