Two weeks ago, I had a dressage lesson with my trainer. I pulled two main objectives from it:
- Keep the contact in the transitions
- Achieve a collected, bouncy-ball canter
When we first got Beau, he rooted his mouth all the time. Not to find the connection but to avoid it. This meant that I started riding with a really, really light contact and even losing more contact in the transitions. Eventually, I started riding with more of a contact in the gaits, but I never started keeping the connection in the transitions again. I think it also helped that we moved from the slow twist bit he came in to a baucher to the smooth d-ring snaffle he’s in now. He needed the slow twist when we got him, but he’s learned to respond to light touches on the bit as well as leg and voice cues.
It was insane how as soon as I figured out how to keep the contact in the transitions, his head went down and his hind end came up under him. Magic. We only got it a few more times in the lesson, but I’ve been working at it in my rides and man does it make a difference.
The next objective was to achieve a collected, bouncy ball canter. We achieved this through transitions and cavaletti (well, a single one). We used a 20 meter circle to work on this. 6 canter strides and 6 trot strides made Beau rock back on his haunches and stay light on his shoulder. Next, we moved to the ground pole. Whenever we work on a pole or a jump, my trainer wants me to really push him to it. By doing that, he sits back on his hind end and actually uses himself.
We know Beau can extend his stride, easily. He has a 10 to 12′ stride in a working canter, can extend to about 14′, and can collect to about 7′, though that’s really pushing it. He has a harder time collecting, and we really want him to be able to do it, not just for dressage work but also so that he can make tight turns and spots in the jump arena.
This week, our lesson was more about jumping. Our objectives were:
- For me to stop pitching my shoulders forward and down
- For Beau to push up to the jump
My trainer set up a no-stride bounce to a four stride (I think) single. We worked at it for a while, really keeping a steady trot and an up-and-down canter. The canter helped me to be able to push him to the base of the jump. We also worked on my position, keeping my hips back and my shoulders up.
Lessons are an important part of my riding. I’m really starting to see progress, although winter is coming and Beau will start getting his cold weather crazies soon!