May 31, 2012

Lesson Wrap-Up

I haven't been an eventer all that long (am I even an eventer yet if I haven't yet done an event?) but I am quickly learning what kind of mental strength it takes to go from cross-country to something as precise as Dressage.  That's the point of it all, right?

After the CJF clinic, in which we did so little nitpicking and so much functional mechanics-type work, a good old fashioned Dressage lesson was just what we needed tonight, but boy was it hard.  Now that I finally have my good, connected, round pony back, we've moved on to that more advanced Dressage work she threatened promised a month ago.  After a walking warmup, she had me start with an exercise in which we made a square about 5m off of the rails and 10m off of the ends of the arena (the outdoor is not to scale for Dressage, by the way) and we focused on making each turn a pseudo-turn on the forehand.  The aids for this were inside leg in conjunction with his inside hip, then quickly a half-halt on the outside shoulder as that foot was about to hit the ground.  First at the walk, then at the trot.

I understand that a lot of what we do is not the end, but is a means to the end.  In this case, this exercise helped us with our heavy-on-the-left-rein problem by teaching him where I want his shoulder and hind feet, and gaining mobility there.  It was not easy, and not something he'll get immediately, but I felt the slight changes occurring already.

Next, following the inside leg/outside rein theme of the night, we moved on to leg yielding and leg yielding into canter transitions.  We haven't worked on proper leg yields in...several months.  He just wasn't ready.  Last time we did them, he led with his shoulder and I couldn't fix it.  This time, he started out by leading with his shoulder and I was able to fix it.  Are my aids or timing better, or is it him?  I have no idea, but we were able to do some very nice leg yields to the rail -> canter transitions, and the transitions were lovely controlled ones.

Finally, when we started the leg yield/canter exercise in the other direction, he started to get really flat and heavy.  I thought maybe he was tired, but she had me do an exercise that proved he was just mentally checked out.  She had me trot him, halt him, back him a few steps (which he has not yet been taught since I firmly believe in teaching forward first, so we had to work through that while he figured out that I wanted him to go back instead of do a turn on the forehand) then immediately trot off.  Doing this several times, with one good kick to the ribs (always wakes him up, I just have to hang on!) had the effect of giving me a brand new horse, as if we were just starting the lesson.

My homework for this week is drilling the last exercise, which she says will help a lot with teaching him half-halts, and to continue to work on getting those controlled canter transitions that we started with CJF.  I am so excited about where his Dressage is headed, even if we're not there yet.

1 comment:

  1. Yes you are an eventer!!! You are thinking and training like one and that is enough. Dressage was the hardest part for Barry and I, but you guys sound like you are on the right track.