The three-day weekend is over all ready – where did time go? I can tell you that I am not ready to go back to school tomorrow morning bright and early but I have little choice in that matter. Thankfully as a senior I am blessed with missing my last period of the day meaning I get out at 1:30PM. It really is delightful.
Val was a workaholic this weekend for me which is just super. He is the kind of horse who has to be in constant work for him mentally to come out ready to give me a productive ride. It’s been hard this winter to sneak rides in but we do the best we can because if I don’t ride it takes on average about three days of tough not-so-fun rides to mentally get him working again. The ground thawing has made it possible for us to get rides in which is super. We lessoned on Saturday with Jason, as talked about in a previous post. On Sunday, even with the rain, we managed to sneak a walk ride in. It is so important that even on days where the footing is too slushy to do anything more than walk that a horse gets exercised. There is so much that you can do in the walk – a gait that I often neglect. Next time it rains don’t hang up your boots for the day but get out there and get on! Try schooling some lateral work: ask for shoulder-in or haunches-in on a circle (something that is easier said then done, I can assure you!), do leg-yeilding or half-pass, try pirouettes and ride for a 10. You may not always feel like you are doing something significant but dressage is just as much about muscling as it is about the ‘tricks’ we do in tests. Walking work may not be the most exciting agenda for a ride, but it beats not riding at all!
And then today I finally got the chance to really feel Val out and push some buttons in the new double bridle. He was fantastic and my worries about the double bridle might just be gone! He was a little jumpy today in warm up still – a side effect of the double bridle I had not anticipated. Instead of backing off he has gotten to be hotter than before, jumping around and playing when we start the ride. That being said I still have to ride his hind legs up under his body, he is crafty at being able to look ‘forward’ without actually having enough impulsion and activity. Forward is a problem for most dressage riders because forward does not equal speed – forward is about impulsion and the carrying of the hind legs and flexing of the joints. I ended up being able to school the half-passes today both in trot and canter in both direction with what is, for him and me, a great amount of success. He likes to tilt his head and jaw and with the amount suppleness needed to correctly execute a half-pass this can turn into a big problem. For him it is about little suppling aids on both sides of the neck all the way through the movement, done in quick successions so he does not have a moment to build up resistence, the kind that evolves into dragging me across the arena sideways (not exactly a half-pass). I would love to hear ideas or exercises that any of you might use that you find helpful; dressage is a global sport where 10 different answers are all correct! His changes I was extraordinarily happy with today, so much so that we did a few tempi lines playfully. He has really settled into the work well and I could not be a prouder mom!
For any of you readers I have a few videos that I have stumbled across in recent days that are absolutely great references. The first of the two is the Masterclass done by Edward Gal at the Olympia Show in London this year. This video is truly inspiring – the amount of control he has over the horse makes me drool with envy. Look at those pirouettes! Edward Gal, you might just be my new favorite rider! While you are watching he talks about speed control or tempo control – rhythm being the first element of the training scale without which nothing can be accomplished. He works on this control through changes in gaits, something that I don’t think can be stressed enough. It seems boring, and almost too easy and obvious to work on, but it is the building block of strength training for a horse and the key to dressage. If an opportunity to train with this man presented itself I would jump in a heartbeat!
The second video is that of Carl Hester giving a clinic. Carl Hester is a top British dressage rider and a wonderful example of training and development work. I know that many people do not understand how to bridge that monstrous gap between the lower levels and the elusive ‘middle’ levels (I won’t call it upper level dressage because it is not exactly). This video features two very different five-year old dressage horses. Carl’s explanation of training and development should not be missed.
Let us pray for some good consistent weather this week and hopefully we will all be riding! [: