Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nuno Oliveira: A Lesson in Dressage

Nuno Oliveira: A Lesson in Dressage
by Dorothy K. Morris

This is a brief anecdote about the most important dressage lesson I ever had. It only lasted thirty minutes and it was one of the most painful experiences of my equestrian life…and the most enlightening.

Foxie (aka Mr. Foxtrot) had spent a year as my field hunter and was a magnificent mount. I could not want or ask for a horse more suited to running and jumping and then standing quietly for as long as I asked.  When Desiree, my daughter, needed dressage for her Pony Club work, I decided to take Foxie and myself to Potomac Horse Center for lessons.  Much to my surprise, Foxie was “off the wall”. He had never been in an enclosed menage and he was, of course, wondering where the hounds were and when do we go!  I had my hands full of horse that I could barely handle.  We endured two of these sessions and the next time we came I was asked by my teacher if I would like to have a half hour lesson with Nuno Oliveira, who had come for his annual visit to Potomac Horse Center.

I had no idea who Nuno Oliveira was and had no idea what I would be getting into, so I pleaded not to do it. I had had only those two intro classes into dressage and had not developed a dressage “seat” and feared that I would not know a single thing that I might be asked to do. However, she persuaded me to give it a try. He was trying to fill his class card and I would benefit no matter what.  So I agreed.

Maestro Nuno occupied one small corner of the large indoor. I approached and stood Foxie waiting for instructions. Maestro Nuno folded his arms across his chest and said quietly, “Drop your reins and trot a circle.”

Anxious to please I maneuvered out onto the circle and relaxed my reins a bit. Foxie was anxious and ready to chase that fox. I dared not actually drop my reins…he could not mean that exactly!  But that is exactly what he meant. He ordered me again to drop my reins and trot a circle. I dropped my reins but held the buckle.  Maestro again said with no room for misinterpretation that I was to DROP THE REINS AND TROT A CIRCLE!

So I did. And Foxie ran hither and thither and yon with me attempting to haul him back to the circle with my hunt seat, which is all I knew.  What a miserable half hour as finally, toward the final ten minutes Maestro suggested that I might pick up the rein and hold it loosely. I don’t remember now if he said pick up the outside or the inside rein, but any rein would have been a blessing.

By this time I was indeed in tears. Humiliated, brought right down to earth to acknowledge my extreme lack of training; nevertheless, I went home determined to do as he had demanded. I read, studied, practiced, until I could drop my reins and trot that danged circle and it became the very first lesson I taught my horses thereafter. Including Foxie.

I am certain that Maestro Nuno thought I was an abomination upon a horse and that he never expected me to do anything with that lesson. I do hope he can look down now and know that the half hour was not a total waste.

From Arizona, USA, Dorothy K. Morris is an avid equestrian and author. Connect with Dorothy to enjoy more of her intriguing writing and stories. I had the great opportunity to connect with Dorothy and interview her for Riding & Writing.

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