Fancy footwork

I had a flat lesson Thursday night for the first time in ages. I have been feeling like I was progressing with just lessons at dressage club, but now we have a heap of confidence in jumping, it was time to take a closer look at flatwork.

After my test at the weekend I was feeling quite disheartened about dressage. I feel very stuck in place, like our progress has stagnated, that we would never get rid if the tension. Reality is that I need to relax more and have softer hands, which I know is my issue, when I’m relaxed our tests are quite good so I need to be more self-aware and change something before the tension becomes an issue.

Side note, I set Steve-o the Pivo up and started it, checked occasionally it was tracking me but it only recorded 4 minutes! Not sure why, but I am slightly devastated. 

We started the lesson with getting Henry to stretch down and forward, then collecting him back up. We repeated until it was smooth and Henry didn’t resist the retaking of the reins. Then we played with transitions within the trot, asking for a bit of extension on a 20m circle every time we went over the centreline. Henry was a little behind my leg, my reins got a little bit long, and I nagged with my leg, but once I shortened my reins and was clearer with my aides the trot started to loosen and feel much nicer. Our half halts and smaller trot was consistently good, and we ended the exercise with having a clear distinction between the two trots.

The next exercise was leg yields on a circle, which we attempted a few times at the trot but Henry fell out through the shoulder rather than stepping over, so we brought the exercise back to walk and practiced turns on a square, breaking down each turn starting with an indirect turn, then leg yield through the turn and thinking shoulder fore after the turn to keep Henry soft and from chucking his head up. After we did that on both reins we were able to leg yield on the circle easy peasy. Sometimes you just have to break it back down.

We took the same feeling into shoulder in on the long side, and for the first time ever it was good right off the bat! We were better on the right rein than the left, which make sense because I struggle to maintain the right rein as a steady outside rein. When I maintained it, it all flowed much better and we got a better angle. We progressed the exercise by starting with shoulder fore and then changing to travers. We have done this once before and it was tricky, but this time we actually did quite well. I was very please at how well. We have been having a harder time with travers, but Bec had me step into my inside stirrup more, and that did the trick. It was something so small yet had such a huge difference.

After doing all the lateral work Henrys trot felt incredible, elastic and springy it was so nice to ride. He was also so much softer through his body. We let him have a stretch and a break before starting in canter.

To school the canter transition we did shoulder fore on a circle, changed to renvers, back to true flexion and then into canter. I had to work hard to keep Henry round on the right rein, he was behind my leg and would stall and throw his head up. We played around with w few things to help and eventually we had a good couple of transitions before we moved on.

We did the stretch and retake exercise in canter to start, then forward and back, the same as we had done in trot. That was all quite smooth so we progressed to counter canter loops which are no longer broken. We did some quite steep ones and they were quite good, I just need to be conscious of not leg yielding back to the track but instead making clear, defined loops.

It was such a good lesson, and exactly what I needed. I must remember to maintain the outside rein, and make my aides clear and ensure Henry is responsive. Things that were tough a few months ago were so much smoother and easy, and Henry was much more consistent in the bridle. We were also in another bit, my Myler he went in years ago, and I think that made a difference too. I had a much better feel on the reins and Bec was happy with him in it.

At the end of the lesson Bec commented to say that she had a great time teaching me, and that I was always fun to teach, and that really made the lesson. I think if the coach is having fun, then I must be doing something right!


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