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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Don't do what comes naturally!

It was another dry winter day in the Willamette Valley, so of course I rode this morning! It was great to review the things Julie had Sylvia and me work on in our lessons before they flew from my middle-aged mind.

Some of what I have been doing with Horton is spot-on, like circling immediately when he braces or gets bratty. But I also have to remember to go right back to being calm and encouraging after a correction, giving him the chance to take the bit forward and down softly, so he can lift his back and swing in the walk and trot, and flatten out in the canter (he tends to brace and "climb"). This means pushing my hands forward (Jane Savoie's "short reins, long arms") while keeping my body upright and core strong. That latter point was a particular challenge for Sylvia, who has more history with Horton – including an involuntary dismount herself, and witnessing that of others. Interesting, isn't it, that when we are most insecure, our self-preservation instinct draws us into the most vulnerable position – collapsing our mid-section and leaning forward – while gripping the reins with unyielding contact?

Both of us needed reminding to keep our hands on either side of Horton's withers. As Julie noted, he is a workout for the rider's left leg because he tends to fall left. And while it is natural to try to "help" with the left hand, crossing the withers with the left hand actually has the opposite effect. I was thinking of that while riding this morning. "Crossing the centerline with my left hand means I need more leg – but I'm using my left leg as much as possible. Crossing the centerline with my left hand has the opposite effect – so what would have the desired effect? An opening hand?" BINGO! Horton moved over to the right immediately!

Another aid for keeping Horton on the rider's chosen track is "the eye in your bellybutton." Imagine that you have an eyeball in your bellybutton. Point that eye in the direction you want to go and the horse will follow!

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