A New Year is nearly upon us. This is the time of year that it is normal to reflect back on the year behind us, and look ahead to the year coming up. When I look back in terms of my riding, I realize how far I have come this year. Since leaving North Carolina, I have been able to ride with Erin Brinkman, Iris Eppinger, as well as extensively with Andrew Palmer - who entrusts me to school the stallions at the farm when he is away at shows with others. These experiences combined have allowed me further develop in my riding.
My seat has developed. I am strong in the core and supple in my seat. I can sit the trot of the biggest moving horses on the farm. My lower leg is quietly on the horse, and I have learned NEW ways to use my leg! But the major breakthrough in my seat has been in my balance. I have always had good front to back balance in the saddle, but have struggled with finding my balance side to side for several reasons. I have one hip that is tighter than the other, and have always had problems with the flexibility in the ankle also on that side. This tightness causes my vertebrae to come out of alignment, which causes one leg to be "shorter" than the other, which perpetuates the one-sided issues I have had. Through constant awareness and daily work I have been able to finally straighten myself out, which has been a huge breakthrough for me. Now I can even get straight in the saddle when it does not "feel" straight to me. I am working on reprogramming where "center" is.
My confidence in my abilities as a rider and trainer has improved. Andrew has definitely helped me out in this department, as his teaching style is a bit different than what I am accustomed to. I always appreciate a teacher that gives you feedback constantly throughout your ride, but this inadvertently leaves me with the feeling as though what I am doing is not good enough - because there is always something to be improved upon. There IS something that can always be improved upon, this is the nature of training horses. However, Andrew will watch me on a horse and sometimes not say ANYTHING for a long time. At first, this made me really uneasy, but I soon learned that it meant that everything was going pretty well. I have actually had rides where he didn't say anything until the end, and then he said, "I enjoyed watching that." That is a great feeling! We have had great discussions about training issues with particular horses; and have even traded off riding during one session, taking breaks to discuss what we are working on and what we are feeling.
It has been a dream to be here riding the stallions with Andrew and Tiffany, they are some of my best friends as well. There are a lot of things I will really miss about working here. However, I have a great opportunity waiting for me at Southern Oaks, with trainer Marsha Hartford Sapp, that is too good for me to pass up! I will be heading there shortly after the first of the year to work as her assistant trainer. I will be helping her out doing some riding, as well as teaching lessons. I will be available to travel to teach lessons and offer training rides as well. Tucci and Preston will be coming with me, and I will have an opening for another training horse. And NO BARN WORK - yay! This will be my first position that does not require any barn work, so I feel like I am finally getting somewhere. Plus, the networking opportunities alone will be invaluable for me in my next step, working out of Kendall's barn. It will also be nice to have more control over my schedule, so that I can schedule in more computer time, as my Equine Web Design business is picking up as well.
Merry Christmas from Collette Zimmer dressage! See you in the New Year!