Well, it's actually ten days until my first dressage test at a horse show since I was about 12 or 13 years old. I need to memorize the test between now and then and I need to ride Girlfriend a lot more - especially because it will be her first dressage test. And we had what felt like a catastrophic lesson today. I keep asking myself why but my instructor seemed to think that Girlfriend was just in a hot mood and pointed out a couple things I was doing that may have encouraged it - like keeping the reins too tight. And I think I was already tense which may have encouraged it, but she also may have just been in a mood.
It started when I was tacking her up. She was doing fine until I tried to put her bit in her mouth and she refused. She had a raw spot on her nose right where the nose band goes and I wondered if she just didn't want the discomfort of the noseband on the raw spot. And of course, I wondered where it came from. I know Ilana rode her in a lesson on Saturday, but she is not a bully with horses and knows how to ride Girlfriend - meaning she knows to use light signals. Anyway, I ended up holding a treat against the bit and that tricked Girl into opening her mouth to take the bit. I later wondered if that was going to be setting her up for a bad pattern of refusing the bit unless she gets a treat but my instructor figures Girl is so easy on the ground usually that in a situation like this it wasn't a big deal.
Our warm-up was fine and she had an energetic walk but in general was doing fine. But by the time my lesson started, especially when we trotted she was all wound up. And I over-signaled her a couple times quite a bit which sent her bolting both times (something she hasn't done in a long time) and it was hard to get her to slow down again. There was a small crowd at the arena door watching our lesson because everyone is gearing up for the show next week and was curious to see how my retired gaming horse was going to do in our practice test today. By the end of our lesson I was having a really hard time keeping her at a trot and a couple times thought there was no way I was going to be able to get her to slow down from a canter to a trot. But I just kept with it and my instructor actually praised me after my lesson at how much better my balance is and how I would catch myself trying to balance myself with the reins (which hurts the horse and actually makes me more unbalanced) and then stop doing that. But still, I wonder what the heck was up with Girl and what I may have been doing to make her so amped and a bit out of control today.
After my lesson some of the girls watching said I'd looked really good and I said thanks, but obviously something was up because Girl was bolting a lot but they said I still looked good. We did do our patterns pretty well and I kept her straight. One thing my instructor said was that the patterns we were doing for the dressage test were similar to getting started to do barrel patterns and that Girl was probably just trying to do what she's done her whole life - which is go through the pattern at a gallop. She was trained not to go through patterns at a trot, so hopefully that's all it was, that she was just doing what she thought she should be doing and not that I just sucked at riding today.
It's funny how my instructor can critique me all to hell and I listen to it and take it seriously, but like today when she tells me all the things I am improving on and the things she saw me do that were good despite Girl not sticking to the program, I find myself thinking that she just must be saying that to make me feel better. Until I remind myself that she does not "just say things to make people feel better". It reminded me of this morning when my boss came over to my desk and said, "We need to talk in my office. Are you free?" and I said, "Ok," and started to follow him into his office and suddenly he stops and says, "Oh, and it is good," then turns back around and starts walking again and mutters, "I don't want you freaking out again that I'm going to fire you or something ..." But I don't think Sheryl is too worried about me freaking out over my insecurities. She'd just tell me if I want to be a good rider I need to get over and just keep trying.