I was schooling my dressage project a few weeks ago (yes, summer has flown by!) and whilst she’s usually looking pretty, on a contact, she can be easily distracted and lacks total commitment to her work. That means that whilst her gaits were becoming more rhythmical and balanced, she was still a little bit tight over her back and lacking engagement of her hindquarters.
Then one day, towards the end of our session, as I was spiralling her in and out on circles in trot she suddenly gave me her back. Everything softened, felt lighter and springier, her back lifted under the saddle and her hindlegs moved that little bit more. It’s a lovely feeling when the penny drops and horse just gives to you. They’re working as one unit, carrying themselves, powerful. At this point you feel you could ride forever!
At the time I remember thinking that this self-carriage, and way of going, is incredibly hard to teach. Once you know what it feels like you can recognise attempts at it by green horses, and can help them discover it.
A couple of weeks later, just after the Olympics, I read that the thing that had impressed Carl Hester the most about Charlotte Dujardin was the fact that she had trained her horse and created a schoolmaster, without ever having ridden a horse who could already perform the movements, which would have taught Charlotte what the final result feels like.
This is why it’s useful to ride different horses, and ride schoolmasters from time to time in order to learn the correct way of going.
Earlier today I had to hop on a client’s horse who was being very obstreperous, and without sounding too egotistical, are twenty minutes she was straight, balanced, and stepping through and lifting her back. It was fragile, but she was mastering this way of carrying herself, which would obviously make everyone’s like much easier.
I think the main advantage I had, apart from possibly being a stronger rider, is that I know what the correct way of going feels like. Which makes it easier and quicker for me to adjust my aids to support and correct the mare. I hope the mare will remember that way of going and how much easier it was for her, so that when my client gives roughly the correct aids she will get a similar result, and then we can fine tune her aids, but she will feel the progression. I also think this is a good example of when to sit on a schoolmaster so that the client can correct her position, and can apply the correct aids and feel the response, which can then be used on her horse.