Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Let's Do This Thing: Dressage Edition

So as I mentioned in my "stuff I forgot" post yesterday, I've got this new goal of getting my bronze medal. I think it's achievable. I have two nice horses and an excellent coach, so all I have to do is learn to ride.


It doesn't help that the other day I really hurt my back and now I'm taking this whole week off from riding and all other fun things. Blah. 

But before I injured myself, I told M that I want to do some dressage lessons on Red, and she's like "all righty!" because she loves dressage and lessons. I didn't tell her about the bronze medal thing. I'm still not telling her. She needs to see that I can be successful in dressage and get done what she needs me to get done, so that when I do tell her she's like "EXCELLENT" instead of like "bwahahahaha." You know? Timing matters! (That's what the dressage riders say!)

Poor guy has no idea he's going to dressage
I took him over on Saturday morning. M has given me lessons on him before, almost all jumping, so this time I figured we'd be doing a lot of trotting on the 20m circle while she fixed what she didn't like, and boy was I ever right.

Here's the thing about Red: he does not have a dressagey understanding of the contact. He was ridden in quite the bit/martingale combination as a show jumper, and I just don't think he's got the sense that the outside rein is there to be his support buddy. And until he has that piece, the rest of it can't show up. I mean, he's got rhythm and relaxation down (though who knows what will happen to those at the horse shows). So connection is next, and I'm thinking we'll struggle for a few days and then have a breakthrough and then he'll have that piece for life. Impulsion will be easy. Straightness will be hard, but with M's help, we'll get it. Collection? I don't know how easy that will be for him, but by the time we get there, I think he'll have a lot of different muscles.

So on Saturday what M wanted to accomplish was getting him to release the base of his neck into the contact. At home, he'll trot around with his nose on the ground and no rein contact at all, but that's not quite what we're after. I do think he needed no-reins stretching stuff for his mind and his body, so now we're ready to move on.

Horse or hippo?

The lesson was almost entirely on a 20m circle. Sometimes we'd get it to 10m and leg yield out to try to encourage that outside rein connection. There was a lot of counterbend to get his shoulders where they needed to be, and then transitioning to true bend with the goal of not having an inverted horse. At one point each direction, M walked next to me and held the reins and told me what to do with my legs. She said that she'd have climbed up there had she not been wearing shorts. This was more fun, though, because I got to feel what the rest of his body was doing. He seemed worried about her doing that, so I said, "It's okay, buddy," and she said, "I'm not okay! Tell this bitch to let go of my reins!" I love her.

So now my homework for the week is to get him into the outside rein like a proper horse. It's amazing, he's 17 and can't do this, but his genuine desire to be a good boy will make it quick, I think. Anyone else retraining an older horse to a new discipline?


  1. Isn't it amazing how intense a 20-meter circle can be? So many body parts to control, but it's so amazing how when I get all the things right, then my girl seems to have a few magical steps of lovely. My girl is not older, but I got her as a 3-year-old not broke and have been training her myself. She is 6 now and I am just at the point where we have started dressage lessons. It's all new to me but so far I am loving it, but find the precision of it all a bit overwhelming! Good luck to you and Red!

  2. Oh god someone tried to hold Tucker's reins and walk with me once and he ran backwards into a wall and we almost died. Glad you are taking dressage lessons though - outside rein is a really good place to start and I think you're right, once that clicks (which may take a while as you said), the rest of it will start to come.

  3. LOL @ the "not okay" comment. Red will learn that dressage is fun :)

  4. M sounds awesome, I cannot wait to follow more of this adventure ♡

  5. I started retraining Spider at 11. I'm still retraining him at 20! It's a..... process. I find turns on the forehand to be really awesome for developing contact with the outside rein. I start nearly every ride with several, and I start every single ride with the counter-flexion that your trainer had you doing. It's something you'll have to establish and re-establish all the time, but it gets quicker and easier over time.

  6. =) Hehehe I like your trainer.

  7. fingers crossed for that 'break through' moment!