Permission to Dance

We had theBimi privilege of having Katherine Bateson up for a clinic at Bel Air Farm last week. She’s such a lovely person; I’m so grateful to be able to know and learn from such awesome human beings. What is especially cool to me is that in my lessons on Bimini, we basically touched on everything that Courtney and I have been working on, but there was just a different voice – different words to guide me on the same path. I love that feeling of connection when we’re all on the same track.

 “Keep everything as simple as possible.”

So maybe this Dressage thing really is pretty complicated, but it’s never going to simplify if we don’t at least try. My aids and my mind need to be as clear and basic as possible. We started out by making sure that my aid for the half halt was simple, not reliant on my hand (partially so that we can try to keep his neck long), and effective. Katherine reminded me to lean back a bit beyond where I usually sit to access my back. This made a clear change in my seat to tell the horse that it’s time to sit and wait. When it was good, it got to the point where I felt like as I sat back the hind end would lower. If it wasn’t instantaneous, I could use my hand quickly to say, “Hey, that meant woah!”

I was reminded that it’s important for me to do lots and lots and lots (millions) of these half halts. I need to make sure that there’s an immediate response when I sit back and tighten my abs, but I can’t just sit there and try to hold the half halt so that he gets “claustrophobic.” Since Bimini is such a go, go, go, energizer bunny kind of a horse, my body tends to want to ride negatively, to keep him under me instead of riding positively, pushing him to go and then just using the half halts as a reminder to sit and wait.

A big focus was to see how long I could go around letting Bimini be sort of, “on his own”.  He needs to learn to wait for me, to stay with me instead of deciding that dragging me around town is more fun and efficient. “Just keep saying, ‘I’m not going to hang onto you.’”

She had me ride 10 meter circles in every corner to give me the chance to ride positively. I could really put my leg on to push his hind end without him just getting away from me or burying into my hands. Leg doesn’t mean run, buddy! The voltes sort of did the collecting for me. I realized that I usually use too much hand in the turns because he looks for it. He would rather have me hold him up than to sit and carry himself around the circle. “When he wants you to take back, you’ve got to give.” So when I choose to give and my hand just sort of disappears, he’s forced to sit his butt down and hold himself up. Then my hand becomes unnecessary. See, it is simple after all.

Schooling the flying changes went along the same lines. I get especially caught up in my brain when I go to ride the changes. It’s so obvious when changes go wrong, so I tend to think harder, ride more, and just generally complicate them in my effort not to make a mistake. I’m learning that spinning wheels are often counterproductive. It reminds me of a song that my Bestie and I were listening to on a road trip with the lyrics,

But we’re willing to wait on you; we believe in everything that you can do, if you could only lay down your mind.”

 The way we started practicing the changes was all very relaxed and simple. “The aid for flying changes can’t be faster than the rhythm of the canter. He already wants to be too quick. Don’t get ahead of him, it’s gotta be like a dance.” I had to make a clear effort to be lazy. Hmm, that’s an oxymoron. But really, just quieting my mind and body helped me to feel my horse and let him move with me like a dance partner.

 It’s time to give myself permission to dance.


Getting My Pen Moving

 I have been feeling guilty about not posting a new blog entry in many weeks. It’s a little bit out of laziness, having long days and then just wanting to read a book for a few minutes and fall asleep instead of giving my brain a bit of a workout by writing. But see that’s just the thing. I think I’ve been working too hard at making this writing thing a certain way, a certain style, with a set of rules and constraints for what it should be like. Bearing in mind the expectation that I think others may have for it. I live my life with a pretty strong filter, often one that filters my thoughts before I can fully process them. When I write with the intention to share, I think about what kind of people may be reading; I think about what they probably expect and want from my writing; I think about what I would want to read; I judge it and think about how it’s judged before I even give it the chance to be created. So this is me just getting my pen moving again.

 I started to put this blog in a tidy little box with the label being, “Safe for the Public: Lessons from a Riding Student.” But finding perfectly neat little lessons to write about seems to be missing the point a bit when nothing in my head feels safe, perfect, and orderly. It’s pretty messy up there. It’s full of so many lessons, thoughts, and feelings that don’t line up perfectly with any sort of prototype I have created and am comfortable with, unless it undergoes quite a bit of drafting and gutting. Constantly stripping down my thoughts to judge their fittingness before even trying to type them is tiring and pretty uninspiring. I want to let go and make a habit of just letting words come. No more boxes.

 In other news, I’m sure that anyone reading this has heard that Courtney and Jason’s baby girl, River Madison Dye was born on February 20th! Courtney is posting updates and adorable pictures on her blog at I got to meet her for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think I’ve ever really been around a baby so young! If I have, then it was definitely not one that was born so close to my heart. The first time I saw her I was standing with Courtney in her kitchen when Jason appeared holding River in his arm. I had no idea that I would have such an intense reaction. The day she was born I was thrilled and couldn’t stop smiling, so happy and excited for them, but meeting her a couple of weeks later I didn’t think I would feel quite so much. The immediate immense swelling in my heart at just a first glimpse of a tiny, beautiful, new little Dye really surprised me! I’ve never felt that sort of awe and love.

 Jason showed me how to hold her and handed her to me. It was weird when I noticed my body automatically started to sway side to side as I stared at her innocence. (Umm, maternal instincts… say, what??) At some point, Jason making conversation asked me a question…. about my car I think… it was a few moments later before I could pull myself away to utter some sort of, “Umm, huh? Sorry… I’m in another world…” one that’s such a bigger reality than the state of my wheels. She just pulled me in close and held me in Almost Auntie Koryn land. There are lots of exciting beginnings these days!