...And back to the real world
I'm back. I have put off writing my last installment as it makes me quite sad. I'm now well and truly back into the "real life" of working and being a Mum. The holiday is really over.
My last ride in Cascais was the morning before I departed Portugal. I had a magical lesson (again with Frederico), riding Vingador. We continued our work on laterals, flying changes and passage. For me, the lightbulb moment was realising that for these movements I had to wait (and wait a bit more...!) and prepare. My eventing reflexes have me wanting to do everything in a hurry (and in doing so, trying to do too much). So it was a revelation in riding the flying changes to sit up, half halt, slight change of flexion...quietly ask for the change. It worked!
There is, much to my surprise, actually time to do this, even between 3 x changes (if you have seen the video I recently posted on my Gretgrix Equestrian Facebook page, you can see me finally 'getting' the sequence changes...5 across the diagonal). In the passage too, it was quite the experience for me to learn to slow down and travel in that much slower rhythm. I'm sad that I had to leave when I'd just had a brief taste of how much more there is for me to learn!
Maria gave me a souvenir of my stay - my very own CRC shirt ;) Very happy to be the first Aussie recruit (well, after Sarah that is! ;))
Upon packing my bags, Paulo collected me from Quinta da Bicuda to take me to the Airport. We had a slight detour to make - I had been looking for a special souvenir tile to take back. Earlier in the week I saw beautiful tiles of Lusitanos at The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. I naively assumed they'd be everywhere, which wasn't the case. Anyhow, Paulo specially took me back to Belem so I could get my beautiful tile (2 actually...oh and a print for the wall!). As a result, I got to the airport an hour before departure and only just made it to my boarding gate 15 mins before closing. Gate 46 is the furtherest away of course....! I like living on the edge ;)
So what have I learned?
Many people have asked me how riding other "fancy" horses can help me with my own riding. I cannot emphasize enough the value in riding schoolmaster horses in developing "feel". To understand straightness, you need to ride a horse that can go straight (when I sit straight, of course!). To understand true collection, it is something that must be felt. To get the feeling of the higher level work, it is best experienced on a horse with a higher level of training (and tolerance!) before attempting to train the movements on a less educated horse. I also had the opportunity to ride younger horses, to learn the process of their training and experience riding a range of horses. I could write volumes on so many of the things that I've learned. Many of them that I'd been told before, but needed extra time for the penny to drop! Riding under instruction for consecutive days also saw quite a transformation in my position, feel and timing. It taught me I need to be more disciplined in my training - both on myself and my horses.
Both Sarah and Frederico gave me exercises to do off the horse, to improve suppleness and body awareness. Use of the Balimo chair helped get my lower back, pelvis and hip flexors more free. Regular visits to my osteopath and off horse strength/suppleness training is now part of my routine.
Experiencing "pure" dressage training has seen a shift in my thinking/training & ambitions. I now view dressage as it was originally intended - training, and an art in itself, not just related to competition. Whilst my first love is still eventing, I really enjoy dressage training. I have the utmost respect for those who ride high level dressage - and am in love with the Lusitano horse ;) So beautiful, so much power, personality and yet a forgiving, willing nature. I now just need to win Lotto to bring home one of my own....In the meantime, I have a lot of learning to do with my current horses first!
On a more personal level, this trip was a way for me to step outside of my comfort zone - going somewhere new, to concentrate on a different riding discipline was an exciting adventure. Much to my surprise, I felt relaxed the whole time I was away (must have been the nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night....bliss!!!). Travelling alone teaches you so much about yourself & what you are truly capable of. I was able to talk to my kids each day (hurray for the internet!) and it wasn't as hard as I thought being away from my family. So many people said to me they could never leave their kids for so long - however, I have faith in my husband's parenting ability, not to mention my wider support network of family.
If you ever want to do something like this - just do it! It might be a leap of faith, but the rewards are great. Life is too short. Get out there and seize the moment!