Dressage Lesson Recap – Starting Second Level

No rest for the wicked, as I’ve said before, and after a nice day off after the show, we had a dressage lesson. Now that the season is officially over, instead of doing test run-throughs we can now focus on new material, which will hopefully prepare us for next season and beyond.

Eliza mentioned that she thought we would work on the basics of piaffe this winter, since that is the extreme version of what we have been trying to teach him- to really sit on his hind end and stay active behind and light up front. Since I’ve never ridden the piaffe before, I can tell you the idea of such an upper-level movement is both daunting and pretty durn exciting!

Blue Hors Matine's famous piaffe

Blue Hors Matine’s famous piaffe

Similarly, we will also be spending a lot of time focusing on collection, lengthenings, and lateral work to teach him to lift his shoulders. We set a tentative goal for next year, which is to compete in a dressage show (which I haven’t done in a long time!), aiming to do a Second level test.


Even though we set these goals at the end of the ride, the lesson did incorporate primarily Second level movements. We worked on collected walk, lots of trot-halt (for half a second)-trot transitions (for sitting back), lengthenings-to-collected trot, and collected canter (gosh this is hard).

Working canter

Working canter

We also spent a lot of time working on lateral movements within the walk. We started with 180° turn on the haunches, really focusing on making it super correct. I need to think about weighting my inside hip bone and keeping his haunches to the inside so he doesn’t leave them behind in the turn, as well as keeping my inside leg back so that he keeps the bend around it. Talk about a lot of coordination! And something new I learned- the turn on the haunches movement allows the horse’s back feet to travel about the size of a trash can lid, whereas the walk pirouette, which we worked on after, keeps the hind legs within the space of a dinner plate.

Since this post is already getting long enough, I’ll combine my other notes in bullet-point form:

  • Work on collection and lengthenings in one ride, suppleness in another – it is very hard at this point in his training to demand both within the same ride
  • Practice square turns at the trot for lifting his shoulders and turning, renvers as well
  • Lots of half-halts, remind him to carry himself
  • The moments in collected canter where he *almost* breaks are the moments where he learns
  • Walk-canter transitions set him up best for collected canter
  • Demand active hind legs from the first canter step

We’ve been busy, and so tomorrow I’ll tell you guys about the exciting cross country schooling we did his past weekend! Are you guys getting sick of all the recaps? Sorry!

12 thoughts on “Dressage Lesson Recap – Starting Second Level

  1. Yay! Second level was so tough for us to truly get, but so rewarding and fun to work on! I’m going to give a rousing “YEP!” to the “moments in canter where he almost breaks are the moments where he learns” comment. Soooo true!

    • 😀 I’m definitely excited to give the actual test a whirl. I can see how the walk-canter-walk simple change will be really tough for us, but I look forward to giving it a go! And those moments when he almost breaks are so hard, but it’s good to hear confirmation that that’s the right feeling.

  2. Sounds exciting! I am kind of glad to stop working on endlessly perfecting tests and start working on new material. We have been working on new concepts like inside leg to push her out, outside leg to push her in, and lots of half halts. Frequently I feel like I need an extra pair of hands or legs!

  3. exciting goals! glad it was such a productive lesson. really interesting takeaways too – particularly separating work on suppleness from the collection / lengthenings, and also the note about almost breaking at the canter being so educational… very good food for thought!

  4. Miles and I are working on some of the same things this winter! Although, obviously we are no where near as well-schooled on the flat since we’re hunters, haha. We’d be lucky to be passable in an Intro Dressage test!

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