Tuesday, January 5, 2016

things we do now: a dressage lesson

Phew, ok, still playing catch-up here since the lessons are coming in hard and fast these days! Isabel and I are starting to feel like a real partnership again, just in time for the first snow flurries of the season (spotted yesterday morning, ugh). I would LOVE for us to get completely up to speed again before the weather-enforced seasonal slow down tho.


mare looks ready. and those white boots kinda sorta almost make up for the still-muddy hooves
Anyways, we took advantage of my week off between xmas and new year's to sneak in a ride with dressage trainer C at TM. I've missed these lessons so desperately since breaking my leg, plus as previously mentioned, Isabel and I were floundering in getting back into work. I was beginning to distrust myself and my sense of feel and timing, and was also frustrated with what felt like regressions in Isabel. So. Lessons to the rescue!


left bend: getting better!!
And C didn't disappoint. We covered a LOT of ground in this lesson, tackling common issues (like left bend) and actually had a couple breakthroughs (like left bend haha). Plus we schooled pretty much all the movements through Training 3. So I'm posting my takeaways in bullet list format for easier digestion. Enjoy!

  • Left bend: I had approached the issue by letting GO of the left rein, but C wanted me to hold onto it to create that bend. And I couldn't help with the right rein - that rein was completely insignificant unless Isabel was soft to the left, and then it's just wiggle wiggle with the right. Same thing both directions.
    • I should feel like Isabel's shoulders are on a smaller circle.
    • Even when tracking right, I should feel like I could bend or turn left for a circle at any time.

her hind socks *almost* match the white brushing boots up front. almost lol.

  • For walk trot transitions, don't change anything with my hands. Just sit chilly and ask and wait. Also don't drill these transitions, Isabel isn't strong enough yet. But if they're not very good, practice again toward the end of a ride. 
  • I have to be super careful not to let my legs (particularly the left) curl up to keep powering the mare forward. Have to let them hang down and use only judiciously. Think "bounce" a little with the legs to encourage lift in her back.



  • Leg yields. Boom. We haz these now. It's official - I have to stop claiming otherwise. (That doesn't mean they're legit show-ring-worthy, but they are THERE). Going left is easier than going right (which strikes me as odd), and while schooling apply one light tap with whip when I first ask with my leg. 

we track right too!

  • Leg yield into canter depart. Start on smaller circle, leg yield out and at apex depart for canter.
  • At canter, soften my elbows such that my arms are moving with the mare from my shoulder, rather than moving my entire upper body.
  • Trainer C doesn't mind that Isabel is hollow into depart - it's just a strength thing. Isabel is still sitting and pushing, the roundness will come in time.

and stretch! (you too, emma - down with that leg and up with that torso!)

  • For stretchy trot, my methods for achieving this aren't super polished (they produce some diving in Isabel), but they make the stretch happen and the mare understands. 
  • Trainer C thinks it's ok to keep practicing and schooling this way for now - it's more important to get the stretch. We can fix the dive later bc it's not malicious, it's just the mare trying to do what I ask.



  • We schooled all the movements from training 3, including stretchy trot and loops (some of which is in the video). 
  • We also worked on a snow man figure eight (small loop left, big loop right) and serpentines. These are definitely exercises I'll keep working on at home.
  • Oooh, and lengthened trot. Holy cow. Isabel is incredible but how in the F am I ever going to be able to sit that?!? I can barely post it!! (unfortunately neither this nor any of our canter work made it onto video, boo).

cute mare is attentive even while walking
One final interesting concept: Trainer C thinks we should have two of the same exact horse. She says by the time we as riders are really truly fully warmed up and ready to ride the horse as correctly as that horse needs, the horse is usually done for the day. 

If we had an exact clone, we could then get on that one and be ready to go immediately (since getting on a different horse requires its own warm up period). I thought that was interesting food for thought, especially in terms of how I mentally understand both my and the horse's separate warm up phases. 

So. Anyway. It was a great lesson that left me feeling much more reassured about how we've retained all the hard work from this summer. Now that Dan is south for the winter, I plan to transition the budget allocated for his lessons to riding more often with Trainer C. Exciting stuff!! 


This video is kinda long (about 10 min), and captures approximately the first quarter/third of the lesson. I love listening to how C teaches tho - it seriously feels like I'm a puppet and she's riding vicariously through me lol.

42 comments:

  1. I really want to take some lessons with C. Must buy trailer... You guys have really hit the ground running!

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    1. you totally should! i don't know how much she does this now, but she has in the past traveled to other farms. and actually i'm pretty sure she's told us that she would come to our farm if we can line up at least three back-to-back lessons for her to teach. it's definitely worth looking into, she's WONDERFUL!

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  2. Suh awesome take aways in there and dayum you guys look super snazzy in the gifs ♡♡♡

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    1. thanks! there's always so much meat to these lessons lol

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  3. Iz is so fancy! Also I'm really jealous of the indoor considering I'm trying to convince myself to go ride outside where it's cold...

