June 23, 2017

Lesson Wrap-Up: A Lesson with NK Again (Finally!)

(I'm going to break so many good blogger rules with this post, apologies in advance.  This is straight word vomit!)

One of the many reasons I moved Connor to my town is that it effectively cut my trip to see my Dressage trainer, NK, from 6 hours of roundtrip driving to 2 hours and 45 minutes of round trip driving.  I finally made it out there yesterday, and boy did she ever remind me why I like her so much.

(For a refresher, we've been working with her off and on almost since I got Connor.  She's shown Dressage through I-2, and has a teaching style I just totally click with.)

Homeslice chillin' in these weirdly outdoor crossties for this part of the country.

Going to the right at the walk, she had me look in the (SUPER HELPFUL) vertical mirrors at the end of the arena, so we could see ourselves coming down the long side.  "Look in the mirror.  Look at his left foreleg.  It's landing completely outside of his body."  If that mirror hadn't been there, and she hadn't been there, I would have told you he was straight, but my gosh was I wrong.

Going to the left, she demonstrated what was going on by standing next to the long wall facing the short side, falling against it, pushing off, falling against it, pushing off.  "You keep asking him to come through on the left side, but you never ask him to stay there with a right half halt, so you two just keep repeating the same cycle over and over without fixing it."

A weird pose.

The left continued to be a problem until she had me REALLY get after him about it.  We did "not a textbook" movement that was like extreme shoulder in.  She actually told me to think one stride of turn on the forehand as we went down the wall at a really sharp angle, in order to engage the left hind and at the same time I had to keep the right shoulder from coming out.  To accomplish this, I really had to kick him a couple of times with my left leg, something it must be obvious I don't do often.  She said, "He overreacts to your leg and whip so you try not to use them much, and he is very sensitive, but sometimes you just need to get his attention."

The amazing thing about that is, after a couple of minutes of doing this exercise and resorting to a left leg pony kick twice, he couldn't get his left hind underneath him fast enough when he so much as felt my left leg move.  NK actually laughed out loud - "Smart cookie!  He learns quick!"

Did someone say cookie?

She described him as "constantly being in a state of compressing or crunching the right side with a loose left side no matter the direction."  YES.

For me, I was interested to note that she did not get after me about the things she got after me about in my last lesson with her a year ago (chest up, pelvis position in the saddle) so I have definitely made progress on some things, but this time she got onto me about:
- Relaxing my thighs so I could allow myself to really sit on him (where have I heard that before...)
- Sitting on the left side.  Apparently I do not, and this is the reason his energy is constantly escaping out the left in both directions.  This was especially clear during some turn on the forehands.
- Giving rein aids through the elbow (the elastic joint) rather than the fingers, wrist or shoulders
- Keeping my shoulders down my back
- Moving my hip toward my elbow in downward transitions (holy mackerel did this make a difference)
- At the end, tracking right, she had me move my left rein close to his neck to get him straight.

I'm out of photos, have a bird.

HE. FELT. SO. GOOD!  I think there were moments where even she was surprised how good he was especially in the trot.  I asked her what she thought our biggest barrier to 2nd Level is and she said straightness.

It was like she took all of the things my regular trainer and I have identified but not fixed, and fixed them.  It was the best he's gone in a while after a string of consistently great rides.  If anyone can move us up the levels, it's her, and now that I only need to take a half day off work for this instead of a whole day, we're going to try to see her at least monthly.


  1. Sounds like a fantastic lesson!

  2. Awesome! She sounds like a great fit for you guys. :-)

  3. GREAT tidbits!! (going to steal haha).

    1. Go for it. Her tidbits stick with me for months and just keep coming back to me. The lessons that keep on giving.

  4. I LOVE these! Katai does the same thing on the same side, crunched to the right and loose to the left. I've thought that this is causing us extra struggles with everything but reading this makes me think that's really the case.