In order to be a truly competitive dressage rider not only do you need a capable mount you need time, money and desire to all be available at the same time. I also learned this weekend that you really need to be in good physical shape. Now I am not in horrible condition, but I also do not partake in Crossfit, Zumba and my elliptical machine gets a fair amount of dust on it every week. Watching the Region 1 Championship Show this past weekend I saw some absolutely lovely riders. Ones that could easily compete on the International scene. What they all had in common was extremely good fitness and core strength that was as strong as steel. They rode every stride, every half halt, every transition. Their legs did not flop, their backs did not hunch, their elbows did not stick out.
Then I got on my horse each day for our warm-up and dressage test. I tried to ride my "show trot" for the entire test but realized I couldn't. I tried to firm up my core to prevent my mare from getting down in her shoulders but realized we both lost the fight to gravity. I tried to hold my arms steady but saw in my video that darned right elbow sticking out. Why oh why does my elbow do that chicken wing thing? I realized in half pass I collapsed my left side,..going both to the left AND the right! Somehow we still squeaked out some decent scores around 63% at Third Level but in order for me to get consistent scores in the mid-high 60s (or even the dreamy 70s) I am going to have to buckle down and fix myself! Wish I could blame my horse, but sadly (or really thankfully) I have a nice mare, a very capable mare. She does however not give me anything "for free" and mirrors if I ride well or not.
I do have the luxury of a really good instructor, Lynn Leath, and the ability to keep my mare in training at her facility. We can ride in rain, snow or blazing sun due to her lovely covered arena. However, she can't ride for me and no matter how many times she says "lift with your core", "watch your elbow", etc. if I don't consciously ride to improve myself progress will be slow. I wonder when I hear some folks say "I moved trainers because I wasn't moving up the levels" how many of them really tried? Really put the effort into doing what their instructor was telling them? Or did they feel that magically what their instructor said would just course through their veins and instantly correct their position, timing or effectiveness!
So to wrap up this entry....time to dust off the elliptical machine, limit my urge for Halloween candy and really try to ride each and every stride like a pro!