This weekend is the Longleaf HT, our second recognized show this year, and I am keen to do well! (Or ya know, die trying)
So I’ve had a few lessons leading up to this point that I haven’t blogged about (actually I guess I haven’t blogged about lessons in a long time.. *shrug*), but there’s been enough major knowledge drops that I feel a post is warranted.
We’re starting to turn up the volume a bit when it comes to the sandbox. A couple weeks ago it was moving the haunches in and out at the canter on a 20m circle. Last week we started playing with canter half pass, which damn-near melted my brain at times. Since his left lead is stronger, that exercise is significantly easier in that direction. To the right, I really need to make sure my left leg (from foot to hip) stays connected and down, keeping both sitz bones equally plugged into the saddle. This helps counteract my left hand creeping higher and higher. Just like on the 20m circle, I shouldn’t overdo this exercise- coming to not quite the quarterline is enough to school. We also talked about starting canter-halts, but I don’t presonally feel confident enough in myself to make that happen yet!
Though simple enough in theory, we’ve also been continuing the work on our downward transitions- trot/walk and trot/halt- and back to trot. For Jack, he’s amazingly sensitive in that if I ask abruptly, he will land rather dramatically into the downward transition. Instead, for walk/trot/walk, I have to think about drawing out the transitions in order to keep the energy from crashing out from underneath us. For trot/halt/trot, it’s a much more precise half halt, but the only way I can refrain from having walk steps is if I thinking forward into the halt. Then the energy is there to land lightly into halt, and allow us (like a hovercraft in E’s words) to pick up again in the trot again.
Straightness is the name of the game here, and the name of the game is straightness. In our last cross country school Thursday, I realized I hadn’t fully learned my lesson from our time at Bobby’s, as Jack tried a half-hearted version of his last-second-flail-right thing that got me off a month ago. Not cool Jack, not cool. He wants to lean through the right shoulder (which also makes sense as to why the right lead half pass is harder!) and it’s my job to get him straight as an arrow to the middle of the fence. No taking that last step for granted- no sir!
I’ve also improved some with my upper body, and I’m learning to be patient even in the not-perfect spots. That’s the hardest, because every fiber of my being feels like it needs to jump for him when we come up to a cruddy distance. Eventually (I hope) I’ll curb that instinct, but you know how bad habits like to linger…
To help myself sit up and keep my shoulders back, I have gathered a plethora of mental pictures that I keep on constant repeat:
Shoulders over Hips (BC)
Shoulders away from the fence (HH)
Chin Up and Away all the way TO and OVER the fence (AC)
Add to this, that I make a habit of standing in my stirrups at the start of a ride to find my base of support- and if I feel my heels creep up I do it again – this tidbit from Mr. Boyd Martin.
And then in general, I have to think about my weak lumber as the base of support for my upper body- so I constantly remind myself to rotate my hips under and think about having my hips in front of my shoulders (which is not the same as BC’s above advice- but NEVER shoulders in front of hips) as I stay out of the saddle. This engages my weak lower back and helps stabilize my whole upper body.
In general, keeping him between my hand and legs on both sides of his body is crucial. As the stakes get higher, and the movements and questions tougher, I need to get straighter and stronger to help him do the same. So I’ll leave with this thought:
“Dressage [RIDING] is the art of putting one crooked body on top of another crooked body and making them both straight.” ~Richard Weis.