|Surprise mail! Ronnie featured in the LongRun Thoroughbred Calendar!|
My dressage coach was down at my moms place this weekend for our regular 2 days a month of lessons. I was riding Ronnie. It was quite a bit colder than it has been so I had my layers piled on. I got on her a bit early on the first day to warm her up as suspected, she was a bit high energy. The change of weather and the footing not being too great with the frozen mud has meant the horses have excess energy.
I trotted her around the arena trying to get her in front of my leg and coach D noticed things were already going awry. She said stop worrying about the contact because you don't have any suppleness at the moment. She reminded me not to forget the training scale. I started working through the suppleing exercise at the walk. Asking her to turn her head towards me, keeping the outside rein totally slack, until she relaxes and reaches down at the walk. Repeat. This exercise eventually teaches the horses an aid to relax through regular half halt and flexion. From there we went into the same exercise at walk and trot.
In walk and trot you ask with the same aid, but you don't necessarily wait for the horse to give to release. Your release of the supple is the reward. This was the concept I was tripping over initially. At the halt we wait for the horse to give, but at the walk, trot, or canter, we supple, then release. The horse gets the reward, then learns to give as soon as you give that supple (or flex) aid. It took some time, but we did get back to our normal loose, relaxed self. The test at the end of the lesson was if the aid to flex, would then relax Ronnie. We had success, and finished our lesson still working nice and relaxed and focusing on submission. She was off the aids, she was in front of my leg, and she was relaxed and going into the bridle. It was a nice finish to the lesson and Ronnie felt great. D told me to warm up the same way tomorrow, and see if we can get there quicker.
Sunday I started my lesson with the suppleing exercise we did in the lesson prior. Ronnie already started out more relaxed and submissive. I checked the aid throughout the warm up and she would relax and reach into the contact, which is exactly what you want. Once our warm up was sufficient Daphne had me work her into the contact. Up and forward into the contact, instead of down which I have a habit of creating. I was struggling so hard with my contact. My hands just have a mind of their own and it is frustrating after working for almost 2 years on it it is still a struggle. I need to be more elastic and following and have a looser elbow.
As I am struggling with keeping a consistent contact, things were just feeling so messy and unorganized. What seemed like forever in my lesson, just me trying to ride forward into a steady hand and Ronnie was just fussy and fighting me every inch which isn't like her. D just kept repeating over and over to me, "the contact, the contact, the contact". That actually helped me every stride assess the contact and make changes. And not just make changes after things became unraveled, but every stride make minor changes and adjustments to keep the contact where it needed to be.
It was like a light bulb went off for both Ronnie and I, and we then began to have a really nice harmonious ride. I was reminded to keep riding her up, and check the contact. From there I asked her to make her trot quicker behind, not longer. Asking her to activate the hind end and become more aware back there in preparation for when we learn medium trot in the future (whooo). We finished the ride working the same up and round feeling with good contact in the canter. Her canter felt amazing! She picked up both leads no issues, and the more we cantered the stronger and stronger it felt.
For a lesson that started off feeling so awful, it ended feeling the total opposite and was just incredible. Ronnies canter has come so far, she just felt like a dressage machine bouncing around the arena. I have a lot to work on over the next month, mostly with myself and the contact. Good news is I can work on that on every horse I ride, and the lesson really drove the feeling home. Hopefully I can keep that feeling in my daily rides.