Now that Carol is back from Florida for the summer, I was delighted to be able to do a dressage lesson with her this morning. I’d been hopeful we could do our lesson up in the big outdoor ring, which is currently empty of jumps in preparation for the old footing from the indoor to be added to it, as new footing was supposed to start being put in the indoor today. But the weather mucked that all up, and we had to do the lesson in the indoor. Oh well, new footing next week, and a dry place for a dressage lesson goes a long way.
Carol has a new teaching tool this year that seems to be quite popular with the dressage folks, which are headsets. It took a bit of figuring out how to get it on with my helmet and hairnet (trick: put it on first, then put on the helmet), but I really liked it, because it was a lot easier to hear, especially when you’re at the far end of the ring and it’s raining.
I asked to do some work on riding with more energy, since that’s a comment we’d gotten on our dressage tests this year. We started off with a good bit of walk work, and I got a great tip from Carol to work on my hand position, via some of her winter lessons with Catherine Haddad: tap my hands together and then separate them a hands width. That really worked well for me, because I could do it in the corner, can do it on course, just easy and it’s definitely something I can easily keep reminding myself to do to keep my hands where they need to be.
We moved on to trot work, really working on getting her working forward and relaxed, and keeping me working on keeping my shoulders back and hips swinging forward to allow that to happen. This is something I’ve struggled with, because my muscles still want to do the hunter-close-the-hip thing. Carol gave me a visualization today that finally clicked: imagine I’m riding a drop to a skinny. DING-DING! It’s like a light went off, and suddenly I’m riding right where I need to be, and suddenly Cally is going the way she needs to go, too!
We did a little work on the canter-trot-canter transitions, and keeping them steadier. When I sit back, it turns out I actually need to use leg to keep her cantering, which was an interesting revelation, too! That also leaves me in a much better place to ask for a downward transition, which then went a lot smoother. After a bit of a walk break, we asked for a bit of lengthening across the diagonals; the first one was great, and then she started anticipating and getting rushy in the corners, so we came back to the end of the ring and worked on a bit of lengthening and collecting on the circle. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start.
Then, since we’ve always had some trouble with the Stretchy Trot Circle, we started doing a little work on that. I’m hopeful that since we’ve got a month to work on it, we can get it a little better before Ride For Life, but if nothing else, this is a start, and an improvement over what I had at the beginning of May.
Now that I’ve got the right visual in my head, hopefully I can really work on my position, which will allow us to do better work overall. Sometimes one little detail can make a huge difference.