I had another dressage lesson on Friday with our favourite trainer of all time, who I refer to as ‘C’ on here! It was amazing, as always, though I didn’t have a mate on hand to snap photos this time. I like photo documentation of lessons because I usually look better and my horse does too – must be something to do with having someone tell me off for slouching forward or letting my leg slip back and off the girth.
Last Friday I had my third lesson with C.
I love C’s teaching style and can’t wait to finish uni and be able to afford lessons on a weekly basis – just two and a half years to get through; eep.
This week we wanted to focus on canter work, but in light of my poor scores at the DSRC dressage show, we opted to work on transitions instead (with a little bit of canter work thrown in too – I wasn’t getting out of it that easy).
In my first two lessons we did a LOT of transitions, but mostly within the gait. We’ve also done a lot of shoulder in and counter flexion within the gait too for strength building, so it was nice to work on something different.
|Oscar has NEVER had butt definition before, C is working wonders with his strength!|
To begin with Oscar was behind my leg, he was off grass for most of the week due to the not so great weather and the knock on effect was a horse not so full of himself. I once made the mistake of nagging oscar with my leg when he was tired in a lesson. C rarely gets strict with me but she quickly told me off and made me kick him hard on the girth and leave him alone. It’s really difficult not to nag subconsciously. When you’re riding a horse you’re controlling a lot of what he is doing, and some of what you do comes without thinking – little kicks included. It’s quite a different concept asking the horse something and then letting him get on with it. Should be the norm, but it isn’t. I think we do it to humans too – micro managing or something? Got to work on that.
|More than capable of doing the job when the pesky rider leaves him alone.|
|Not sure these boots iz my colour mom!|
It’s not a permanent thing, just riding ugly at home so we can look good in the dressage arena.
Riding quite deep is a sneaky little trick to stop the horse looking like he comes above the bit – and works a treat when riding a transition away from a judge. As you demand good transitions throughout your training – you can eventually stop riding so deeply beforehand.
The concept seemed to work as the test over the weekend had lovely comments from the judge on all of our transitions!
Also note that he is not on the forehand when I ask for more flexion. In fact he is stretching over his back to come up and over his wither. Excellent exercise for suppling too and building a strong top line.
I think my next lesson will be a jumping one next Wednesday, I’m having to really force myself not to book in again with C before the usual three weeks!
I’m having major trouble with my blogger comments. I can see two on my previous post and it won’t let me view them on either mobile or desktop, via blogger dashboard or direct link. I see your comments sitting there and it drives me insane – hopefully I can figure out what’s going on soon!
My second lesson with C was just as good as the previous. I really think I can strike number 29 off my 30 before 30 list now!
I warmed up alone this time – one downfall of having a farrier for a boyfriend is that they can chat and chat and chat, poor C got ambushed by L and by the time she had broken free I had warmed up.
She was really impressed with our improvements since the previous lesson – despite feeling like we achieve nothing without her help, we’re obviously starting to get it. That meant we only spent a short period of time playing with transitions within the trot on a 20m circle and we could move onto a ‘new topic’.
C noticed that Oscar was a little resistant, despite working better overall he wasn’t using himself as well as he could whilst he was bracing against the bit, and so we spent some time trying to ‘unlock’ him. I’m sure I don’t have to explain that a horse with tension in the neck, back or wherever, can’t actually work properly or as well as he could do if he was loose, soft and relaxed.
So we worked on some techniques that not only relax and encourage your horse to soften, but still build strength. We mainly utilised the shoulder in. Now, Oscar does a lovely shoulder in – on a straight line. C prefers working on circles, making the exercises harder for the horse (and rider!) which in turn makes it much easier when we go to perform a movement that is usually asked for on a straight line.
Performing a shoulder in on the circle served to push Oscar’s inside hind leg right underneath him, get him travelling laterally through his rib cage and off my inside leg. The extra inside flexion required in this movement did seem to work in softening. Obviously there was still a fair bit of pressure and release going on too, until he stopped bracing against the bit.
The right rein was worse than the left, which is unusual for us, and so at one point we got right down to the forelegs travelling on a 5m circle, at which point he kind of sat back, got off my hands and legs, and used himself properly. When he finally became submissive, we travelled out to the larger circle whilst in shoulder in and then proceeded to give him a walk break reward. Dis why I’m tired.
|Standard facials for my lessons with C.|
The shoulder in work took up a huge amount of time – the demands C puts on us are really starting to affect Oscar – positively! – but understandably he gets a little muscle sore and until he gets stronger and stronger, a bit of resistance is to be expected.
|He didn’t have that booty definition before!|
We didn’t have long to work on canter (that’s for next lesson) and C didn’t want to overdo it. However, we did have to combat Oscar’s tendency to fall out slightly to the outside through his shoulder.
