Sunday 14 February 2016

Dressage Weekend Aftermath

I was hoping to do this post a week ago but I had to go out of town unexpectantly for a number of days and haven't been able to ride much.

Now that I've finally had a few of rides since my Dressage Weekend Extravaganza, here are my take-aways:

Meeting me at the gate

The biggest thing came from my schoolmaster lesson with Sandra. Shoulder-in is magical! (Note: At this point, I'm going to call all shoulder-in/shoulder-fore just "shoulder-in". I'm only starting it so I'm not really trying to differentiate).

I hadn't ever done much shoulder-in with Kachina as we were just starting lateral work and I figured it was too early. My lesson with Sandra taught me that shoulder-in might help the problems we were having with bend and straightness. I am completely amazed at what an immediate difference it has made!

1. If I'm working on bending Kachina's whole body in a banana shape around my leg, she automatically puts her head and neck on the correct bend instead of twisting her jaw out to the outside.

2. It really makes me ride inside leg to outside rein. I thought I was kind of doing this before, but apparently not really. You can't fake inside leg to outside rein when you're asking for shoulder-in.

3. I can use leg. Kachina has a tendency to shoot forward when I use any leg in any way (at least she's responsive?). Working on leg yields helped to teach her that leg sometimes meant sideways instead of forward, but it wasn't foolproof. When I'm working on shoulder-in, I have a frame where I can really use leg to push her "up" into contact instead of her shooting forward. I'm not entirely sure why I can't do this while going straight, but I figure it's a good first step.

4. It's a good exercise to get Kachina thinking but not stressed out, this means that it has been good for getting her relaxed.

A recent sunset

Obviously nothing with horses can be that easy so there are some things to work on. I have a tendency to get crooked in my body and hands while asking for shoulder-in. Also, we've only gotten as far as doing it successfully at walk at this point. Things to work on!

The position work is helping as well. While I'm riding I have new mantras drifting around my head, telling me to point my toes towards the horse's ears, keeping shoulders out, closing fingers, etc. Some combination of these things has helped me to have more effective half halts.

Kachina after her post-ride roll in the arena

Usually Kachina is so forward and sensitive that I can't ride with much leg. During my last ride I was actually able to use the shoulder in and half halts to get her into a slow trot where she was almost leaning on my hands. This might not sound ideal, but for Kachina, who tends towards fast and curling behind the contact, it was a welcome change. From this trot I was able to actually use leg and push her up into a lovely connected trot. It's probably the best trot I've managed to get in the last few months since I stopped having regular lessons. It was just a simple trot circle but I was smiling from ear to ear.

She frequently ends up with
creative "eye shadow" after a roll

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