Last Saturday Nonie and I ventured out for our first lesson in Brisbane! My local dressage club was holding a clinic with local FEI dressage rider and coach Paula Price so I decided I would go along. It was an exciting milestone that initially had my stomach churning with a maelstrom of emotions.
When I got into the car with Nonie on board on Saturday afternoon I realised my heart was thudding in my chest. Odd!
I wasn’t sure if this unexpected surge of anxiety was due to travelling to a new venue? But I’ve done a fair bit of driving over the last few years and consider myself a pretty competent driver. So I ruled that out.
Maybe it was worry about how Nonie would behave once we got there given her recent spiciness? Or maybe it was just general nerves about working with someone new? A definite possibility. Over the last 18months I have had lessons with ‘new’ coaches twice and both times I have left feeling underwhelmed. One particular lesson left me feeling that I was doing Nonie harm. The coach (who shall remain nameless) told me that although Nonie was a classy mare he could tell that she was unhappy. By looking in her eye. After taking her from me and working her in hand – But that is anoth3er story for another day.
I pressed on and as we made our way through the picturesque, rolling hillside of Thornlands and Mount Cotton a grin spread across my face. I was here in Brisbane driving less than 20minutes to a lesson. This was something I had only dreamt about for the past seven years, and now it was my new life (#livingmybestlife)!
When we arrived I was greeted by the clubs clinic coordinator who let me know that the person before me was halfway through her lesson. I did my best impression of Speedy Gonzalez and tacked up in record time, breathing a sigh of relief that I had chosen to throw boots in for Nonie and not bandages.
As we made our way down to the arena Nonie was alert and interested but not panicking. A wave of relief washed over my body.
I met Paula and as is usual at first lessons, she asked me to tell her about ourselves. I listed off our facts; WB x TB, 13 years old, together for 8 years, training medium, playing with the idea of canter pirouette.
Paula oversaw our warm up, offering suggestions as we went. We quickly moved into the flying changes. I tried to relax the tension that seems to come over my body almost reflexively at the thought of the changes (this is something I have been working hard on over the last few days with good effect). Right to left – Clean! Left to right – late behind.
Paula had me ride Nonie across the diagonal in shoulder fore, think pirouette canter, maintain the flexion left and ask for the change – success! A clean change.
We had a little break and then went on to the walk pirouettes, a movement that we can do decently, but nowhere near spectacularly. While they are more or less correct these days, they are just never quite as tight as they should be. Paula showed me another new exercise which immediately had Nonie more supple through her ribs and bending her hind leg allowing for a much tighter pirouette!
We moved back up to trot and went through shoulder in, travers and renvers. Again we played with a slightly different feel in the travers to improve the bend and through-ness with good success.
I left the lesson buzzing! The work wasn’t the best we have ever done. But that wasn’t the point. I felt like I had my pony back – she was listening to me, she was trying and we had some really tangible exercises to take away and work on.
Needless to say I’ve booked in another lesson this weekend with Paula! Lookout dressage world – Nonie and I are coming to get you.
A huge thank you to Ally Darville Photography for capturing these beautiful photos of Nonie and I.