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    1. ugh i know all about that - had my first below-freezing right last night in the windy dark (with goblins everywhere, natch) and wished desperately that we had that indoor at our own farm too!

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  4. Wow, you guys look so good! You'll get past the 'needing-two-horses' thing. I have totally been there, and just this past year felt like I was starting to get past it. He wasn't truly 'good' until 3/4 of the way through the lesson for most of the time I owned him.

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    1. thanks! it's funny, izzy is actually pretty good right off the bat - i'm the one that needs the warm up. i think that was C's point, as both individual and horse warm up together (but in some ways, separately) the horse is likely to run out of steam right around when the rider is finally really clicking into the zone. if we could either clone the horse, or somehow double it's energy (without risking burnout) we'd be able to just keep going when things get really good

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  5. Fancy mare!! I totally feel you on the point about softening your elbows at the canter instead of moving your whole upper body - story of my life right now lol

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    1. yuuuup it's definitely an ongoing struggle lol. i keep waiting for it to magically get better... but alas, not yet!

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  6. Looking fancy! I have been on the fence about what I want to do with Quest this winter and really want to give dressage a try if we get access to an indoor. Decisions!

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    1. oooh you should! it's been such a fantastic experience so far with Izzy! really tho i just love lessons of all kinds :)

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  7. Oh goodness, your canter issue is the exact same one that I magically overcame last winter. When it changes, you will feel it in your whole body. Also, that is one fancy FANCY trot she's got there ;)

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    1. that's what i'm really hoping - just gotta get it through my brain (and spine, apparently, and probably seat too...) about what needs doing in the position. maybe one day!

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  8. I love that you and I seem to be working on the same stuff and both our trainers address it in similar manners, but with different words.

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    1. ha yup! i never got a lot of education on these basics in hunter land but we're having a lot of fun learning it now!!

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  9. I love me some good ole dressagery <3 You two are looking pretty great these days! I feel like you guys weathered leg breaking and leg funk without missing a beat.

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    1. thanks! fortunately the mare was never lame from the leg funk... tho i can't say the same about myself and the broken leg womp womp. probably i'm just trying to get back at it as hard as possible to put all that nonsense behind us!

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  10. You both look great! She's so flowy. I love it.

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    1. thanks! i might be biased but i think she's pretty much the best ever lol

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  11. She looks great! I feel you on the strengthening issue- we're working on that, too!

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    1. haha sometimes i think we'll be working on this forever...

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  12. That trot work is looking really nice! Even if it's not part of showing, we definitely need some dressage lessons to improve our flatwork and topline.

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    1. thanks! and since we are eventers it actually *IS* a part of showing for us ;)

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  13. I don't think I ever noticed it before, but she really has a big trot for such a smaller mare. She really brings those knees up, esp in that one gif!

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    1. ha yup, she's got a lovely trot and it's so fun to ride!! she's generally a pretty big mover for her size, even if her canter stride still isn't quite 12'

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  14. For having been out of work for both of you, I think you are looking great! Already started the year running, and you'll be a force to be reckoned with!

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  15. Yay! Training 3 is an odd test, isn't it?

    I think the trouble going left in the leg yield makes sense to me. She has to bend (even though leg yields have very minimal bend) around your left leg, and cross under with her left hind, which is probably hard since she struggles to bend left as it is. All a combination of the hind leg weakness-opposite outside ribcage tension that Murray and I have the opposite direction!

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    1. i've never actually run through T-3, so idk how odd it is yet (i think i've just looked at it on paper and briskly moved right on along haha) - we just did the movements individually.

      but yea i think you're right about why that direction leg yield is harder bc that left hind is currently our problem child (giving the right hind a break for once lol)

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  16. Gah. I wish I had access to a trainer like you've got! You always gain so much from lessons! Once again - love all of the media.

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    1. this trainer is incredible - and is *super* close to my barn if you're ever inclined to hike on up with the ponies ;)

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    2. I suppose we'll see what this year brings! I'd like to - at a minimum - take Griffin schooling over some XC courses for funsies. I'd love to find dressage lessons for us, too. I don't know if the trainer I initially went to in October is going to work out for what I want to do. Must shop more...

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    3. trainer shopping is the absolute hardest - i've had a LOT of trial and error before finding my current roster, and they were almost all found via word of mouth, go figure. xc schooling tho, that can be a little easier to come by :)

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  17. You guys are looking amazing!! That trot though!

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    1. thanks! this horse - she's got moves! i just need to learn how to ride it lol

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  18. Looking good! I'd love to have lessons like that.

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    1. these lessons are incredible - it's like C knows exactly how to teach such that it ends up feeling like she's riding the horse through your body, and suddenly the horse is just going SO beautifully. kinda produces this 'wow' moment like, we actually did that?!?

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  19. You guys look fantastic! I can feel a great year for you two!!

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    1. thank you! i'm honestly getting pretty excited about how things could unfold :)

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