Friday, April 24, 2015

Dressage Lesson with C; Utilising Shoulder In

My second lesson with C was just as good as the previous. I really think I can strike number 29 off my 30 before 30 list now!

I warmed up alone this time - one downfall of having a farrier for a boyfriend is that they can chat and chat and chat, poor C got ambushed by L and by the time she had broken free I had warmed up.

She was really impressed with our improvements since the previous lesson - despite feeling like we achieve nothing without her help, we're obviously starting to get it. That meant we only spent a short period of time playing with transitions within the trot on a 20m circle and we could move onto a 'new topic'.

C noticed that Oscar was a little resistant, despite working better overall he wasn't using himself as well as he could whilst he was bracing against the bit, and so we spent some time trying to 'unlock' him. I'm sure I don't have to explain that a horse with tension in the neck, back or wherever, can't actually work properly or as well as he could do if he was loose, soft and relaxed.

So we worked on some techniques that not only relax and encourage your horse to soften, but still build strength. We mainly utilised the shoulder in. Now, Oscar does a lovely shoulder in - on a straight line. C prefers working on circles, making the exercises harder for the horse (and rider!) which in turn makes it much easier when we go to perform a movement that is usually asked for on a straight line.

Performing a shoulder in on the circle served to push Oscar's inside hind leg right underneath him, get him travelling laterally through his rib cage and off my inside leg. The extra inside flexion required in this movement did seem to work in softening. Obviously there was still a fair bit of pressure and release going on too, until he stopped bracing against the bit.

The right rein was worse than the left, which is unusual for us, and so at one point we got right down to the forelegs travelling on a 5m circle, at which point he kind of sat back, got off my hands and legs, and used himself properly. When he finally became submissive, we travelled out to the larger circle whilst in shoulder in and then proceeded to give him a walk break reward. Dis why I'm tired.

Standard facials for my lessons with C.

The shoulder in work took up a huge amount of time - the demands C puts on us are really starting to affect Oscar - positively! - but understandably he gets a little muscle sore and until he gets stronger and stronger, a bit of resistance is to be expected.

He didn't have that booty definition before!

We didn't have long to work on canter (that's for next lesson) and C didn't want to overdo it. However, we did have to combat Oscar's tendency to fall out slightly to the outside through his shoulder.

I have an awful tendency to use my hands together, and C is working hard to make me realise that each hand is independent and has its own use. I get it in theory, but putting it in practise is a different story! When I see Oscar's shoulder fall out slightly, it seems counterintuitive to bring my outside hand out too. And so I kind of cross it over into inside hands territory. It actually enables Oscar to fall out by doing that, as it brings his nose in.

So, big thing for me in the canter is to make sure I am aware where each hand is. I wish I had Patrick Swayze saying 'This is my dance space, this is your dance space' to my hands. Mmmmhmm.

Naturally, when I fixed myself, my horse came right too!

To build 'straightness' strength in the canter. C made it really hard for us- as she does.

First she asked for outside flexion on the circle, and then got me to push Oscar's hindquarters out - so when we were on the left rein, I actually felt like my horse was positioned to travel on the right rein. It was SO difficult! I'm definitely not practising that movement unsupervised.

All in all, it was another brilliant lesson. My favourite thing about C is that we never practise dressage test movements - instead we work on making those movements difficult, so that when I do perform one, it seems easy.

Mind my tilting forwards, but he is starting to get along freely off of his forehand.

Wednesday's jumping lesson with S was rained out, boo. However, we may potentially get out to a cross country course this weekend, have our first dressage tests in forever on Sunday, and I'm judging a Pony Club gymkhana ring on Monday. Plenty to keep me busy!


  1. lol @ that patrick swayze line haha. seriously tho - sounds like an amazing (but super hard) lesson, and you guys look fab in the pictures! i love a trainer that can kick my butt while simultaneously opening my eyes to a whole new way of going. C sounds like fun :)