If I did not have the evidence in video, I am not sure I would believe that Universo and I did changes every 2 strides in a clinic with Verne Batchelder, October 2018 at Windcroft Farm. It was a date that I highlighted in my riding journal: the first time, I successfully, on-purpose, did flying changes, every two strides!
When I first started doing flying changes, I wrote obsessively about them. The thrill of a perfect change, the difficulties I encountered, the ever-elusive clean line of three’s and four’s for the Prix St. Georges. I recorded my progress both forward and backward. Sometimes it seemed like the failures outweighed the successes. However, I still managed to earn my USDF silver medal, a dream fulfilled to ride and compete in the upper levels of dressage.
2018 was marked by both personal and professional changes that necessitated moving my horse and myself out of the show barn where we were constantly “in training”. With one daughter starting college and another close behind her, money designated towards “horse-related aspirations” had to be re-allocated. And now, like so many amateur riders, I juggle my horse-allocated funds between horse care and my desire to continue learning, investing time and money into lessons and clinics.
After a 6-month break of mostly grooming and trail riding, I was able to move Universo back to Pepperwood Farm where I originally boarded him after his purchase in 2011.
I tentatively started to ask my horse and myself to act as if we were in training. I put an image of an instructor in the center of the arena and started a running commentary in my head. I had low expectations for us and literally started as if I were on what we called a “training baby” back when I was a student at Meredith Manor. I rode on a long rein at walk, trot, and canter, simply asking for forward off my leg and into the contact. I did lots of work focusing on myself, sitting trot and canter without stirrups, watching myself in the mirror.
When I actually started to ask for some of the familiar lateral movements and added flying changes to my self-taught riding lessons, I discovered with delight that I was able and ready to keep going on this journey on my own.
The day before another lesson with Verne Batchelder, it was a lovely sunny winter afternoon. I rode in the outdoor arena, and just for fun, decided to ride some flying changes. It was with absolute glee that Universo and I executed a series of forward, balanced changes in a straight line of three’s and then another line of two’s. They weren’t recorded on video camera, but they are forever recorded in my collection of “best rider memories.”
In my lesson with Verne, Sunday February 3rd, I was able to demonstrate not only my progress in getting a collected trot with more implusion, but I could also demonstrate my continual progress in riding the two’s. Verne observed that I no longer need the constant instructor input; I can continue my training with the feedback on my progress from instructors as needed. The break from the constant pressure of riding under instruction has made me more self-reliant, more focused, and ultimately more confident.