….for the not so perfect student.
To preface, Spot is definitely not your conventional dressage pony. Polo and dressage are two disciplines that are light years apart…for example:
Polo: Waving around bamboo sticks and shoulder checking your competition while galloping around a 300×160 yard field with 5 other players trying to hit a ball.
Dressage: 1 horse and rider combination fancy prancing in a 60×20 meter court in a calm, collected, and controlled manner with nary a ball or mallet in sight.
As for me, I come from a HJ and polo background so I’ve never really had any formal dressage training. I remember when I was a kid we would call the dressage people “control freaks”. Funny how I now feel more like one of those “control freaks”.
When talking to other dressage people, they would always tell me that the best way to learn and advance is to ride a schoolmaster as they’ll highlight ever single tiny bad habit or shortcoming you have.
The learning curve may be steep and tear inducing, but totally worth it. Not sitting balanced? Sorry, no trot for you. Oh, you wanted a canter depart? Nope, not happening today, sister. You have no idea what you’re doing up there, so I’m just going to stop.
The sit trot seems impossible to me and I always froth at the mouth in frustration and awe when I see other riders do it so effortlessly…like they’re floating on a marshmallow cloud sipping a mimosa. I also want to make sure my position is correct and not interfering with Spot.
Riding a schoolmaster sounded amazing, and what the heck, I’m down for torturing myself, so the only problem was finding one.
So, I began to look around for a schoolmaster I could take lessons on or something but really couldn’t find anything that fit the bill. One day I typed into Google: “Dressage Schoolmaster Sacramento CA” and this popped up:
The Perfect Schoolmaster?!? Sign me up! But wait…a riding simulator? What? Huh?
What is the Perfect Schoolmaster you ask? Well, I’d like to introduce you to Simon:
Simon is a animatronic horse that allows you to practice your position, aids, and seat without having to worry about actually riding a horse. Simon will never buck, refuse, bolt, or spook so all you have to do is work on you. Also, he never gets tired. Simon doesn’t do super complex things like flying lead changes or piaffe and passage, but he does do the basics such as transitions, half halts, varying speeds within a gait, responds to leg aids and rein aids.
I booked a lesson on Simon with Colleen, the trainer at Equine Sports Complex , to see what this thing was all about. Colleen is a great instructor and is excellent in teaching the bio-mechanics of riding and in our first lesson was able to help me pinpoint the things I needed to work on. One of my goals was to work on the sit trot and figure out how exactly I was suppose to sit. So for next 30-45 minutes all we worked on was sit trot. It was quite the lesson and the great thing was that Colleen was able to reach out and touch me to help me correct something. I was drenched in sweat by the end of our lesson and my abs and legs were burning. Talk about needing some core strength!! Of course, this post would be nothing without video so here’s some footage from one of my lessons. Please don’t laugh. 😛
Since that 1st time, I have gone back regularly for lessons on Simon. I feel much more confident in my position when riding and I have started to get moments of a nice sit trot when working with Spot or another horse. My legs and my core are a ton stronger and my position is definitely much improved. Simon as also helped my upper body and hand position as well. I would tend to lose that straight line from my elbow to the bit as well as crossing a hand over the neck, but now that I am more aware of it I’m able to correct these things quicker. I’ll be taking lunge line lessons on her schoolmaster too so I can apply what I’ve learned on Simon onto a real horse; that’ll be exciting!
Interestingly enough, the company that makes “Simon” has a ton of other riding simulators! The original riding simulator was for jockey training but now they have quite a few models. I would love to try the Polo, jumping, and more advanced dressage simulator that does lateral work and such but I’m sure they’re not super common. If you want to check it out here’s the company webpage:
Check them out! They even have a page where they show simulators all around the world so if you’re interested you go see if there is one near you for a lesson. 🙂