This week I had two lessons that were, on the surface, very different, but at their core, both the dressage and jumping lessons were all about position, especially core strength.
On Tuesday, I had another dressage lesson with Barbara. We started where we left off the week prior, working on getting Cally to relax forward and down into contact, first at the walk, then the trot. We were starting to get some good responses when I asked for flexion each way, and she was responding well to me asking for her to get a bit rounder and carry herself more. After a nice warmup, we took a few minutes to work on my position, and working on using my core to hold and stabilize. Then Barbara talked about my seat and body position at the canter, which I’ve admittedly struggled with, as the dressage position is so counter to the ingrained hunter half-seat that I naturally want to fall into. So my homework is to do a few reps of “spider legs” when I get on and am warming up each ride, using my hip flexors to lift my legs up and off the saddle for a few seconds. It turns out that when I can feel those burn, I’m sitting properly. After that we worked on our trot-canter transitions a bit, which was a bit of a mixed bag. My seat got better as I could feel where I should be sitting pretty clearly, and there were a few very good moments of canter, even getting a bit of roundness and softness.
Then on Friday I had a lesson with Kelley. Cally warmed up so nicely, and we even got a little bit of that round soft canter again, which made me so happy. Then Kelley had us work on what was a deceptively simple grid–many of her exercises are that way, actually, so seemingly simple but really making you work to get it right, and really learn something. It was placing rails through a simple one stride vertical to steep X oxer. The exercise did all the work to let the horse figure out how to do the footwork to get nice and round over the fences; all I had to do was sit up and soften the reins. It turns out when I sit up and let her jump up to me, she does a beautiful job of jumping up to me and really having a nice bascule. And that led to landing softly, then we even had a perfect, gorgeous lead change at the end, too. She really seemed to be figuring out what we wanted, and Cally responds so much to any changes in my position, it makes it really clear when things are working.
Things really do seem to be working for both us, from the progress we’ve been making lately. I’m really happy with how she’s been going, and how we’re working together. Now I just have to persevere through the bad weather, and keep working hard this winter, and I think we’ll be in a good place to start our season in the spring.