Friday, August 28, 2009

More Lesson Gleanings!

Yesterday I had another lesson with Shelley, and Irene also double-teamed us, so it was a very intense hour. We did not work on any movements, we can do them, Charisma knows them. I asked them to help me with the "qualities". We need to show greater impulsion, submission, uphill balance, self-carriage, and greater carrying behind. So they spent the hour helping me develop a very cadenced, lovely trot, and then we worked on the canter. Charisma's trot work has come so far that I can truly ride with the weight of the reins now, and we just needed to coax that little something extra out of her, that really says "we belong here". Her canter work has also improved, but is not her best gait. They helped me ride her into a very round, rolling, jumping canter. I must be more brave! I've made some notes, that actually mostly reiterate what they've already been teaching me, but more in depth, and, with a deeper understanding for the requirements of the level. I've decided to enter the Alberta Provincial Championships being held at the Parkland Dressage Festival in September. I don't care how we place or score, my goal is for the tests to flow, and the movements to literally "be there", so that I can concentrate on riding each step and coaxing the best qualities out of my horse. We have been schooling all the Fourth level work now for the last month, so I am looking forward to being able to ride Third level with my head, and not my brawn. Of course in dressage, it is always recommended to show a level or two below what you are schooling at home. But when you only have one horse, and you have learned everything on that one horse, and you don't have access to daily training, you wind up riding beyond your level most of the time. I am happy that this year, I reached a point where I've been able to show Charisma at Second level, and not have to struggle. I've been able to enjoy it. I am now looking forward to having that same luxury at Third level.
Here are my notes from yesterday's lesson:

  • Charisma avoids the difficulty of loading the inside hind in transitions by straightening her body and losing the line of the circle. Practice all transitions with the feeling of travers, and use the outside aids actively, to keep the bend. By keeping the bend in the transitions, this increases the strength of the inside hind, developing power, which results in greater cadence. Also, if she is not allowed to straighten during the transition, she cannot use her neck against me to press up. The horse's neck muscles are very strong when they are straight. Keep her bent. Her neck is beautiful when it's correctly working for me, so seek to make her look as lovely as possible, by riding very precisely. Make that judge WANT to ride my horse.
  • When all is well in the trot work and I want to look for more cadence & expression, I need to engage my outside aids again, connect that inside hind with a bouncing lower leg to that outside rein, and ask for more honest work behind. The difference between Charisma’s trot when she is just going, and when I engage her hind legs, is night & day, from a very plain but correct trot, to a brilliant, bouncy trot that really says “we belong in the medium levels”. This will build power & expression over time. Seek to coax every ounce of movement out of her at every step.
  • In the canter work, don’t ever ride in auto-pilot. Yes there must be self carriage, but in order to coax the best three beat collected canter out of Charisma, I must keep my lower legs very loose, and literally ask for more jump every single stride. Use the seat & weight to keep her straight, and let the bouncing lower legs encourage her to jump uphill at every step. Improve the activity with every stride.
  • Continue to watch turns, lower and open the outside rein even, to keep her bending through turns and not escaping behind by straightening.
  • Keep the hands up over the wither, out in front, light and active, so as not to allow her to lean down, or worse, that I don’t pull her down. If I need to lower my hands, lower my outside hand, but keep my inside hand higher, so she can’t lean in on it.

My next post will be about the CDI in Edmonton! Stay tuned!