Dressage Lesson Recap: Half-pass, Piaffe and Collected Canter

A friend recently told me that she could see me switching over to pure dressage sooner rather than later. I scoffed and got a bit offended that in her eyes I seemingly didn’t fit in with the eventer crowd, even though I could see where she was coming from. As much as I love eventing, I also love dressage, I do, and lessons like the one this week just make the little DQ heart in me go pitter patter. (But don’t expect me to give up eventing –quite- yet)

With it being almost 20* colder than it has been all week, and with Foster stuck inside for 36 hours, I wondered how spastic the creature would be for our lesson. Warming up I got a couple expected spooks from a bird flying up and car passing by, but otherwise homeboy felt nicely forward and attentive, and Eliza commented on how even he looked behind. After all the ups and downs of slight offness, hock injections, etc, this is feedback I really appreciate hearing, and such a relief to see my horse as being 100%.

No new media- here's gifs that are almost a year old instead :)

No new media- here’s gifs that are almost a year old instead 🙂

I told her about my half pass attempts from the night before, and so we started out with taking a look at them. Moving from shoulder-fore to haunches-in in each direction, we then found space for a fairly steep diagonal (equivalent of a short ring diagonal MXK/HXF) to try it at a walk. We were getting plenty of angle, and if anything I was asking the haunches to lead too much, which was a misunderstanding on my part. We would throw in a walk pirouette at X to re-establish bend and continue on the half pass track.


Posting lateral work from over the winter


Then we proceeded to try the half-pass at the trot, on a less steep angle. Before I begin the half-pass, I change my diagonal to the ‘incorrect’ side so that I can use my weight in the seat at the proper moments. Again I tended to overcompensate with the haunches and need to let the shoulders lead. Keeping the left bend is tricky because I tend to let my left leg get very stiff as my outside leg pushes the haunches right, which in turn pops my left seat bone out of the saddle and pushes my weight onto the right seat bone, also incorrect. In order to correct this I should ride the bend as if we were doing a 10 meter circle, and if he starts getting stiff or I begin leaning outside, start a 10 meter circle into the mix to realign ourselves.

We then moved onto some canter work from the walk, and I found that the quality of the canter was not as light as it had been the night before. Discussing the activity of the hind legs brought up piaffe, which we had started on the ground some months before, but hadn’t touched since.

Starting piaffe in hand July 2014

Starting piaffe in hand July 2014

So as I continued to sit in the saddle, Eliza followed us down the long sides reviewing the whip cue (a whisper touch to the leg), which Foster remembered without any real reminders. Then it was my job to keep him super straight and as round as possible (very difficult as it turns out, since horses want to throw the energy to either side rather than sit), while she gave him the cue while moving. Any sitting and under movement was immediately rewarded by stuffing his face with clover. It was such a feeling to have him bounce underneath me, and to feel the power through his haunches when he sat.

Way way more than this canter

Way way more than this canter

Once the active hind legs were established from baby piaffe, we were told to move off immediately to canter after the whip cue. The energy that I felt in that post-piaffe canter was nothing like I have ever sat on my horse, and it felt like riding a destrier into battle. It was eye-opening to hear that that canter is what I should be striving for in my tests, and couldn’t believe it when the word “pirouette” was even mentioned.

In Summary (notes for myself):

  • For the Half-pass…
    • Ride inside leg like as in a 10 meter circle)
    • Weight inside seat-stiff leg also pushes me onto outside seat
    • Throw in 10 meter circles when there is stiffness or we lose the bend
    • Allow the shoulders to lead, shoulders leaning is more acceptable to judge than haunches leading
    • In trot, post on wrong diagonal in the half-pass
  • Canter-Walk Transitions
    • Walk-canter transitions: think Canter-Halt and keep strong into walk steps, otherwise piddle into trot
    • Needs consistently active collected canter to get a great canter walk transition
    • Canter walk not a transition that tends to feel good

Overall the lesson was eye-opening as to feeling the energy that I’ll need for progressing up the levels, and what Foster is capable of doing. It was showed me my own weaknesses, such as an uncoordinated left leg and weakness in my core. However, there were plenty of highlights and I am durn excited to try it all again.

Have a happy weekend!


9 thoughts on “Dressage Lesson Recap: Half-pass, Piaffe and Collected Canter

  1. This is so cool. I know so little about dressage, but absolutely love reading about all the nuances that go into it! I need to get myself down to NC so we can have a painted pony play date…

  2. You can totally be a DQ rocking it in the eventing world! It sounds like things are really clicking. I’m so glad Foster is back in action.

  3. I love dressage as well as eventing, I am also finding a love for Jumpers (not really too shocking). Dressage relates to all disciplines as it is really the core essentials of learning to use the horses body, and allowing the horses to learn to use their bodies. It is fabulous! Everyone should have a little DQ in their life 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pingback: Dressage Lesson Recap: Half-Pass, Baby Piaffe, and Canter-Walk | A House on a Hill

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