To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lessons learned

Last Sunday Kate and I did indeed get lessons with Julie. It worked out really well; she kind of wove our lessons together, so we both got a lot of instruction interspersed with good rest breaks. I was hoping to take some photos, but it was so foggy that there was actually fog inside the covered arena. Fog=not enough light without flash; crazy spotting with flash. Oh well.

Here were my take-away points from my lesson:

  • Shorten my reins! (What's new?) There should be consistent contact without pulling back; always think "hands towards Lance's mouth."
  • In the leg yield along wall at the walk exercise, Lance's front legs were crossing over well, but not his hind legs. Turns out (no surprise) that it was my fault; I was keeping him too straight. His rib cage is supposed to yield to my driving leg; when I let it, his hind legs cross much better!
  • Then Julie asked us to do the same exercise at the trot, with less angle. =:-O  That was challenging for both of us; Lance eloquently expressed his opinion about how difficult it was. Don't attempt too much at once; let him go straight and forward after a few steps of good effort.   
  • We proceeded to working on a 20m circle at trot and canter. Julie noted that Lance's hindquarters tend to drift to the outside, so had me put my outside leg back to keep them in place. He took this to mean canter, but Julie said he can learn the subtleties. Keeping his hindquarters in place greatly improved both gaits.
  • Worked on good canter departs; don't accept so-so attempts by continuing at the canter!
  • At the end Julie had us trot over three ground poles – simply placed at first, then moved closer together. I had to collect Lance's trot but keep it energetic to negotiate those; the pay-off was SUSPENSION! Once we consistently got collected suspension, Julie had me ask for a stretch of bigger trot afterwards. I can tell this is going to be huge in developing Lance's trot.
Since Kate and I were still anticipating that I would be riding Dinah while Kate recovers from surgery, Julie addressed both of us while working with her. Dinah needs to learn to trot in a slightly slower, cadenced rhythm; it's easy to be let her motor around and enjoy her naturally expressive trot, but that won't give her the tools to carry herself past Training Level. She is still quite unbalanced at the canter, so needs lots of patience and time, on the lunge and under saddle, to figure that out. Julie rode her awhile and was surprised at how strong she was in the bridle – although Dinah is smart and responded quickly to Julie's direction. Dinah and Lance are very different horses in temperament, conformation, and gaits, but lots of lateral work will benefit both.

The first chance I got to work on our take-away points was yesterday morning; we had a really good schooling session. I dug out three odd pieces of PVC pipe to use as trot poles, and they worked just fine. My boy can actually "boing"! At the end, Lance had nice, foamy lips and a sweaty chest, telling me that my "energy-conservor" was working hard but without tension. That's what I want – short, effective schooling sessions!


toastyyak said...

Warning, novel ahead! :P

Thank you so much for this lesson summary! I always enjoy your posts here an with the sheepies, but this one is clicking with me in particular. I've followed Lance's soundness with interest as my Spice has has similar-ish issues (kicked right between the RRear sesamoids, attenuated lateral collateral ligament - oh joy). It's so encouraging to see you making progress even with the occasional pause now and then.

When the original (pasture) injury occurred we had _just_ started to establish lengthening and shortening at the canter, hit jumping at 3' (she loves to jump), and had a few magic moments of that soft elastic, connected back, and practiced a dressage test for a schooling show where I controlled the length of her frame by rein length (connection with "up" shoulders, and a beautiful "live", calm mouth), and her direction and speed with my seat and legs. Even remembering it is so, (um), transformational? joyful?, infused with wonder? - makes the journey there all worth it.

It's been several years, but we've not been able to get back to that point (issues with turnout footing - mud, or frozen uneven ground etc.). This has, however, forced me to be more deliberate about the basics, and has led to other really useful, cool lessons for me and Spice.

Anyhoo -

If I were on the left coast, I think I'd enjoy taking lessons from Julie! And thank you for the reflection and thoughts that this post (and others) has inspired!!


Michelle said...

Holly, I LOVE your "novel"! It's always good to read about the journey of others; makes us feel less isolated as well as giving us ideas for reflection and training. Glad Lance's and my journey has been helpful.

Mary said...

Thank you for summarizing your lesson. The stretchy exercise is something I work on every ride, though do so in a less structured way. Woodrow and I were able to do many layers of stretchiness, and in his last few years, he developed a jog. That was nice.

Nick is still on the mend. I rode him Monday at a walk and trot with only slight hesitation once. He was very careful with rating himself and I read that to mean he was still feeling ouchy. More days off, and now we have lots of rain so everything is soupy. Maybe I will get to ride next week.