Coach suggested we do some walking warm-up while we chatted about the show and discussed some of the judge’s comments. That did help bring some energy to the lesson and before long Speedy G and I were working on some circles and a few figure eights.
My coach also had a few new visuals to share to help improve my leg and hand position. Have I ever mentioned that I have some trouble with maintaining both? Keeping my heels down is only one problem I have. My toes, especially on the right side, want to poke out and not point straight ahead. Coach has shared quite a few visual images to help me “see” and visualize where my feet should be … skiing, turn the toes in, etc. This time she suggested focusing on turning my HEELS out. It sounds goofy if you can keep your feet point pointing the correct way. Since I can’t, the idea of turning my HEELS out neutralizes my natural tendency to point my TOES out.
The other problem I have is riding with a steady, independent hand. This comes from being a kid and having every adult tell me not to pull on the horse’s mouth. Probably good advice for kids riding the back country over rough trails all the while unsupervised. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was an endurance rider in training …
As an endurance rider, I never rode with contact. Most endurance riders keep a fairly loopy rein as they allow the horse to use his head and neck for balance and to have complete freedom to look around and watch where he’s going. Believe it or not, endurance horses get pretty good at reading the trail, watching for ribbons, and knowing where the turns are.
Ultimately, the real problem is that I never learned what steady contact is. I am learning now!
My Coach has given me many visuals to help me maintain a steady hand. I am getting it, but when Speedy G starts to get resistant, I brace, and my hands move with my body rather than independently. In order to help me see how much my hands were moving, she suggested I push them down as I went up in the rising trot. Since I am an idiot, that didn’t work. Yet … On every UP, I brought my hands UP. On the DOWNS, I brought my hands DOWN. It was a lot like trying to walk and chew gum.
I finally brought Speedy to a halt and practiced the up/down combination from the standstill … better. This is definitely something that I’ll be practicing on my work-out ball at home.
The third thing my coach had me work on was expanding the idea of the half halt to include my butt and back. I know … obvious to everyone else, but until someone tells me what to do, I just don’t see it. It could also be that until now I just wasn’t ready to pull that piece into the mix. As we were doing trot circles, she instructed me to squeeze my outside butt cheek in conjunction with my outside hand rein squeezes while bringing the squeeze up into the same shoulder blade. How do you squeeze only ONE butt check? I discovered it can be done. I also discovered that I can squeeze the right cheek better than the left cheek! Who said dressage is boring?
So … my new skill set should soon include toes pointing forward, a steadier hand that works independently of my body, and a better half-halt that includes my butt and back.