Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dressage Lessons = Love

As we pulled out of the barn's driveway yesterday evening, trailer and pony in tow, my mom joked that I would have a hard time topping last week's lesson simply because it was so good.

Well, to make a long story short, it DOES get even better!

It's getting to the point these days where the horse I have while warming up gives me big clues about how the lesson is going to go. Last night she felt free, loose, swinging, like the motion that started in her hind end could travel all the way through her spine and up her neck to her poll. Before, it felt like everything stopped at her shoulders. (Funny how you don't realize how much something is restricting your horse until you fix it.) The saddle is staying put and as a result she's willing to reach out with those shoulders and stretch her neck out to meet my contact.

So when Leslie walked in I told her that McKinna was generally being amazing. And, for the entire lesson, she kept it up.

There's several new things we have begun working on. One of them is a slight shoulder-fore in the trot when I head down a long side: outside rein squeeze asks the shoulders to come in off the track, inside leg keeps the bend, outside leg keeps the body straight. Inside rein asks for her to remain soft and supple, and outside rein again supports so she doesn't overbend.

It's difficult and I have to laugh sometimes as I watch us in the mirror and we look quite drunk. I lose the bend and fix it, but then we drift inside so I add more inside leg, but then I lose the haunches and they swing out. Sometimes, when I get it just right, it feels great! It's a very steady, powerful connection that I get when this happens. McKinna is a bit bemused by the whole thing, but pretty willing to go around doing strange things if I ask.

We've also begun working on sitting trot, which mostly involves working on my riding of course. Here I saw a huge improvement even over last week's ride-- last week when I began sitting McKinna seemed a bit put-out, would slow down or speed up and hollow out. Some of it was me not getting my balance right, but I think some of it was just a little confusion as I rarely sit the trot. This week, that was all gone: as long as I was balanced I could keep her coming up into a soft, steady contact, and she was really stepping out.

Leslie had me go back to posting for a moment whenever I got too discombobulated with myself. This gave me a chance to rebalance, reassured McKinna, and then allowed me to go back to sitting with a better trot. It's amazing to me that I can do this. It seems like just a short time ago that we were working, working, working just to get a soft and supple and forward trot - now, it's working to get a better sitting trot, and as soon as I post she snaps back to perfect!

This sitting trot business is allowing us to school much better canter transitions, as well. If I talk too much about her canter I am going to explode into a gooey mass of happiness, so I'll spare you, but basically it is well within real-canter territory at this point. I'm talking soft, quiet, three beats, a definite rolling rhythm, not fast, and beginning to straighten up instead of lean. I even have a half halt most times, and I'm beginning to set some weight to the outside to help her straighten out even more. SO COOL. I make noises of glee frequently in my lessons now.

Anyway, when we canter from the sitting trot I can coordinate my aids much better. If I remember to keep my left arm flexible instead of rigid, and I give her a firm request to supple as I hug with my inside leg and brush my outside leg just a little, I can get this lovely flowing transition. At this point, we're working on consistently getting that softness. Same with the downward transitions: I actually got one last night where, from canter to trot, the connection never wavered and she stretched into my hands immediately at the sitting trot. Hooray!

Finally, we have also kept at the whole trot-lengthening business. We tried some at the end of the lesson last night, and wow is that stuff fun. I can't get it totally right yet, but when we do, it feels amazing. I can actually feel McKinna lifting her withers, stretching her neck forward into a supple steady contact, and powering from behind into these bigger, longer steps.

I think Leslie keeps expecting me to get bored with all the subtler, more finicky stuff we've been working on. Far from it! It's practically the highlight of my week ;)

Teeth check and vaccinations for the wonderpony today. Then we have quite a bit of Pony Club stuff coming up this month: an upper level assessment clinic on Sunday the 7th, with a national PC examiner working with you to identify where you're at in terms of the standards of your next rating; a bandaging/wrap clinic with an upper-level PCer the following Saturday; and then on Saturday the 20th, our club is bringing Anna Carkin down for a flat and jumping clinic.

Lots of fun stuff to look forward to!

1 comment:

Val said...

I totally hear you! The canter, the lengthening, sitting in that wonderful saddle = Awesome!

Related Posts with Thumbnails