From Endurance to Dressage
One ... Two ... Let ... Go
The Weeble-Wobble Seat
It's a four count beat that should match your horse's back feet. This is JL's newest exercise. I am a little worried about her confidence in my ability. It was clear that this wasn't an exercise I was going to master in one lesson. Not to toot my own horn, but I've been zipping through most of her lessons. She shows me, I get an AHA!, I work on it all week, and I proudly show off how well we can do it at the next lesson. She has been a bit surprised at how quickly I'm moving through her lessons. That is until Wednesday. I think she was actually surprised at my ineptness. I mean really, I'd been doing so well. What the heck happened?
Here's where my "dorkiness" showed up. In this case, dorkiness equals big hole in my skill set. I probably should back up a bit and offer more of an explanation.
You see, I never really learned to post. I mean, I could post. Who can't? But it wasn't posting right. I was posting from my knees with my feet behind me, and I was very top heavy. I rode like a Weeble Wobble. You remember that egg shaped toy? That was me. Since endurance riders don't do a lot of posting, it was no big deal. Dressage riders need to post, so I started working on it.
Over the last year I have worked really hard to learn how to post correctly by allowing the horse to lift me while my legs hang relaxed without being grippy. I've also learned to sit back and bend my elbows which keeps my heavier horse from jerking me forward. I've become a fairly decent "poster." I can't yet always tell by feel which diagonal I am on without peeking, but I am getting much better. I feel the diagonals on a circle, but on the straight I still have to look. Nothing like telling the world about your weaknesses.
The way I practiced posting more correctly was to chant, one - two - one - two. If I needed Speedy G to slow down, I posted like this: ooone - twooo, ooone - twooo. It has taken some effort on my part, but I can now slow, or speed up, my horse's rhythm through the post. My weight is much lower, I don't grip with my knees, and my pelvis stays in an open position. This is all great, but I can't do it without the occasional counting and conscious focus, especially when one of the horses is being naughty. When they're relaxed and working well, posting is effortless.
Which brings us back to JL's One, Two, Let, Go lesson. The point of this lesson, which I'll describe in a minute, is to teach the horse not to be heavy by showing him that you won't hold onto him. It teaches him to hold himself up and not depend on the rider to lug his weight around. This may be a hunter/jumper lesson, but since it works so well, I don't care who it was designed for.
Since our earlier work has effectively taught Sydney to be light in the bridle and stretchy at the walk, we started the new exercise at the trot. JL had me pick up the trot. Sydney tipped his weight forward and tried to run the circle. He doesn't yet know that he's supposed to be submissive. JL had me pull back with both reins for a one, two count. Then I was to let go for the same two count. And repeat. The trick to this exercise is knowing how much weight to put in the pull back. She described it in terms of a number. If he's heavy, I pull back with a five or six. If he's getting lighter, I pull back with a two. The number describes the firmness of the pull.
That sounds great. The problem is that I could not coordinate the one, two count with my internal posting count. I tried. Over and over. I just couldn't pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time. JL's comment was that we had finally found a true hole in my training. It is obvious that I need to work on being able to move all of the parts of my body independently of each other. Since I can't yet do that, I finally just sat the trot. Well, sort of. I was dismayed that I was sitting the trot much like when I first started to develop my dressage seat. I hunched forward, gripped with my knees, and brought my heels up. But then ... slowly ... I felt myself relax my lower leg and I was really sitting the trot. It wasn't pretty, but it was working.
From a non-posting seat, I was able to follow JL's count: one ... two ... let ... go. It took some time and a lot of concentration on my part, but I was eventually able to pull with 2s and 3s instead of 6s and 7s. And finally, we established a submissive rhythm. I returned to a posting trot and with JL's encouragement, I began to fiddle. A push here, a nudge there, a rock to the inside, a half-halt with the outside. And at the very last, Sydney gave me some lovely reaching, stretchy trot. AHA!
When we finished the lesson, JL's homework assignments were:
#1. Practice using my body's parts independently of one another, and
#2. Work on the One, Two, Let, Go exercise.
The mind is willing, but in this case, the body is weak!
9/18/2011 03:34:54 am
When Harley used to rush, I would hold with my outside rein as I sat in the posting trot. This steadied his rhythm, kept him straight, and allowed me to coordinate my seat with the outside rein. The release was on the rise so it was a one-two rhythm: hold-release-hold-release. It works at the canter too, as long as you hold on the first step and release for the rest of the stride.
9/18/2011 08:29:08 am
Val, JL had me hold-hold-release-release. I just couldn't do it while posting! Her explanation was that it would be more clear to the horse if he heard my hold-hold for two consecutive footfalls. Other trainers have taught me to squeeze the outside rein while I sat. JL's technique is less about the rushing horse as it is about the heavy horse. She's really big on lightness!
9/19/2011 01:44:17 am
That is great. Yozo is definitely one of those "heavy" horses. One of the things I have been told to do in the warm up is a lot of walk-trot-walk-trot transitions rapidly to keep him on his toes and listening, and that helps me. I'm sure I still am terrible at posting, even though I have been riding English my entire riding career (almost 13 years!), because I am still not good at slowing down or speeding up the trot with my posting. Also, since Yozo is so lazy, and I have to put soo much effort into making him move out and he tends to try to take every opportunity to slow down, we never seem to have a nice, steady trot rhythm, making regular posting a challenge...
9/19/2011 02:03:03 am
Don't feel too bad about the diagnal thing - I've been taking formal english lessons (on and off) for 17 years now - I am what I love to call - Diaganially challenged. But it carries through in my entire life - I have right/left issues and can rarely figure out my left from my right without feeling for my writers bump on my right hand or making an "L" with my left.
9/19/2011 12:11:09 pm
Katharyn - pokey ponies are definitely tough. It can get a little bit tiresome for sure. Lessons with JL have been interesting because she is a hunter/jumper trainer. I do my dressage work at one of the arena and just work around the jumps. She's been great at trying to teach while i ride in a dressage saddle with much longer stirrups than she's used to seeing. This is all just a testament to her superb training skills. Fundamentals are fundamentals!
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
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