An Update on our Dressage Drama

Last week I posted about my disastrous lesson – – so I thought I`d update you all. Today was L-Day, which was why I was found schooling yesterday evening in the pouring rain, sitting trot without stirrups. Now this sounds like I hadn`t worked throughout the week, and was doing my homework last minute. I hadn`t, honest! I`d been very good at my sitting trot, taking away my stirrups for all except my medium trot work, and had been very conscious of my posture the rest of the time.

But did you see the weather this morning? Unfortunately we decided that due to the wind and rain (and the fact I have to ride there and back) it would be better to reschedule. Non-plussed, I decided I`d still school him. The warm up was fairly average, getting him going forwards and swinging over his back, a little bit of sideways so he`s listening to my leg (it`s very true that a newly clipped horse is extra sensitive to the leg!) and then I got down to work. Sitting trot, shoulder-in, leg yield, half pass, transitions, rein back; we went through the whole syllabus and he started to flex and listen nicely, but I still felt he was a bit on the forehand, as we had a little canter, which was fairly relaxed until I forgot about the fresh clip and used too much inside leg, receiving a mahoosive buck in return! A bit of counter canter, and then I came back and asked for some medium trot. I found he was really pushing himself with those hind legs and not dropping the contact, which is lovely.

Then I tried a new exercise I`d dreamt up on my way to the yard this morning. It worked really well, so I thought I`d share it with you all. I started by riding a square in the centre of the school, so he couldn`t use the fence to help him; riding the corners encourages me to control his outside shoulder more, and engages his inside hind as he really needs to step under with it. Once the corners were established I brought in a transition to halt in the centre of each side. Alternating, I either went into rein-back, or back into walk/trot. He was very responsive to the leg aids for rein back, and was starting to drop his head and go back in more of a rhythm. I think that`s because he couldn`t predict when we would do it so didn`t rush. After a couple of squares in trot I rode on last corner and struck off into canter and boy did it help! Inside hind was well and truly activated, he was soft over his back and balanced. So we changed the rein, and no doubt due to the fact he had no idea what exercise was coming next and his canter was quite uphill, we got a flying change, without the handstand and flailing legs. The we repeated the exercise on the other rein before finishing off with a bit of medium trot, before starting to cool him down.

We seem to be back on track for world domination! Oh wait, that was last night`s dream …

Exercises which involve a variety of movements are always really useful for my horse, as he`s too clever! He starts predicting things, which whilst I want to utilise that when teaching him new things, I also want to keep him on his toes a bit and make sure it`s my aids he`s responding to. Another favourite is shoulder in down the long side of the arena, into half pass, and then either leg-yield back to the track, or shoulder in off the track, works quite well for him too. As does going down the centre line leg-yielding back and forth. Any other ideas from anyone?

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