November 7, 2014

Tales of the Left Rein

I am so happy to report that last night's lesson was the best Dressage ride I've had since probably August!

We got dem Dressage skillz (again).

I mentioned to my trainer on Tuesday that I had had two bad Dressage rides in a row and needed help.  When I got to my lesson (warmed up beforehand), she had me immediately go onto two 10m circles on the middle of the ring (figure 8), with cones set up a few feet apart in the middle to encourage straightness in the middle, and just watched us silently for a good 5-10 minutes, analyzing.

"What do you feel like is happening?" she asked.

"I don't feel like I have had him truly straight in months, and I feel like I have to yell my aids instead of whisper."

In the end, it came down to two very related things:
1. I am not consistent in the contact in my left rein, either direction.
2. He piles on his right shoulder, both directions.

And a distant #3:
3. Waiting him out until he softened and relaxed, and being more persistent in exercises especially on my own, but less nitpicky


On the right circle, she had me move his left (outside) shoulder out with the left rein.  It felt like a half halt and then opening that hand slightly to encourage him to come off the right shoulder and into the left rein.  Of course there was a lot of right leg in that too.

On the left circle, I have struggled to get him to bend left for months now.  Her solution?  I was forgetting about the inside (left) rein, and he was piling his weight on the outside shoulder, so he couldn't bend.  That seemed so counterintuitive (it's always inside leg to outside rein, right?), and what seemed even more counterintuitive was when she fixed it by having me take up more inside rein and forget the outside rein, and try to "lead" him around the circle by his inside (left) shoulder.  Boom, bend.

"The outside rein is important, but it can only ever be maximum like 5-10% more contact than the inside, not 90-10."

REALLY piling on the right, and me doing all the wrong things.

After that, he was once again listening to the most whispered of aids, he was 100% consistent in the bridle and working over his back for the first time in forever.  All things I wouldn't get jumping, but we have to practice both - the eventing conundrum.  I wish I could have one jump and one straight Dressage lesson per week.

(She hasn't written about it, but JenJ pretty much had this exact lesson only more amazing last week (haha, now you have to write about it!) so hopefully she'll back me up on the fact that learning things like this is the coolest part of Dressage.)


  1. Finding that balance between inside/outside rein is so, so tricky! I feel like it changes constantly depending on how the horse is going in the moment. Love reading about your lessons!

  2. great to hear you guys had an awesome ride!

  3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your lesson breakdowns. Thank you!

  4. Foster likes to lean on his right shoulder as well, so my last dressage lesson was also about fixing this using renvers.. It's hard, but I can see how it will help! And now I am uber sensitive to when he leans on it.

  5. he looks so GREAT in that first pic! sounds like a productive ride full of good breakthroughs - nice work!

  6. Gavin loves to grab hold of the right rein and bulge to the outside left (exactly the opposite of what you guys have going on). So much so that I barely notice it, and when I do it's hard to get him to quit. It's hard to wait those stubborn Cob suckers out! :) You guys are doing awesome and as always are an inspiration to Gavin and I!