My job gives me weekends off, as does hers. That works great. Unfortunately for both of us, she doesn't get 10 weeks off in the summer like I do. When my interest in dressage blossomed a year or so ago, I dedicated my summer weekdays to lessons. This leaves my summer weekends free to spend time with hubby. So without access to Coach's weekday mornings, I've found it necessary to utilize a new trainer. I'll just call her JL.
I've had three very interesting lessons with JL. They've all been with Sydney. Lesson one concentrated solely on the inside leg and rein aids. We worked for an hour on softening Sydney to the left by bending his stiff side to the inside while pushing him off my inside leg. Inside rein says bend, bend, bend. Inside leg bumps and says, "don't lean on me." The outside rein just sits there quietly making a soft, but steady, contact. Outside rein might also rock to say soften, soften.
Lesson two focused on turning in by using the outside leg and outside rein aid. Sydney loves to go right because his inside is like a spaghetti noodle. He literally collapses inside when circling right. JL had me focus on holding that outside rein steady to prevent him from falling into the circle. Outside rein holds steady, outside leg bumps and says, "make the turn." Inside rein rocks and rocks and rocks and says soften ... soften ... soften.
Lesson three put the outside and inside aids together. AHA! Holy Cow! I FREAKIN' GET IT!!!!! It was truly like a 1000 watt bulb burst in my head. You mean that when we circle, I just keep fixing the circle by catching the outside when it drifts out and then catch the inside when it falls in? And that's it? Ohhhhh!
Of course it sounds easy when you say it like that, but that's what we've been working on and things are getting better very quickly. In fact, after watching the video of our last show, Cha Ching's mom made the comment that she's never seen my circles look as round as they did on Sunday. I must be doing something right!
Mixed in with the three lessons was also the idea of establishing the frame. Now, I knew what that meant, but achieving it has been a totally different animal. JL's images included a fence board in front of Sydney with the idea of slowing his front end to allow the hind end to catch up. She had me hold STEADY on the reins to slow the front legs down, and ask for forward from the hind legs until I could hear a much more even footfall. As we made a very small circle around her, she matched her pace to Sydney's and guided each step he took. Any time I allowed that imaginary fence board to drift out in front of him, she would say, "don't be an Indian giver. Don't give it back to him!" Until I would re-establish that fence board right in front of him. The steadier I held him to the board, the softer he got until finally, his footfalls were soft and steady and he became light in my hand. Suddenly, we were floating and riding became effortless.
Here's a super quick video of a few moments of our last lesson.