Stop trying to ride so correct and just RIDE!

OR: Ride with your heart, not just your head.

Seemingly from the time I first started dressage, various instructors have told me some variation of needing to let go and ride a little more from the right brain, a little more from the heart, and much more fluidly. From my view in the judge’s box at C, I don’t think I’m alone in this.

There is something about dressage that makes the “A” type personalities geek out. It is a heady sport for intellectuals and perfectionists alike. Yet, if we just leave it there, if we focus only on the mechanics of correct riding, we lose the other side of it– the surprising fine art quality the discipline has.

I live for the moments where I feel something click for the horse, and especially for the moments where I feel the horse go, “Hey, this is FUN!” It is in those moments, where I feel the horse start to be with me, where he starts to add his own flare to the movement and express himself. Those are the moments of joy, of freedom, of expression, and of really dancing together.

Sometimes it is the simple things that make it fun.

The other day, I felt the horse switch into “FUN mode” at the end of a lengthening. Up unto that point, I had been focused on trying to keep him connected from my inside leg to outside rein and flexed slightly to the inside…riding theory instead of the horse under me.

That lengthening kicked us into FUN mode and everything started to flow. I stopped being so hands-y. I breathed deeply. He breathed deeply.  We took another step towards being partners rather rider-on-horse.

I started thinking: What do you ride? I mean, what do you actually ride?

Is it theory and how things “should” be?

Is it the training scale?

Is it the movements of a dressage test, a pattern?

Is it movements from the level you WANT to be at?

Or do you ride the relationship, the partnership?

The feeling under you that you seek?

Or the feeling within you that you want to enjoy?