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

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

First lesson of 2022

After being able to resume more frequent schooling sessions this month, I decided it was time for another lesson with Suzan. I texted her on Sunday, and she said she could fit us in this morning!

It was a drizzly day; I was thinking I might have to walk Stella up and down the barn aisles in lieu of a warm-up. But the lesson before us finished early so Suzan ushered us into the indoor arena. Suzan noted that my saddle isn't sitting balanced on Stella's back, and suggested I use my CorrecTOR pad with shims to lift the cantle. She also noted that Stella has filled out some since our last lesson and is croup-high, meaning she's grown. Hopefully her front end will follow suit....

As before, Suzan was worried that I was going to just get on without lunging Stella first, but after a minute or so of high tension, Stella settled well and we got to work on her, and me. Below are my notes, which I sat down and typed as soon as I got home so as to forget as little as possible!

Use sustained half halt to slow Stella's walk down to a steady, four-beat "3," then ease out of it (not abrupt release) while keeping the clear four-beat walk, BREATHE, and become a wet sandbag in the saddle. If she gets tense or hurried (often!), repeat. and keep repeating as needed. Don't pull on the reins; the half halt should be in my body and legs. If she dives down, squeeze her up with inside leg; if she gets high with her head, follow with my hands. Keep my shoulders down, neck back into collar, chin up (not tucked); look forward between her ears. BREATHE. Let my hips move when she relaxes (think "move with her ribcage/encourage her ribcage to move"). BREATHE.

Most of this applies to trot as well; stretch left side and don't twist torso.

If she startles or spooks at something, let her stand (stroking) until her energy comes down if possible.

Before asking for shoulder-in, do a slow volté (half halt!) and push her hindquarters out, then continue down the wall with that bend. Harder to the left; think "swing her ribcage in a pulsing motion."

Stella did so much better than her first lesson in the indoor. She really wants to scurry along and got frustrated at times that I wouldn't let her go in her default quick, tense pace, but she tried. Suzan remarked on how much better she was today, too. It was a good lesson.


marlane said...

I just got a different saddle pad for Coco because she now has a bit of a sway back, she is 22. It goes over a western style felt pad. I am trying it for the first time later today I am so glad that most of us are now aware of saddle fit and balance. Although hubby will not correct his saddle which gives him a "chair seat"He needs a seat riser in the back. His horse Knight seems fine with it...and I feel his back every now and again. So you are teaching Stella leg yielding, I am impressed.

Michelle said...

Suzan is absolutely the best I've ever met at assessing saddle fit, imbalances in the rider, and discomfort anywhere in the horse. While I dread another "saddle fit saga," when she says my current saddle will not work for Stella forever, I believe her. But why are we surprised that each horse might need a different saddle? How many of us would be comfortable wearing someone else's shoes? Yes, I've been doing leg yields and shoulder-in with Stella for quite awhile; Suzan gave me tools to make them better. 😁

A :-) said...

I never thought about saddle fit before - it's clearly important!