Thursday, February 11, 2010

You Do The Hokey Pokey...

As we return to real dressage training, I have noticed that Piper's transitions when travelling to the left are not nearly as good as those done when tracking right.   And, as is sometimes the case with horses, last year, he was better to the left than to the right.   Don't ask me why these things happen....

So, while the work to the right feels wonderful, the work to the left, especially when considered in comparison, feels down right amateurish, disconnected, and messy.   Trying to steer him into better straightness just results in him becoming very "squirrelly"...   Like trying to ride a weasel.   And trying to use leg and hand to box him into a frame fails miserably, of course.

Before applying the aids, sometimes the rider has to engage the brain.   :-)   So, I did.   After considering the problem I was encountering, I asked myself a simple question:   "What would my trainer recommend?"

So, we returned to lateral work.   Spiralling in and out of circles.   Leg yield, haunches in, shoulder in.   Both directions.   We both needed to get loose, and Piper needed to be really responsive to my aids.   Put your left hind in.   Put your left hind out.   Put your left hind in, and shake it all about.

Yes, we did the Hokey Pokey for a while.   Then, we refined it to shoulder-fore positioning.   This position helps get the inside hind leg under the body, asking it to take more responsibility as we perform transitions.   It helps keep the horse together without force, and odd as may sound, it helps keep him straighter.

(Harry Boldt in Shoulder Fore, from his book "Das Dressur Pferd", sourced from the Artistic Dressage website.)

The result was consistently smoother transitions (and some really super nice ones) from trot to canter and from canter to trot.   Overall, we had better connection, better engagement, better maintenance of the tempo, and better balance.   It felt great!

So, after a couple dozen good transitions, we immediately exited the indoor arena and went trail riding in the snow as the sun slipped down behind the treeline.   Another good training session.