Saturday, March 17, 2012

Feeling like a REAL dressage rider ...

Hunter pace!

Had a GREAT ride yesterday!  It was one of those days where I felt pretty good, riding wise.  I was extremely conscious about making sure my arms stayed soft, supple, and UP.  I kept the shoulders back, leg on, and stayed sympathetic and patient.  I don't think I'm ever IMPATIENT, but sometimes I don't think I necessarily recognize when he just doesn't understand a question.  I tried just to keep the mind quiet, listen to the Tiki man,  and ride as accurately as I could.

The BEST thing I've accomplished in the past year has been to train the "jig" out of the muffin.  Yesterday, I let him walk both ways on a loose rein, then slowly collected them and took contact.  He didn't even tense up or TRY and get swishy.  I did some circles and some shoulder-in at the walk before trotting.  After making sure he was good and loose, I sat the trot and tried out my leg yield a few steps, straighten, leg yield, straighten, circle, then shallow serpentine down the opposite long side focusing on changing the bend and keeping him soft in the neck and relaxed in the trot.  I made myself breathe deeply and focused on the forearms making sure they were soft and 'floating".  

I borrowed an exercise from Marissa at the "Tucker the Wunderkind" blog; shoulder in on the rail then straighten and trot a diagonal line to the quarter line then shoulder in again, trot straight on diagonal.  It was sort of a hard exercise but I think I did it pretty well!:)  Also made an attempt at haunches in; I've tried those before, but he felt my leg come back and tried to jolt into the canter.  Susan the dressage trainer across the street suggested I re-vamp my canter cue so he doesn't overreact when I try and manipulate the hind end.  Sooo ... I put that outside leg back and even though he did jolt a little bit when he felt the pressure, I breathed and half halted and kept the leg farther back than the canter cue.  Lo and behold I could feel his hind end move in, yay! Not sure how correct it was, but it was something lol!

Worked for about 10 minutes on going from w/t/h/t/h/t/w/t etc.  The transitions are clean and mostly prompt, but his default is to get hollow and above the contact.  My focus was on the contact BETWEEN the transitions, and by the end he was pretty darn good!  Leg yielded in and out at the trot ... that was quite nice!  We're definitely good at that, yay:)  

Finally, worked a good 15 minutes at the canter.  It's time to really work on his strength and balance there.  I must say that after all that trot/lateral work, the canter felt AWESOME!  WOW!  Soft and light and balanced and quite between the hand and the leg.  Tried a new thing; a leg yield at the canter.  Cantering on the left lead, I came up the quarter line and asked him to move over.  He tried to get quicker.  Corrected him, then asked again.  He shook his head a little bit and I could feel he didn't get it as he tried to break to the trot.  I stopped, patted him, picked the canter back up and tried again, using a slightly stronger rein aid this time.  He got it, moving neatly sideways; he did try and break to the trot, so I tried again and he was perfect!  On the right lead, he got it RIGHT away and went from quarter line to rail in like 6 strides, lol!  I think my right leg is slightly stronger than the left.

Finished up by cantering right lead, came across a shallow diagonal and popped off a perfect change to the left.  Did a couple of 20m circles to lighten him back up, then asked for a L to R change.  He got half a change.  Stopped, counter cantered still tracking right, then turned tight and asked for a change.  Again, half a change.  Rinse and repeat 2 more times, staying patient and soft, and FINALLY after a little bit of cowgirl he got a clean change.  Grrr ...  

Just like the jigging problem, I WILL fix that!  My goal is to be able to swap clean changes on the straightaway.  Hopefully riding with Gigi every once in awhile will help us get there!  I noticed during one of our sitting trot leg yields he felt LIKE a REAL dressage horse.  He was flexed well at the poll, he was powering from behind, and those ears were flicking back at me in sheer concentration.  I will keep Monday pretty light and easy, may ride around with no stirrups.  Tuesday is Gigi, woo hoo!

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