Friday, September 19, 2014

Back to Lessons

My last dressage lesson on Maggie was on July 18th - exactly two months and a day ago. I used my checkbook register to look that date up. And I started her back in work after her stall rest exactly three weeks ago. So why was I surprised when she absolutely lost her shit at the very beginning of the lesson this evening? It's not like she hadn't been lunged the day before and been completely relaxed...or worked every day this week since Monday...good grief. Maggie decided that warming up today meant booking it around the dressage arena at a canter while bucking, squealing, and spooking at all the things. So that was delightful. And it meant that the first 15 or so minutes of our lesson were what my instructor politely referred to as "Brain Exercises" i.e. trotting in 10 meter circles with her head bent to the inside until she decided to pay attention to me. I really don't like those sorts of practices - the ones that seem to only use force to get the horse's attention - but geez, sometimes it seems like there's no other way. It's not like I didn't try to ask her nicely to settle down first.

[Image: The Idea of Order, Morgan Schmidt]
Eventually she did mostly calm down, so off to work we went. And now begins the struggle of trying to remember what we worked on. This is why I'm hoping writing things down will help.

First thing was working on straightness again. Straightness while on a circle seems like an absolutely ridiculous concept, but I'm beginning to get the hang of it. Maggie's right side is her weaker side, so we have more trouble with straightness while we are tracking left. While tracking left I need to remember to give with my left rein so that when I keep contact with the right rein, she has room to balance her neck and shoulder. I also need to use my inside left during the rise of the posting to push her left hind under herself.

I think that's how it went.

Tracking right we don't need nearly as much work on straightness. In fact, she's quite willing to counter bend in that direction. After starting in a trot, we slowed to a walk and did some leg yielding in and out on a circle in both directions. My instructor watched Maggie's hind feet pretty intently, because apparently she does funny things like stepping behind or next to her outside leg instead of bringing it in front of the outside or just straight ahead. Honestly, I got a little lost here, but the moral of the story is that Maggie doesn't know what to do with her feet. More lateral work is needed. I kind of figured this since even just when I ask her to push over when she's tied or something, sometimes she steps on herself. Boy am I glad she's not shod.

On to a little canter work next. In the last lesson we had, we worked on getting her to use her hind end more and balancing. Especially in the transition down to the trot. I need to raise by hands, sit up super straight, and slow my seat while still driving her with my legs. Helpful exercises included trotting a 10 meter circle to the right with good straightness or counter flexion and then picking up a canter to the left. Instructor wants me to work on LOTS of upward and downward transitions between trot and canter. Another good exercise we did was reinback into trot. Maggie got the idea of that fairly quickly and was getting some good impulsion. Need to stay straight while backing up though.

So except for the "warm up" it was a good lesson. Felt good to have some instruction again for sure. I'm hoping to get at least one more lesson in before we do Pipestave again on October 12th. Due to her epic performance there in July, I entered us in the Modified Beginner Novice division this time, which has a BN dressage test instead of an intro test, but all the jumps stay at 2'3"

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