I needed "re-grouping" since we’re going to a schooling show at Hansen Dam on Sunday. I like this venue as it is quite pretty and feels very much like a rated show. I take each show seriously whether it is a three-star event or not, so that discombobulated feeling I was packing around wasn’t sitting well with me.
JL and I spent some time talking about the clinic. We discussed what she’s been working on with me and how that meshed with the clinician’s ideas. I can’t imagine working with a trainer who I couldn’t be honest with. When I read or see dressage type “stuff” that seems contrary to what JL is showing me, I feel perfectly comfortable asking her to explain where she’s coming from. Without fail, her explanations always make perfect sense, and I find that her methods do indeed fit perfectly within the dressage pyramid.
Once we talked about where we’re going, we got work. JL knows which tests I am working on and agrees that we’re where we need to be. Wednesday night’s lesson focused on getting that elusive inside bend that we’ve been missing. See, at the beginning, I didn’t know how to use my outside aids, leg or hand. Everything I did came from the inside hand and leg. It has taken many months to learn how to be effective with my outside hand and especially with that outside leg. JL agreed that now we can start getting some inside bend.
Right away she was pleased with my work as Speedy G never drifted outside or spun out with his hindquarters. I was able to keep both his outside shoulder and butt where they needed to be. Now if I can only get Sydney there, too!
The exercise we worked on was trotting an oval. There’s always a bend in an oval, but there’s also a straighter side which allows for half-halt opportunities. When Speedy comes out of the tighter end of the oval, he likes to pick up steam. I know it’s coming, so the trick is to prepare for it and catch him before it happens. This shape is similar to using a dressage court's corner to balance.
Once I had him going in a relaxed and balanced frame using my outside leg and rein, JL had me start working on getting some flexion at Speedy’s poll and jaw. To the right required much more work. Of course. He likes to cock his head with his nose pointed out. To correct this, I bent his head and neck into the circle so that JL could see both eyes, and then I added inside leg. I held this bend for a few strides and then put him back on a correct bend. Oh, wow! That worked wonderfully. Any time his head came up or he twisted his neck to the outside, I just bent his neck back to the inside, added the inside leg, and then brought him back to the correct bend. If he dropped his head too low, I added inside leg and raised the inside hand. When I felt him move off my inside leg, I returned my hand to a lower position and used less leg.
The best part of this whole exercise for me was that I maintained a very steady contact throughout the flexing. Speedy never got bumped in the mouth and none of the “flexes” grabbed him in any way. I think he actually liked the exercise. He certainly got softer and “bendier” on the inside rein.
I also liked how JL helped explain when I needed to flex him. In the beginning of the exercise, she would tell me inside leg, bend him into the circle. When she asked if he felt softer, I replied that yes, he did, but I wasn’t sure when to add the inside leg and flex the neck. JL took the time to explain what I would feel when his neck was stiff and when he lacked “bend” in his ribcage. A little explanation followed by actually doing it, and I understood perfectly what we were doing.
Will this all go effortlessly at Sunday’s show? Probably not, but I am okay with that. We are definitely taking lots of steps forward right now, and I am definitely happy about that. Go, Speedy go!