I`ve recently been introducing one of my pupils to the concept of dressage. She loves jumping, and whilst I always make her warm up correctly, her Dad wanted her to focus a bit more on the flat, and knowing how to work a horse correctly and how to improve their way of going. Intelligent riding in other words.
We`ve already covered establishing the rhythm and keeping the tempo when warming up, circles for suppleness, in our jumping lessons, so I began with leg yielding to give her an idea of moving sideways. Slowly she`s getting the idea, so I thought we`d have a change.
I started by reminding her that the hindquarters are the engine or the horse, and that riding school horses can become lazy and pull themselves along with their front end because they aren`t ridden correctly all the time.
We started with a few transitions, working on her subtleness, and getting her to feel the hindquarters and what the legs are doing. It also got her horse thinking a bit more about his hindquarters and stepping under in the upwards transition.
Next we moved into the trot, circles, slight leg yielding so that her horse went into the outside rein a bit more and stepped under with his inside hind. More transitions and he began to use his hindlegs a bit more. She was surprised when the speed dropped, but I explained how he was starting to use his engine properly and because it wasn`t as strong I`d like he couldn`t push himself forwards as much as we`d like. She agreed that the trot was very active and bouncy.
So I introduced cavaletti. Which we have done before, but I wanted to tie it in with improving the horses way of going. I always use the jump wings for cavaletti jumps. Those specific blocks you can buy never really lift the poles high enough to push the horses ability, and the riders can`t feel that much improvement. We built it up slowly, and by the end she had a lovely springy step over each pole, and the canter was very nice and correct after.
What I did think would have been beneficial to her, was watching a horse being lunged or free schooled over cavaletti. I`ve done it with my boy, lifting one side of the cavaletti up to about 2`3″. When he approaches the poles you see his head lower, his withers lift, and his shoulders and stifle flex as he rounds his back and prances over the poles. He loves them, and you can see so much movement as he does them. You can see the difference between him before and after. I think she would learn a lot getting a visual representation of what she is feeling. As well as the fact that a naked horse is much freer in their gait.
Here are some videos I`ve found:
- Lunging (therubbercurrycomb.wordpress.com)
- Teaching Leg Yielding (therubbercurrycomb.wordpress.com)
- Anatomy of Dressage: How To Hold And Use A Dressage Whip (dressagedifferent.com)