Dressage = brain mush

In an effort to push forward with my elementary goal, Coolie and I had a lesson in Saturday arvo. I had debated which horse to take because they both need work, and I need the most work but since Henry is getting lessons with Jonna and Coolie misses out this time round I decided to take Coolie and keep building from our last lesson.
Andrew was sailing during my lesson, so enjoy some unrelated pictures. I think his topline has improved!

Being a weekend afternoon, I arrived early and hopped on to warm up 15 minutes early, which was about 10 minutes too early since it was hot out there, 35C! Not ideal, but hey we live in Australia so we get on with it. Bec was also running early so it didn't matter in the end, we got right to work after a 5 minute walk.

From the get go, we set out to have Coolie really on the aides. I can get a bit slack at that because I like the easy life and so does he so insisting can lead to arguing. No more. If I want to do elem, I have to get him switched on right away. So we got him working on going from the leg right away, if he was tardy we repeated with a whip tap. We got Coolie moving on a circle in the shade and then Bec started to work with me on my position.
Lucy found this big, awkward stick and was so pleased with herself 

I have endless problems with my position, I would love to lean forward and grip with my knees, have my hands too low and reins floppy. Sadly that's not how I need to ride so we chip away at improving me, this time Bec broke down how I needed to progress my position to allow us to do elementary. We need to improve my position to allow Coolie to do the movements we need him to and guess what, it works! Bec picked on my legs, having me think about being able to do a froggy kick (a froggy kick will help place your seat and legs in the correct position) in the saddle at all times. This meant I wasn't gripping, but had contact with the saddle the length of my leg. I always need to remember to close my knee otherwise I have it too loose . Then I rolled my shoulders back, lifted my hand slightly and thought about keeping my knuckles together. Sounds simple and obvious doesn't it? My brain started to leak out of my ear once we started adding in lateral movements!

Next Bec picked on my every time I moved my hands back towards me. i had to really focus on getting Coolie to go forward into the contact. I am typical in wanting to pull back like the monkey i am distantly related to, so Staying soft with a holding contact, but not pulling back is hard. I don't even realise I do it most of the time. Staying forward, up and soft with my hands really allowed Coolie to move forward and into the contact which improved his way of going. It was very interesting to feel the difference. If he was resistant I just held the contact and softened (but didn't let go!) when he relaxed. Coolie was great and dobbed on me when I pulled, he would get tight and slow down.
Caspian went swimming in the dam, rolled in black dirt and then white sand. Yuck!

So with all that in my head we started working on a 20m circle, throwing in lots of 10m circles to continue to supple him. Also 10m circle are crucial at this level and mine are not great at all. Turns out I forget to keep turning. I do it in jumping too.  So I focused on turning more, and while I felt like Coolie was over bending it turns out he was bending the right amount. Maybe I am the reason my horse is a plank?! If Coolie fell out through the shoulder I re-positioned him using indirect rein and pushed him forwards again because he would lose the rhythm and slow down. Oh and I had to count 13-14 strides around the circle. While making sure my hands were up, my legs were down and coolie was going correctly. Dressage is hard.

When I was a 10m circle master we started working on shoulder in, using the 10m circle to shape the movement, I was happy to feel the shoulder in was better than last time but I need to be fast with my aides and really insist that Coolie moves off them. I found myself with the aides 'on' but Coolie was just doing what he wanted. I woke up to that and when I had him responding we got a good angle. We did both reins, had a walk break and then moved onto travers.

I had travers in my head and was convinced that what I asked for when I found myself instead doing a rather nice shoulder in down the long side. Bugger! Seems that I got muddled again. We did another 10m circle and this time I correctly asked for travers and found it much easier than our previous lesson. Winning! I really need to give the aide early for travers because if I am too slow I lose the angle. This is the biggest takeaway for this movement.
Arena traffic

We finished the lesson by cantering and fixing my position in the canter which needs less work, then counter canter. I was so much better at riding the outside of the horse in the counter canter and we had far fewer issues this lesson. I have to really think of riding the outside in the counter canter and almost have him flexed to the outside to keep him straight. I was very please with the work we did.

This was a seriously tough lesson mentally. By the end my brain felt like mush but I felt motivated and invigorated. Our homework is for me to make sure my position is as it should be, thinking about having my knuckles touching, and being able to froggy kick. Coolie must go off the aides lightly and promptly and I must push him up into the contact. No pulling!

Bec and I discussed my timeline for doing a test and I suggested March, before we go on holiday, Bec agreed so I had better get cracking. I think I found the competition I will debut at and i am equally nervous and excited. Bring on the dressage!


  1. definitely sounds like an intense lesson, but really productive!!! i need so much help with my position, it's unreal lol. march is an exciting timeline!


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