Twenty minutes into my lesson last night, the last several weeks of frustration finally bubbled out of me. We were doing a series of 12m circles at the walk, still trying to get past our warmup phase like 25 minutes after I got on.
"He feels like a total trainwreck!" I exclaimed.
I have a hard time putting these things into Dressage terms, but I haven't been able to get him to lift his back, seek the bit, lift his withers and shift his weight back ("collection?") in several weeks now. Even that video from the show was probably a 7/10 if a 10 is his best work at this point in time.
After my little explosion, my trainer had me do our old standby for getting Connor "switched on": four track shoulder-in in a short walk to canter across the diagonal, change direction, repeat. And...
He felt AMAZING. Miles better quality work than in that video. Once he was "switched on" like that, we spent the rest of the lesson going back and forth from collected walk shoulder in to trot shoulder in AND IT WAS AWESOME.
These are the rides and the feelings that make me fall in love with Dressage all over again, because it feels just so damn cool. I have to be able to get that consistently!
In the middle of the lesson, he was getting a bit low in the withers, and when that happened I noticed my shoulders had slumped and my abs were no longer engaged. I would correct that without being told, and he would stutter step and almost stop in the trot. My trainer asked what was happening, and I told her. She pointed out he was REALLY on my aids, and I just need to make that position a habit so I don't have to correct it all the time, cause that feels really dramatic to him.
|That booty tho. Also, daylight at 6:30pm! Two more weeks til outdoor lessons!|
The other interesting thing to note is that he stayed completely relaxed through the whole thing while giving us this amazing level of work. Normally when we push him that far, he shakes his head and gets tense, but he stayed relaxed and so consistent in the contact.
|You want to know how I know that was great work? He was SO TIRED after that. He's normally an alert, reactive sort of guy, but you could have set a bomb off under him after that lesson and he wouldn't have noticed. I'm sure he slept well.|
I am interested to hear a couple of things from the DQ's in the audience if you have time to comment: 1) Theories on why that exercise is the key to getting him going. Lack of inside hind engagement? Lack of lateral balance through the back? (That much I know is true) 2) Similar exercises I can use to achieve the same thing?
Thanks in advance!