Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lesson with C: Dressage

Oscar ended up coming sound after a new set of shoes, so we went ahead with our dressage lesson.

The lesson itself was fantastic and certainly gave me plenty of food for thought. I immediately booked another one for three weeks later (student budget - limited luxuries), which brings us to this Friday. Because I mentioned last time that I was going to ask for C's opinion on me doing level 3, I'll just point out that she didn't recommend it and said we should start at level 1 for two reasons.

1. The amount of time that has elapsed since the last time Oscar has done a dressage test means he could feel green in the arena again. Best to give him a good experience rather than stepping up to a new level and over facing him.
2. During the lesson we actually went back to basics and readdressed our working paces, therefore we didn't work on any level 2 movements.

So, slightly disappointed.. However, C gave me so much to work on so I am very excited and enthusiastic which makes up for the disappointment. It's better to do it properly from the start anyway, right? Will make the step ups easier anyway.

During the lesson we worked on three things

1. Straightness and suppleness to develop rhythm and pace.

C had us work quite deep and asked for lots of flexion which encouraged Oscar to stretch out over his back and really allow room for that little trot to go somewhere. Whilst I thought he was over flexed, he felt brilliant and I realised that going forward from then I needed to incorporate a lot more flexion in my warmups in order to increase his suppleness.

The great thing about having Oscar super soft and flexible, was that I was able to bend and counter bend whilst keeping him straight (to a point) on the circle. Although this seems like an easy exercise, it's hard to maintain rhythm, straightness and deepness when essentially moving your horse's head from side to side.

2. *Surprise* - the second thing we worked on was the quality of Oscar's trot.

If you've been following my blog for a while you'll recognise that our working trot typically gets a LOT of attention during lessons - it's the one thing that I always have to be mindful of.
Is he balanced? Could he be slower? Is he running?

Whilst G had me bring Oscar back on plenty of 10m circles in my last lesson to kind of force Oscar to sit back and stop rushing, C focused more on transitions within the gait. We spent a solid chunk of the lesson going from an almost too slow working trot, to a good medium trot all on a 20m circle.

I previously thought that Oscar's party trick was his medium trot, but there's nothing like testing yourself on a circle to show you how unbalanced you are huh?

He found it difficult on the circle and fussed a bit with his head, but asking for more flexion and really riding him forward into my hands pushed him on. I can't tell you how sore my legs were getting! C trained with Charlotte Dujardin for a while and so prefers legs over whips during schooling.

These transitions on the circle seemed to unlock Oscar a little and when C asked me what I noticed, I said I felt that Oscar was moving at the same 'speed' as normal, but there was definitely a prolonged period in my rising trot.

The proof of the pudding that my horse was taking bigger steps without going any faster!

3. Positioning of the neck and shoulders; obviously relating to straightness, but we spent a fair bit of time focusing on the positioning of the above to correct Oscar's over-popping shoulders!

This exercise was mostly carried out in the canter. C described my hands and reins as a box (box/trapezium hybrid - let's not get picky!) and asked that I really focus on having Oscar's neck straight up the centre of that box at all times. Using the box image, I could clearly see when my horse was falling out of the outside shoulder - it happened a lot!! Riding into my outside rein helped keep Oscar straight through the neck, and encouraged him to bend through his ribcage instead. C had us canter on a tiny circle around her, and then leg yield out onto the 20m circle without letting him lead with the outside shoulder.

This was extremely difficult, not only did Oscar find it very hard maintaining a canter on such a small circle whilst I prevented him falling out of his shoulder, but I found it hard to sit back and ride strongly. We're both a little unfit! We did this exercise about three times on both reins with slow progression.

Following the lesson, Oscar gave me the best stretchy trot ever! I feel like stretching beforehand is a waste of time now as he just goes flat - in future I'll warm up deep and round, and finish long and low.

The poor horse had sweat dripping over his eyes so he deserved a big bubble bath and a bit of a massage afterwards, followed by a short walk around the racecourse the following day.

As I said, we have another lesson this Friday - I have been intermittently doing the homework C set me - although we've been interrupted by conditioning work, jump sessions, the Easter break and a jumping lesson! So much going on, so little time to work on everything.

I'm ├╝ber excited for the progress we're sure to make over Winter - next season I'm adamant we're going to conquer training level if not finally move up to Pre Novice! Now I'm having regular lessons I'm finding it easier to make those smaller goals to help achieve the big one.

We'll be competing in two different dressage series this winter and the first show is just under two weeks away - that's less than fourteen days to make some big improvements on both our working paces and transitions. So exciting!


  1. Sounds like a great lesson, and good boy Oscar! Will be doing that canter on a small circle to then leg yield out onto the 20m circle exercise today with Vallu :)

    1. Me too! I need more practise - I find it so hard to maintain rhythm and a balanced a seat, prevent Oscar leading with the outside shoulder and push the inside hind leg under all at the same time!! I'll get fitter, right?!

      Hope you have/had a lovely ride!

  2. that lesson sounds amazing! something about a solid dressage lesson is so motivating haha. good luck preparing for the show!

    1. Thank you! I'm looking forward to regular ones over winter, I always feel like I've got heaps to work on afterwards so I don't talk myself out of riding in the cold ha!!