Oscar is currently having a week off to just ‘be a horse’. He’s the top dog grazing in a group of nine horses in a huge open paddock, and loving life as such. I don’t know why I do this, but whenever my horse is going well I tend to take a couple of steps backwards by turning him out!
I feel like he’s at a stage in his training where I’m asking a lot from him, and giving him a week here and there makes me feel better.
Anyway, we had a lesson with G last week to work on collection. Specifically collection before extension.
We’re still working in an open paddock as the arena builders are having trouble sourcing the material for the arena surface, but we have set up a makeshift arena with tyres and spare jump poles and such – just to provide some sort of guidelines.
I’ll refrain from typing out the entire lesson, but wanted to share two exercises that I found helped Oscar.
The first exercise was carried out in sitting trot and G just had me ride 5m circles at every marker in the arena on both reins. Oscar tends to auto pilot into a slightly more forward, lengthened trot up the long sides of the arena (somebody had too much fun practising lengthened trot when we learned that trick! (yeah, it was me…)) and so this exercise is useful to stop him anticipating any lengthened strides. Whilst it is barely noticeable, we want to be sticklers for maintaining rhythm at all times.
Maintaining rhythm and bend through the circles before going forward and straight out of them seemed to loosen Oscar up considerably, although it was an exercise I want to use sparingly to begin with, as it is hard work. There was a point when he suppled up nicely and we stopped there to prevent him getting fatigued.
The second exercise was focussing on the quality of his lengthened trot. I imagined practise made perfect when it came to lengthening, and just incorporate long lines of extension in schooling sessions. I find that the longer the line, the more room there is for Oscar to open up and the bigger the stride I get out of him.
However, whilst it feels better this way – G pointed out that at my level, judges only want to see 3-5 strides of lengthened trot anyway, and it’s much more practical to work on quality transitions into the gait instead. Of course! Transitions being the golden elixir of dressage and all that.
Instead of riding a forward working trot into a lengthened trot across the diagonal, G had me ride a 10m circle at K/H/M/F (wherever I was taking the diagonal line from) in sitting trot to collect my horse, and then slowly push him into a few lengthened strides across X, bringing him back for another collected 10m circle at the opposite corner.
It seems pretty straight forward, but after usually powering into this exercise, Oscar found the transitions a little tricky and it did take a few attempts to get it smoothly.
PS: Hope everyone had a lovely Valentines Day, I’ve always loved V-Day (single or not) and this year I got a new mitten. Cute huh..