I’ve been trying to bring a young client’s attention to the importance of maintaining the way her pony is going. For example, correcting and supporting him as soon as he has a slight loss of balance, rushes, or falls in or out. This is quite an ask of young riders because it requires them to ride intelligently – focus entirely on their pony and subtly adjust their riding to best help and improve the pony’s way of going.
I’ve spent a lot of time with the pair insisting on riding good transitions EVERY time, and repeating movements to improve them, but I was finding that the circle, or serpentine deteriorated through the movement and then we were wasting time recreating the trot, or whatever gait we’re working in.
Now I wanted to introduce the idea of breaking up school movements so that my rider can become consistent in preparation for her dressage tests and not throw away silly marks.
For example, if you break a simple change of rein down into it’s components you have the turn off the track, the line across the school, and the turn onto the track. By thinking and riding each element separately my rider picked up on the weak areas, however small, and corrected them both which led to a far more uniform way of going, and it was easier for her to pinpoint the weak area.
One particular thing that we worked on was breaking a circle up into quarters. The aim was to have each quarter as good as the others and to learn which quarter was their weakest (the third quarter is usually the weakest link as riders rush back to the track and fall in) and turn their attention to that. Almost immediately their circles improved, and the bite size chunks made the movements feel more achievable.
Using the idea of quarter circles we broke down a three loop serpentine into two quarter circles, a straight line, two quarter circles, another straight line, and final two quarter circles. Again, my rider started correcting and rebalancing her pony earlier in the movement so it was a minor correction instead of a major correction.
So if you find that you’re throwing away marks in dressage tests, or you lack consistency in your work then break movements down and pay close attention to each element. By improving the first element you set yourself up better for riding the second element and so on. And soon you and your horse will find putting together lots of movements easy and give a steady and reliable performance.
The next area that I’m going to focus on with my young rider now that she is being more thoughtful about her riding is timing her aids to get the best result from her pony, and thinking about how her pony feels. For example, wait until the trot is balanced and the pony relaxed in his frame, before asking for canter. More often than not you get a better canter. It’s becoming more important in her lessons that she takes her time to prepare both herself and her pony for transitions than to ride the transition as soon as I say the instruction so they make a good transition. As their transitions improve they will need less preparation time so will be able to respond to instructions quicker and to the same standard. This approach will put the responsibility onto my young rider and hopefully she will see the results of her actions which will give her the tools for educating her pony and others.