Monday, May 11, 2015

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

After playing in the Hunter Pleasure ring over the weekend, I'm not sure I can adequately express how good it felt to be back in a dressage saddle on the flat.

Trying to hunter so hard, it hurts.
Nope, definitely not switching disciplines anytime soon.

So I had a dressage lesson last Tuesday evening. We let off in our previous lesson by realizing that Maggie can, in fact, work over her back and step underneath herself. (Sidenote: just the other Denny Emerson put up a great post on his Tamarack Hill Farm Facebook page about this concept and it is perhaps the most clear explanation I have ever heard!)

A tricky concept for riders who are unfamiliar with dressage training is "the engagement of the inside hind leg." It can...
Posted by Tamarack Hill Farm on Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What I need to do is be less passive in my riding and not let her evade the contact. When she pops her head up, I keep the contact in the reins by widening my hands and softening when she relaxes down. With the exception of trying to ride like a hunter for a couple days, I've been working on her long and low frame with this method pretty successfully for the past two week. Some days are more successful and consistent than others, but that's just how it goes. 

Stretchy trot boss
We started out our lesson last week at the trot in what was a good rhythm, but Maggie was a little pokey and behind my leg. Probably still tired from the show on Sunday. To fix this, my trainer had us do a couple upward trot/canter transitions, which always wakes her up. The timing of my aids for the upward transitions still needs work - must ask during the sitting phase of posting, when her inside hind is coming under. The transitions did get better over the course of the lesson though, as we got more in tune with each other.

From there we did some serpentines and stayed fairly relaxed, but when we were asked to turn down the center line and then leg yield to the track Maggie's head popped right back up and she fell out of balance and stopped stepping under, never mind crossing over. This was especially apparent when leg yielding to the left. 

Clearly crossing over behind here, but still very messy
My trainer brought us to a halt and said that she thinks Maggie now needs to be told where she is allowed to hold her head and neck. She had me shorten my reins to the mark second closest to Maggie's mouth (I have this type of reins) and hold her there at the halt for a minute. My trainer said that with that much rein contact she might try to step sideways or back up, but I should just stay soft in my body, but maintain the same contact with the reins. If she backed up I could correct her with my legs. Maggie was pretty submissive at the halt and didn't try to get out of it, so we proceeded to the walk where I was then actually able to get her really active and engaged. Normally the walk for us has always been super lazy.

Excuse us while we go be fancy
And then she had me pick up a sitting trot for basically the rest of the lesson and my abs proceeded to sing me sad songs. I was to keep my rein length consistent (at the second mark) at not give her any rein at all - my instructor wanted Maggie to find where she needed to hold herself. And when Maggie did find the right spot to hold herself we got a few really nice trot strides before she went back to trying to go under or over the bit. When Maggie got the right spot I was allowed to relax my wrists and forearms a little but I was not allowed to slip my reins at all.

Good except for me leaning
When she holds herself where she sound, my instructor was really happy with how she was stepping under. However, the rest of the time while she's fussing with her face she just inverts:

Or curls up:

I waited a little while to write about this lesson because I really wanted to get some media for it, so these photos are from me riding on my own on Saturday. I brought my fancy camera and tripod, set it up at one end of the ring and let it roll. Here's video of the last bit of our ride if anyone cares to watch. You can see her trademark "nose dive" evasion, but you'll see some decent moments here and there bookended by some ugliness. Nice stretchy trot at the end too:

Maggie has really been fantastic during our last couple lessons and I feel like we're making huge strides (literally?) so then when I go to ride on my own a day or two after our lesson I am always expecting big things then a little disappointed when it doesn't turn out as good as our lesson. I mentioned this to my instructor the other day and she said, "Well that's because you don't have someone yelling at you for the whole ride!" A good point. I'm hoping to get my husband to come film my next lesson in another week or so - I feel like having a recorded lesson would be invaluable!


  1. Oh, daaang! You guys are definitely owning the fancy!

  2. she looks great in those pics! i struggle so hard with letting my reins slip, or recognizing when my mare is overbent and behind the bit (or just generally riding without someone giving me directions ever single step lol)... it's tuff stuff! but sounds like you're making serious progress!!

  3. Wow! I wish Simon would stretchy trot like that :)

  4. All the fancy! So glad you've been having great lessons!

  5. Now that you know Maggie CAN do these things, it's all about working on being able to keep it there. That's the truly difficult piece, but it's already coming along!!