Tuesday 28 November 2017

Fantastic Elastic

(No, not a review of the reins Carl Hester sells, although I'm sure they're great)

Rather, an apt description of tonight's learning in my weekly lesson with EC on the wonderful Audrey.
Same Audrey pic as last week, I'll get a new one next time

I was on my own tonight, which I always feel a little bad about loving so much. EC's time and my budget both being limited usually I share with one or two others. Which is awesome in so many ways, but you know how it is, there's only so much time you want to monopolize with questions when there are others sharing. So, I used tonight's solo lesson to the fullest, splitting the time between riding and picking her brain on everything dressage training and life planning.

We started out by discussing how Bridget has been going. My thoughts/questions for EC were basically that Bridget is feeling great. I have been spending time in the huge arena working on the canter since there is enough room there for B to find a steady balance and just go. No short sides, no corners to unbalance her.  We've got all the forward again, she's sharp off my leg, she's having fun.

So much room to run!

So...that's cool! What I've been also doing is starting her on a long rein and then gradually picking up the contact and asking her to keep the same energy, rhythm, and relaxation even as I compress things a little and ask for more. When she gets tight and stuck, I might bend and soften her, or I might back off a little and we reestablish the forward, balance, and contact again. We're not yet back at a place where the dressage judges are going to love us (it's much more of a training level frame), but..this feels like the right approach and if things continue as they have been, we'll get there.

Hacking to the ring last week. Off topic, but this pony better never be ditchy. I feel like half our rides on the wet coast are alongside one or finding places to cross.

EC previously had me warm Bridget up, then take up my reins, set them to a reasonable length and keep them steadily there a la side reins, and just worry about keeping B forward. All very simple. I think the concept might be useful sometimes, and I appreciate how simple it kept things for me as the rider, but I wasn't seeing a lot of success. One thing I love about EC - if something is not working for me, she is almost always supportive of my judgement and willing to switch up the program to try an alternate solution. In this case, she was 100% supportive of my decision to go back to the basics a little, and was happy to hear it was working and that B is starting to meet me halfway. I'm not saying the "arms as sidereins" approach was wrong, it was a useful stage for where I was at with my busy hands and where B was at, too, but now it's time to move back along.
We were previously doing some work using a neck rope similar to this concept...the idea being my hands are forced to stay steady - they can give forward, but not too far back. B gets a consistent length of rein at all times,  too. As the rider,  my job is to just keep her forward. While this is always a helpful way of seeing how handsy you really are and eliminating any fussiness in the contact that might be related to that, in our case, I didn't see much of a difference in B's way of going after a small initial improvement. It did help me fine tune turning off my seat and legs tho!

So, that discussion fed in to my lesson perfectly - because guess who else is very fussy about using their body as well as they should, and super difficult to get steady in the contact? Who else hates a naggingrider? Audrey! Her and Bridget are actually very much alike, both finding it quite easy to do all the things at 50% effort and tricking everyone but the rider into thinking they're working well.

I rode Audrey exactly as I have been riding Bridget, and EC talked me through it. I rode almost the entire lesson in either a stretchy frame or a more open, training level type contact, with short interludes of me picking up a more solid contact and having her rounder and more collected, the idea being we can move between all of it very smoothly and with no change of pace - just like I'm doing with Bridget.
Back to basics!

Eyes on the ground are so helpful!  I had a wonderful lesson. Focusing on keeping my shoulders and elbows really soft and elastic, giving when Audrey gave, and generally being disciplined about keeping the energy the same regardless of whether I was asking her to change the bend, move out or come back a little. Basic concepts, but always so important. She went from super braced and spooky to soft and happy (as did I, lol). We finished with some good canter spirals and shoulder in (with no inadvertent lead changes, yay!)

What is extra helpful for me with these lessons is not only that they're very similar rides, it's that Audrey is about a year further along in her training, and obviously way more talented. So not only is EC giving me feedback, Audrey is too. I  love that I'm able to show EC how Bridget is going and get feedback...by demonstrating on Audrey. Kind of weird, I guess, but neat!

Ohh...and the mare 'tude? It came out once or twice and EC had me get after Audrey a bit...and yeah, nothing bad happens beyond some minor antics I'm totally capable of handling. So, confidence levels on this mare are getting ever better.



  1. It sounds like a wonderful lesson.

    1. So fantastic - I'm very lucky to have those resources available to me!

  2. Replies
    1. I found it really helpful! We used it for a 'no hands' gymnastic jumping lesson a while back too so you still had some control, but couldn't do anything crazy with your reins.

  3. glad you had a great lesson! And great that you can apply it to both mounts :)

  4. Neck rope looks cool! I was thinking about doing something similar with one to see if I could pull the bridle off my girl some day.

    1. I bet you could...the horses at the barn all steer and stop off them, even though that's not something we consciously decided to teach.

  5. Replies
    1. It's very useful if you're ever questioning how much rein aid you're using!

  6. Being able to ride a more confirmed horse even if only slightly more confirmed is so helpful!

    1. It's amazing...I appreciate that she's still working on a lot of the same things so I can practice not just the riding, but the training and problem solving, but she is also that bit further along so I have a goal post for Midge.

  7. Love this post! Thank you for sharing. Gives me a few reminders that I lack when riding alone

  8. I love that you're able to get such awesome lessons even as so much has changed recently!

  9. Like the idea of that neck rope!!