Early Days

Dressage Training Update

I’ve been so caught up in posting about my horse management issues and our showing adventures (4 shows over 5 weeks!) that I realize I haven’t spent as much time on our actual training progress.

In a nutshell, Hemie continues to impress me with how fast he learns and how much genuine enjoyment he seems to get from our lessons. He likes to figure out the puzzles and he’s a very engaged partner. Laurie, as always, continues to raise the bar for what she expects from both Hemie and myself at every. single. lesson. She does not allow me to get comfortable with wherever we are – she pushes for more from us. For as fast as I feel we’re moving forward she always seems to have more for us to learn and do!

Once we’re warmed up and in work, Hemie has been showing that he’s got the long-and-low concept down pat. He loves to stretch forward and downward into the contact and in another stride or two he really lifts his back way up – I seem to grow a few inches taller when he does it! We occasionally get a behind-the-bit situation, but I’m learning to catch that quicker and push him forward out of it.

I’ve been consistently including at one bit-up (longing with side reins) per week, normally before a dressage practice ride or lesson, and I think its been helpful for both of us. Hemie gets to have super constant consistent contact, and I am translating feel for visual on the ground and seeing how much I really need to encourage forward in both situations.

Hemie is doing great with connecting to the bit and staying on it for good long periods of time, but we are still working on me asking him to take the bit downward into a rounder neck shape earlier and earlier in the ride. Laurie is having me be more proactive with half-halts – using them before he pops his head up to look around at the outside world.

Laurie’g been giving us exercises that are melting my brain. Example: tracking right in a 20 meter circle. Now add haunches out and shoulder in. Now add head/neck out. Poor Hemie and I are both like:  0.0   But its helping Hemie’s balance and leg awareness/control, as well as my ability to have independent aids.

We got a lesson the other week that was quite amazing: it was a dressage equitation lesson. The cool thing was not so much the content of the lesson (although its always good to get pointers about my position and work on it – longer legs, stronger calves, better ankle angles, sitting deeper, shoulders back more, etc) – the interesting thing is that it means Laurie is impressed enough with Hemie’s progress that she was willing to give him the day off, so to speak, and really focus on me. Laurie is a firm believer in form fits function, and generally doesn’t care how the rider looks as long as its effective in getting the horse to do what we need. So it is a rare lesson where we are working on me, and its good for me.

Last but not least, with Laurie’s help I now know that when Hemie is having an A.D.D. day, the solution is to work, work, WORK! (whereas I had been trying just work). Turn, bend, counter-bend, extend, collect, counter-bend, true bend, turn again, straight, turn again, work, WORK!  It works. Isn’t it amazing how so much of riding better is not learning what to do, but learning to what extent to do it. Its a recurring theme in lessons that I’m asking for the right thing but not strong enough, or fast enough, or long enough.

I’m in the Working Age stage.

2 comments on “Dressage Training Update

  1. I always think about how strange it is that horses let us ride them :)


  2. LOVE that 3 Stages of Life!!!


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