After yesterday’s hurricane force winds that made me worried my truck was going to blow over, I was very pleased when I woke up to find only rain/snow this morning so I could go to our clinic with Laura Gregersen. Laura has been a constant in the dressage society around this area for years and has recently moved to Oregon. I’ve never ridden with her but heard good things about her both from Kristen and Madchen. And since it was being held at Madchen’s I figured why not?
It was raining by the time I got out to the barn so I pulled Dandy in to dry and eat his hay. He doesn’t seem to mind the weather but I did want to check his legs for scratches and clean them off. I knew we weren’t going to be spotless for this clinic but we didn’t need to look like pasture bums!
While he ate I gave him a good grooming and hooked up the trailer. I’m getting pretty darn good at doing it fast. I suppose this happens when you start driving it twice a week at least.
But on to the clinic. I rode at ten which I think was a good time considering how the weather picked up the minute we got home! We started of course with the introductions and I gave Laura the brief introduction to Dandy and what we were working on. I told her I really wanted to work on moving off my legs and bending. After watching him for a few minutes, Laura agreed that lateral movements were exactly what I needed so that I could teach him to step under himself which would lead to bending.
Laura also explained to me that at the beginning, Dandy can’t properly go forward and go over at the same time because he believes that the leg just means go. This is certainly something I’ve notice but had no idea how to fix. The exercise we worked on was walking on the circle with a brisk temp. Every couple of steps I would ask him to slow his forward movement and ask him to step over. We would almost halt before he’d place that one step and then I’d ask him to march forward again. This took a long time for both Dandy and I to really understand what was being asked. I needed to use more of my core to halt. I also have to be careful to make sure that Dandy is still going forward as he likes to suck back going to the left.
We did the same thing going to the right but on this way his problem was wanting to bulge his left shoulders out to move over. I had to really use my reins to block his shoulders to get that nice move-off-my-leg feeling. It was a really hard exercise for the both of us!
We worked on the same thing at the trot, though it wasn’t quite so obvious. At the trot Laura really had me exaggerate what I was asking for my reins. If I was tracking right and asking Dandy to step under with his right hind leg, I couldn’t just block him with my left rein and say “No, don’t go there,” I had to open up my right rein and say “come here instead.” This really made a lot of sense to me and it’s something I know Kristen has been working on me with but hearing it in a different way made all the difference. It was amazing how I was actually keeping Dandy on the circle even with that exaggerated bend. (Compared to how when I usually do that I pull him into a tiny tiny space.)
There were big moments of evasion of course as Dandy tried to figure out what I wanted. The first was instead of actually stepping under himself he would just take smaller steps. It took a lot of my strength to keep him going forward. There were also times that Dandy tried to rip the reins out of my hands and pull me out of the saddle. More core will help with that but I also need to get Dandy going right so that he can learn to carry himself. And there were moments that were light and springy and exactly what Laura was asking for.
Finally we moved on to the canter where I completely took my mind off what I was doing and ran him into the transition. Of course the first thing Laura said was “You forgot to care about the walk-trot transition and you forgot to establish a good trot. You can’t get a good canter without a good trot.” She was 110% correct of course. So we went all the way back to the beginning with walk-halt transitions. Then walk-trot transitions. The thing she really honed in on for Dandy and I was getting him to listen and react immediately. There should be no reason for him to take three steps before actually trotting.
Once our walk-trot transitions were there we went back to the canter and did the same thing for that transition. Laura told me that as the rider, I need to not let him run into the canter because that’s just an excuse. Horses can go to a dead gallop in a second, they’re not a car who needs time to rev up. If he takes me moving my leg back as a cue to go forward, I need to apply the whoa and reestablish my trot first. Laura had us break the canter into two parts. The first was moving my leg back to say “Hey, we’re going to canter” and the second was the cue to say “NOW.” By the time we were done Dandy was moving into the canter a lot better.
I had a really good time at this clinic and I feel like Dandy and I made serious improvement. Yes we may have worked on very basic stuff but that is what I needed. Laura told me to stop thinking about what I wanted as a goal for each ride and to focus more on the goals I want for the year. So my goal for Dandy is for him to learn that when I put my leg on and ask, he has to move over. Laura had good things to say about Dandy though, specifically that he’s a hard worker and he’s smart. He didn’t give up even when things were confusing.
We also rode in this clinic in a very old saddle that Madchen was just giving away. Strangely enough… it fit him way better than anything I’ve put on him. Everyone thinks it’s funny that it fits me too because it is so small. But hey, I’m not really that big. The M. Touluse Annice is still on it’s way but unless the genesis tree blows me out of the water I think I’ll just put that money into a jar and save for my custom saddle.