Wednesday, May 6, 2015

wherein we try to dressage

Isabel and I finally returned to the oh-so-gorgeous dressage barn TM for a lesson with C. Our first lesson was already over a month ago (man that quarantine really just messed up everything haha)... so I was really eager to get back at it. Especially given how good Isabel has been feeling lately :)


C got us started walking and trotting and kept on dropping nice little nuggets of wisdom. 

Common directions included posting evenly with both hips (which was something I've never heard before, but apparently I post 'more' with my right side? probably related to all the other weird things I do on the right - like collapse through my core and curl that leg up more...) and keeping toes pointed forward to neutralize my calves. 

She wanted me bringing Isabel's shoulders 'up' and keeping them squared - so that Isabel couldn't bulge out. 

new bridle charm was SUPER sparkly in the sunshine
She wanted me very straight through my hips and legs to ride Isabel straight up to my hands. It should be clear to Isabel where she can put her head - and hollow and inverted simply wasn't allowed. As past videos and pics have shown, Isabel can get a little too deep and BTV, so C told me to just play with her when she does that - bend her in or out to lift her head back up. Then when she goes nicely and softly I must leave.her.alone!!!

C also reminded me to BEND my elbows and keep them at my side (when will I ever learn to stop floating them forward??), and really shorten my reins. I've got to STOP burying my hands at the canter haha. 

all the windows and doors were open  - and it was just so so so pretty
We practiced a few canter transitions, wherein the big theme was DON'T RUSH. She wanted me to really think of sitting Isabel on her hind end - esp as arabians tend to ride a little croup-high. She also instructed me to think of pushing down in the stirrups - onto the actual stirrup bar, not necessarily with my heel - to help plant my seat in the saddle. 

Another biggie was that I MUST maintain rhythm. We would spend a while circling at A or C, and then go large - and Isabel would really start trucking down the long sides. So rhythm is something I need to work on - tho when I remembered to get more of that hip-swinging post from my bio-mechanics session, this became easier.

covertly snapping mirror selfies in the gorgeous ring only resulted in blur... oh well
Interestingly enough, I noticed that squeezing my thighs for downward transitions and half halts is actually a thing I can do now. Not sure how that went from 'concept I understand but can't do' to something I can actually, ya know, DO - maybe from practicing posting the canter? Maybe it loosened up my hips enough? Who knows, but I'll take it! 

Next C had us run through my old friend BN-A, and I told her allllll about our tendency to completely fall apart after the change of rein... So we did the test twice and got progressively better. Our canters are a touch too wild, and I'm rushing into the transitions (both up and down, actually)... 

But C reminded me that the transitions and the canter circles are actually different movements, scored separately. I need to keep riding even if I get a wild-ish transition, rather than throwing in the towel altogether. Novel ideas, folks. 


We also talked a little more about center line strategy. C says that it doesn't really matter which rein you turn from if you're entering from outside the ring - just choose whatever sets you up the best. But if you're turning up the center line from inside the ring to start your test - turn from the direction that you most need to practice. In our case, that's a right-hand turn. 

I consistently overshoot the turn and really need to start preparing well ahead of the corner... But C thinks the turn and resulting center line should be an easy 7 for us, esp given how tiny and nimble Isabel is (compared to say, an 18hh lumbering giant trying to make that tight turn). 

new girth got zero reaction from isabel - yay! it's somewhat anatomic, but obvi isn't offset enough for the billets to fall straight down. the saddle didn't slide forward onto izzy's shoulders tho so we'll see!
Lots of good practice. I really like running through the tests with guidance - esp given how new I am to all of this. Isabel's getting much steadier in the contact, but it's still not perfectly consistent. Once we can iron that out a little more perhaps we'll move on to more interesting movements haha. 

C agreed that Isabel seems to be moving really well - and that she's becoming nicely active behind and is working well over her back. We need to continue building strength and fitness (Izzy was a bit expressive about being tired by the end...), but she said I can actually allow Isabel to carry her neck a little higher when she's working so well. 

