I’ve mentioned this at least a million times, but JL is not a dressage trainer. I don’t say that to disparage her training at all. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I am amazed at what must be a very deep understanding of classical riding. The things we work on, rhythm (energy and tempo), relaxation (with elasticity and suppleness), and connection (acceptance of the bit through acceptance of the aids) are straight from the dressage pyramid. I’ve shown her a picture of the pyramid, but it’s not like it’s a poster hanging in her barn. It’s just what she thinks every horses needs in order to be a suitable riding horse. Early on she shared with me that once I get to the point where I need to work on movements that require maximum collection (increased engagement, lightness of the forehand, self-carriage), I might need to find another trainer. How did she know that collection was at the very top of the pyramid? Fortunately, impulsion (increased energy and thrust) and straightness (improved alignment and balance) are before collection so maybe I’ll be able to stay with her longer than she thinks!
Okay, now let’s see the canter. Already? Usually we work on softening the trot for most of the lesson. Nope. Since I ditched my personal elephant, Fear, (do you remember him?) we are now officially moving onto the canter which means we are now working on all three gates, both directions. I felt like I had moved up a level. On what scale I am not sure, but it still felt like a promotion!
So we cantered. Sydney was quite strung out and popped his right shoulder out so much that I had trouble making the turn. In fact, we missed the turn altogether. (We train at one end of JL’s jumping arena.) Okay, bring him back to a walk. For the remainder of the lesson we worked on two very useful strategies. At the canter, of course!
The second thing we worked on came straight from the crack a nut strategy. Sydney was popping his outside shoulder because he wasn’t bending. He was running straight through my outside rein and leg. Move his neck! came JL’s command. It took me a number of tries, but I finally figured it out. As I asked for the canter, I immediately started rocking both reins so that he couldn’t lock his neck and shoulders. The reason I could rock both reins and unlock his incredibly stiff and heavy neck was because I was cracking a nut and had full range of my shoulders and had a straight line from bit to elbow - no broken wrists. Success!