I have an awful tendency to use my hands together, and C is working hard to make me realise that each hand is independent and has its own use. I get it in theory, but putting it in practise is a different story! When I see Oscar’s shoulder fall out slightly, it seems counterintuitive to bring my outside hand out too. And so I kind of cross it over into inside hands territory. It actually enables Oscar to fall out by doing that, as it brings his nose in.
So, big thing for me in the canter is to make sure I am aware where each hand is. I wish I had Patrick Swayze saying ‘This is my dance space, this is your dance space’ to my hands. Mmmmhmm.
Naturally, when I fixed myself, my horse came right too!
To build ‘straightness’ strength in the canter. C made it really hard for us- as she does.
First she asked for outside flexion on the circle, and then got me to push Oscar’s hindquarters out – so when we were on the left rein, I actually felt like my horse was positioned to travel on the right rein. It was SO difficult! I’m definitely not practising that movement unsupervised.
All in all, it was another brilliant lesson. My favourite thing about C is that we never practise dressage test movements – instead we work on making those movements difficult, so that when I do perform one, it seems easy.
|Mind my tilting forwards, but he is starting to get along freely off of his forehand.|
Wednesday’s jumping lesson with S was rained out, boo. However, we may potentially get out to a cross country course this weekend, have our first dressage tests in forever on Sunday, and I’m judging a Pony Club gymkhana ring on Monday. Plenty to keep me busy!
Oscar ended up coming sound after a new set of shoes, so we went ahead with our dressage lesson.
The lesson itself was fantastic and certainly gave me plenty of food for thought. I immediately booked another one for three weeks later (student budget – limited luxuries), which brings us to this Friday. Because I mentioned last time that I was going to ask for C’s opinion on me doing level 3, I’ll just point out that she didn’t recommend it and said we should start at level 1 for two reasons.
1. Straightness and suppleness to develop rhythm and pace.
C had us work quite deep and asked for lots of flexion which encouraged Oscar to stretch out over his back and really allow room for that little trot to go somewhere. Whilst I thought he was over flexed, he felt brilliant and I realised that going forward from then I needed to incorporate a lot more flexion in my warmups in order to increase his suppleness.
2. *Surprise* – the second thing we worked on was the quality of Oscar’s trot.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll recognise that our working trot typically gets a LOT of attention during lessons – it’s the one thing that I always have to be mindful of.
Is he balanced? Could he be slower? Is he running?
Whilst G had me bring Oscar back on plenty of 10m circles in my last lesson to kind of force Oscar to sit back and stop rushing, C focused more on transitions within the gait. We spent a solid chunk of the lesson going from an almost too slow working trot, to a good medium trot all on a 20m circle.
I previously thought that Oscar’s party trick was his medium trot, but there’s nothing like testing yourself on a circle to show you how unbalanced you are huh?
He found it difficult on the circle and fussed a bit with his head, but asking for more flexion and really riding him forward into my hands pushed him on. I can’t tell you how sore my legs were getting! C trained with Charlotte Dujardin for a while and so prefers legs over whips during schooling.
These transitions on the circle seemed to unlock Oscar a little and when C asked me what I noticed, I said I felt that Oscar was moving at the same ‘speed’ as normal, but there was definitely a prolonged period in my rising trot.
The proof of the pudding that my horse was taking bigger steps without going any faster!
3. Positioning of the neck and shoulders; obviously relating to straightness, but we spent a fair bit of time focusing on the positioning of the above to correct Oscar’s over-popping shoulders!
This exercise was mostly carried out in the canter. C described my hands and reins as a box (box/trapezium hybrid – let’s not get picky!) and asked that I really focus on having Oscar’s neck straight up the centre of that box at all times. Using the box image, I could clearly see when my horse was falling out of the outside shoulder – it happened a lot!! Riding into my outside rein helped keep Oscar straight through the neck, and encouraged him to bend through his ribcage instead. C had us canter on a tiny circle around her, and then leg yield out onto the 20m circle without letting him lead with the outside shoulder.
This was extremely difficult, not only did Oscar find it very hard maintaining a canter on such a small circle whilst I prevented him falling out of his shoulder, but I found it hard to sit back and ride strongly. We’re both a little unfit! We did this exercise about three times on both reins with slow progression.
Following the lesson, Oscar gave me the best stretchy trot ever! I feel like stretching beforehand is a waste of time now as he just goes flat – in future I’ll warm up deep and round, and finish long and low.
The poor horse had sweat dripping over his eyes so he deserved a big bubble bath and a bit of a massage afterwards, followed by a short walk around the racecourse the following day.
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..