March 10, 2011

Leg Yield and Canter Success! (Finally!)

First of all, thanks for the comments on my last post.  Everyone said exactly what I knew deep down, but it's difficult to admit it to myself when some very nice Cobs are being offered to me.  Contender is not as green as the rest of them, after a year of Dressage and driving training, but he isn't right for me - yet.

I finally made some huge progress in my lesson tonight.  After a brief ride "going large" (one of her British sayings I like a lot), she put us on the lunge line so we could work on canter transitions.  For some reason, I had a heck of a time keeping my inside foot in the stirrup.  It was probably a balance issue on the circle, if I had to guess.

But I got over it and turned in some quality work on the lunge.  She took my reins away, so all I could focus on was my seat, core and position.  It was exactly what I needed.  Instead of getting in a war with Dillan, I was able to adjust him, ask for transitions, and rate the speed with just my seat - things I know are possible in theory, but have never been possible in practice on any of the horses I've ridden before.  You know how it is: you compensate.  I'm learning to stop compensating and start riding!

What she really wanted to work on was my canter transitions, and those kept getting better and better.  I finally leaned away from him and used both of my legs instead of just one.  My clearer aids resulted in a much sharper transition, which helped me to stay more secure and balanced.

We "went large" after that, and did a canter exercise that went like this:
- Rising trot
- "Big" canter at A, 20m circle
- "Small" canter at X
- Downward transition at A

The point of the exercise was to delineate sharply between a big canter and a small canter, mostly because it's the small I've been having trouble with.  And when I say small, I mean more of a shorter, collected canter, but I wouldn't really call it a collected canter yet.  This is just the terminology she's using to help me understand what she wants right now.  I'm really feeling what it means to control the size of the canter through the movement of my body in the saddle, and it's an incredible feeling.

While cooling out, she had me do some leg yields.  We'd walk on the 20m circle, come up the quarter line and leg yield toward the wall.  Amazingly enough, it finally happened!  I finally got several quality strides of leg yield in a row, and it happened on two consecutive attempts!  When it was right, I knew it was right despite not having ridden it perfectly correctly before.  I knew where all of the legs were, and I knew it was right because it just felt good.  It was like tuning an old radio, and suddenly through all the static you hear a song you know.  The best part was that I rode that leg yield, dammit!  All of my aids worked in unison and produced that movement, and it was an incredible feeling after struggling with something so basic for so long.

All in all, an extremely positive night.  Now for next week, I think we're jumping...

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