Generally tho it just feels GOOD to get back into the routine - especially when Isabel is such a good worker. Hopefully my goal of scoring < 40 on a dressage test at an event will be no problem :)

23 comments:

  1. Sounds like a LOT of great info! I love the tips your trainer gave about neck/head carriage. It matters so much less than most people realize. A lot of times if you're working with a green horse (green to dressage/collection/using themselves), they need to use their head/neck for balance, especially as they try to figure out how to contort themselves to do what you want. A trainer once commented on a horse carrying his head tilted at the shoulder in by saying "he's doing that for the same reason you stick your tongue out when you do a tough yoga pose. Once he gets the strength and becomes more comfortable in the movement, it'll stop. You just have to make sure it doesn't become a habit and that you don't encourage it with your hand." Steadiness and acceptance of the bridle is key, from that the rest will come. :)

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    1. this trainer is just so full of good tips and tricks. i really like that she doesn't drill us into perfection - but i can also already see that she'll steadily increase the pressure on us.

      re: head carriage, i like her idea of there only being places were isabel *can't* put her head, but the rest is kinda allowed while she figures out her balance. i also really like how much she focuses on me and my position bc it makes such a huge difference in my short backed mare when i'm better aligned!

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  2. Ahh great lesson!! Love all of your trainer's insights. I think having a legit dressage saddle also helps HUGELY with being able to actually use your thigh! Love love love reading your lesson recaps. I can't wait to meet you and Iz out XC schooling so I can see you guys do your moves in person! :)

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    1. yay glad the recaps are useful!! i seriously try to capture as many little nuggets as i can on my phone after the lesson lest i forget them haha (bc really, who wants to pay for the same lesson over and over again by virtue of simple forgetfulness?). and i AM SO EXCITED about xc schooling!!!!!

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  3. Great lesson! I can't even imagine how nice it must feel to be able to get back to normalcy now! Can't wait for your first outing - sounds like <40 shouldn't be a problem :)

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    1. omg it feels so good to be back at it. esp bc it's becoming more and more apparent that the time off was actually very good for isabel - she's bouncing back happier and more relaxed than ever before

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  4. I second what Alli said about dressage saddles helping with using the thigh. Congrats on a great lesson!

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    1. thanks! i'm still trying to figure out my position in the dressage saddle, but every ride becomes a little easier i think - and perhaps that's a big reason why the new hip angles etc make for easier thigh signals - tho actually i can tell a difference in my CC saddle too

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  5. Sounds like a successful lesson to me! Good girl, Iz!

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    1. Izzy is the best girl ever! when trainer came in and we were quietly circling at one end she told us to go take a little looksie at all the windows since sometimes they freak horses out. i was so proud saying, 'yea izzy already saw them and couldn't care less - she travels well' :)

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  6. I really struggle with opening my hips -- for some reason, that is super hard for me!

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    1. it's always been really hard for me too - and i wonder if it's related to that light hunter-y half seat we've been trainer into. honestly i think posting the canter made a big difference here in at least getting that feel. maybe it would help you too?

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    2. YUP decades of huntseat training will close your hips forever!!! What helped me was dropping my stirrups and sitting the trot with my upper body WAY too far back and knees pointed 'down' to get the feel of how open my hips should be. Burning abs = you're doing it right.

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  7. Loving the bridle bling and totally wicked arena.... very jelly right now.

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    1. the bridle charm is from the ambitious equestrian blog (i may or may not have a problem with ordering charms tho and have one from another blogger headed my way now too lol) - and that arena is maybe the nicest dressage arena i've ever been in! definitely feel spoiled riding around in it haha

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  8. Sounds like a great lesson! =)

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    1. i'm so excited to be working with this trainer!

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  9. So want to bring that bridle charm idea to New Zealand and start it as a trend, I'm going to do it!

    Your lesson sounded SO productive, I'm with you on having to be told to LEAVE ALONE. Haha, harder than it sounds...

    Love the mirror selfies ;)

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    1. omg i am such a micromanager lol - just sitting there quietly is like the exact opposite of what i want to do. at least wearing spurs for dressage helps me to be more aware of what i'm doing with my feet... but the hands are still a problem haha

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  10. Sounds like an awesome lesson! Doing nothing is so much harder than doing anything else. It's so hard to just sit there and let things happen! But it pays off eventually. Love the bridle charm :)

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    1. thanks! i'm so bad about being still and quiet -- but isabel is so sensitive that all my noise can really throw her off...

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  11. What fantastic feedback! It sounds like a good list of things to keep an eye on. Fun fun!

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    1. i agree - now the trick will be actually *doing* it all haha

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