Dressage Videos

Firstly, I want to thank Tracy for setting up a fund so we can show some support for Lauren, who is bravely going through one of the hardest things imaginable. Though I haven’t seen Lauren in person since before she was married, those events have been weighing on my heart all week and it’s good to know how to help.

Secondly, I just want to say that I had every good intention of blasting you guys with videos of the majority of the lesson, but thanks to an almost kaput computer, you’ll have to settle for the highlights- Half-pass and Canter Work.

Hoping you all have a good weekend! Get ready for more lesson recaps next week ūüôā

Dressage Lesson Recap: Half-Pass, Baby Piaffe, and Canter-Walk

Phew- are you guys sick of recaps yet? Well if so- you’ll get a brief respite until next week, when you’ll find out just how hard I got my butt kicked by BC.

Monday’s lesson was much a review of the lesson before, except that I felt like I had figured out a couple key concepts regarding the half-pass and Foster had a bit better concept of the piaffe cue. The main difference was introducing canter-walk transitions and bonus- videos!! I’ll post a couple videos tomorrow, for today screenshots and gifs will have to do.

Working on the half-pass left

Working on the half-pass left.. and do I need taller tall boots?

After warming up in shoulder-in and haunches-in, we started the lesson by revisiting half-pass, first at the walk and then at the trot.

Haunches in animated gif

Haunches-in for the win.. also I think I do need taller boots..

When¬†talking about the half-pass at the clinic this weekend, I really had a lightbulb moment but only had half a schooling to try out what I had learned. ¬†What I had been struggling with previously was having the haunches lead, when really it’s the shoulders that should be leading. Foster has picked up on the concept quite readily, but I need some finessing in my position to really be more effective- as in stop collapsing my rib cage, open my shoulders and body in the direction where I want to go, and keep that inside leg soft and bending the horse as he moves in that direction.

walk half pass animated gif

Walk Half-pass right

Following the half-pass, we went back to review baby piaffe and collected canter work. We are teaching the piaffe as a way to teach Foster to sit and have activity in his hind legs without necessarily going forward, which translates into the collected canter. Foster tries really hard to figure out the piaffe cue (a touch with the whip- no Fosters were harmed in the production of these gifs), but sometimes just doesn’t know what to do with the extra energy…


and other times he starts to figure it out…


Bounce baby bounce!

When he is starting to think up and under with his hind legs, we then move into the walk-canter depart, and I try to maintain the came level of electricity in his hind end. It’s tough, because Foster can be so laid back that he settles really quickly, and in this instance I want him to be amped.


Since it was getting a bit late at this point, rather than hammer the collected canter we proceeded to start on those canter to walk transitions. These are brand-spanking-new to Foster, and it’s been about 12 years since I schooled them with Merry, so it was no shock that we didn’t achieve one right out of the gate.


Still, for his first attempts, I’m pretty pleased with how quickly he was able to sit and balance himself to walk, even if it took a step and a half of trot to get there. The tricky part of riding the canter to walk transition is to ride forward into it. For now, I am over-emphasizing my half halt in order to stop the motion of the canter, and purposefully thinking “halt”, which is what I almost got in my first attempts. Eventually my aids will become lighter, and I will be able to think about landing in a forward and balanced walk. But that’s probably some time away while we both figure things out.

Hind end: Engaged!

Hind end: Engaged!

As per usual, some quick notes regarding the lesson:


  • for now, might need to use more¬†hand, but eventually this will lighten as he learns
  • Try using half halt at two different times- when I am deepest in the seat (when he is sitting) and when he is landing (stiff horses sometimes prefer the latter)


  • Keep my weight left for left half pass
  • Do no let my left elbow become a chicken wing/collapse my left rib cage
  • Start with less angle to the haunches, I can always add more but taking away from the angle is hard to do quickly
  • Establish bend first then add the haunches (Half-pass and haunches-in)

Positioning Myself:

  • to the left think about allowing my left side to sink down
  • Tuck my tailbone under when sitting the canter so I “complete the circle” with my hips (rather than stop the motion slightly with my concave path)

Overall, the lesson was great in showing me the potential that Foster has, but like our last jumping lesson, that he needs to put on his big boy pants to accomplish some of these tougher exercises. On the same note, it’s become so much more important with these new movements that I am as effective and correct as I possibly can be, which is a struggle as I learn new things, or practice dressage that I haven’t done in over a decade.

Lesson Recap: Dressage

So, per my whining about needing lessons, I was able to get one in this weekend with Eliza. It was really good to check in and to verify that I have not been busy messing up my horse that last several months. Always nice to hear.


One of my concerns recently has been that Foster is not steady in the contact as much as I would like, and even having moments of dipping behind the vertical. So to begin with, we warmed up with a focus on him seeking the bit and pushing off with his hind end, rather than shuffling like he tends to do.

We also worked on the canter, which has always been Foster’s trickiest gait. Again, the focus was on encouraging an active hind end and getting the impulsion and ‘jump’ that his canter tends to lack. Some minor collection efforts were introduced to get him sitting on his butt. This proved to be the hardest exercise for the both of us, and I’ll definitely be practicing a lot!


Then we moved onto walk/trot transitions. As basic as it is, Foster still wants to use his forehand to transition, and that’s just not cool anymore. Thinking halt before moving up into the trot ideally will get him rocking his balance back and pushing off his hind leg instead of leaning into the transition.


Shoulder-ins made an appearance, and it was fun for me to see how they have improved over the last 6 months. While not yet perfect, the movement feels easier for him and more even in both directions. Our straightness has definitely improved, and I think all the lateral work we have done has helped strengthen his back left so that the work is easier for him to do.

ShoulderIn GIF

Lastly, regarding both activating the hind end and thinking about extended trot/lengthenings, I got off and Eliza showed me how to do some in-hand work, but like the training of a horse for piaffe. Foster quickly picked up on the idea that he should lift his leg when touched with the whip, and ideally we will be able to introduce this concept at the walk as well. Eventually we will do this with his forelegs, a la the Spanish Walk, with the idea that he will get a feel for lifting his elbows and hopefully produce a better extended or lengthened trot. Super fun!

InHandOverall, it was good to check in with all of the basics and get homework for the future. I’m glad to have these things to work on and feel some accountability for working on these goals and not leaving them on the back burner. It was also good to learn that when I feel him get heavy in my hands as I ask for more and more hind end work, I shouldn’t be afraid and for now, the extra contact is an acceptable way for him to go as he figures these things out for the first time. As Eliza put it (and this really resonated with me), Foster is very sensitive in the mouth, but a little stiff in the body.¬†It’s always nice to hear someone put into words what you couldn’t say yourself!

Anyways, I am so happy to have gotten this lesson in, and encouraged to know that we are moving in the right direction. The rest of those many, many lessons that I want will only help!