Learning a New Dressage Test

Learning a new dressage test. Photo by Holly.

So, we decided to take a look at the omnibus page, and find out which test we are to ride in our upcoming event. Loading it on the phone, and tacking up the horse after work, off we set for the front yard.

The front yard is not really a yard. It has some landscaping, true, but it really is a dressage arena masquerading as a lawn. This provides some interesting entertainment, because being a lawn, with ornamental trees and flowers, as well as being some sort of a major crossroads for the neighborhood strays, it seems to attract all sorts of little animals.

So out we trudge to the arena, and I pull out the phone to begin to learn the test. Only there are like six texts I have to figure out first. And then there are 10 emails, too. And have to check Instagram and the latest crapola on other social media … oh, yeah, the test.

Meanwhile we’ve been walking for a while and I decide we had better start trotting. Second trot step, he nearly creams a bunny rabbit. Rabbit bolts. Horse bolts — the other direction. Suddenly I am without stirrups hanging around his neck and phone goes flying.

Fortunately, the phone has a good case. I save the day with the neck strap (oh yes, we ride with one of those every day), and figure, what the heck, I read through it at least twice, I know it without looking. So I shimmy back into the tack, and decide not to get the phone, but keep warming up and trot what I think is the pattern of the test, just to get to know it. Figure I’ll get the phone later. I know where it is. It’s beeping every now and again.

Except I really don’t know the test, and after trotting around pretty aimlessly for a while I decided I should really look for the phone. I had a basic idea where it was. Fortunately the occasional beep from social media posts gave it away, and I got off to pick it up. And there was the snake. And you know what snakes do. They look at you. And you look at the snake. And really it is not much time before you move and scream and they probably do the snake equivalent of screaming and move also. Except it’s towards you. So you leave. If you could leave the zip code, that would be pretty OK. Mostly I just went to the other corner of the dressage arena and tried to breathe again.

So after my oxygen uptake increased and I was able to prevent myself from having the Big One right there, we circled around and I wanted to get back on the horse really bad so I wasn’t in any snake path or anything and reached out to snatch the phone and quickly got back on. Now I can practice this test, all the distractions are out of the way. Except the snake which is in the corner sort of by M. So we didn’t do anything near M. So … the free walk sort of got turned toward C. And other necessary modifications. As you who are not lovers of reptiles will understand completely.

Do not forget the bunny rabbit. He is now somewhere out there in the taller grass on the other side of the arena but must have bunny friends he has to get to across the arena, so he sneaks through about X. Excuse me. I need to hop through. Just hopping through. Sheesh, I’m trying to get this canter transition in the right place. Really? Really?

The horse is not even caring about the rabbit now, as we’ve stopped to try and memorize the last little bits, and my phone has rather run out of battery, and I’m trying to get the test back up, and while we’re on that little break … he’s eating grass.

And eating. And like one of those Thelwell ponies who won’t lift their heads with a jackhammer, he eats. I tug on the reins like a little kid, thinking, this can’t be real. No one my age has trouble picking a horse’s head up out of the grass. Do I need to tie a hay string from his crownpiece to the front of the saddle? Finally I give him a big kick, and he reluctantly lifts his head, tufts of grass wadding out of his mouth.

“Dressage test,” I am huffing. Back to learning the dressage test. Please. And here comes the next set of assistants … the neighbor’s errant goats. They wander across the driveway, heading for the taller grass … see me … and beat feet back to their side — and back through the electric fence. Zing. Nothing is hurt but feelings.

So it’s finally quiet. Time to work on the test again. This time, I’m looking at the letters, thinking … that isn’t right … H is supposed to be over there … is that right? I can’t suddenly remember where the letters are supposed to go and I think they are, well, turned around a bit. So … if I learned the test going to the letters and now the letters are wrong …. the whole session is completely wasted.

So I give up, the phone has finally died with no battery left, the stray neighborhood cats are trotting through the arena on their way to my barn on their rounds. The pair of doves that live on the house roof are cooing. A couple of other birds are singing their night songs and the sun is going down. I am really doing a lot more communing with nature than I am learning a dressage test out here.

My horse really wants to graze, and you know, I sort of am hungry for dinner, too. So we called it a session and went back to the barn. And that, my friends, is what passes for learning a dressage test on my front lawn!