This has been floating around Facebook the past couple of days courtesy of Dressage Today. Doesn’t it encapsulate that feeling of the correct contact? Love the many images that Dressage Today uses to convey biomechanics.
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Monday, November 2, 2020
Working walk, could be a little more stretched out to the contact, but poll/shoulders high and swingy. Would probably be better if I were sitting all the way up and putting spaces between my vertebrae. Or if I were sitting up and being a little pickier about alignment.
Stretched out and down a bit, notice my posture and his hind leg engagement.
Fully stretched down, in front of vertical, shoulders still lifted.
I’ve had a few epiphanies this year and one of them is that the correct stretch is as much out as it is down. By only letting the horse stretch down if he is reaching to the contact, the circle of energy is connected, the sail is filled, the connection is correct and etc. The way I have been getting there is by getting a decent working walk and then doing a Centered Riding half-halt of breathing out-centering-thinking the rubber band with my body(basically putting spaces between my vertebrae) and only letting him stretch down a little at a time if he is reaching into the contact. It’s been working pretty well to get him in front of the vertical and more swinging through the back without getting on the forehand.
Then one day I was riding and thought, “Ding ding ding, what if I just aligned him more precisely on the circle? Wouldn’t that make the energy from the back feet cycle through the body, out the top line to the contact? Even without the half-halt?” And the first time I thought about poll high, self-carriage, and being super picky about his alignment he reached right out to the contact. No half-halt necessary.
Many roads to Rome. I can see how alignment is the preferred method, because the horse is really straight as well, but the connecting half-halt might be a bridge with a greener, less straight, or defensive horse.
How do you initiate the active stretch?
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Since I’ve started using the Dressage Naturally system, I’ve pretty much lived by this mantra. But. This has also led to us being stuck at First-Second Level for a couple of years while I try to figure out how to ride. Seriously. The interesting thing though, is that even though I was tilted forward and could not get the timing of the half-halt, we were cruising around pretty happily. Jet was getting progressively more flexible and supple using the principles of Relaxation, Energy, and Balance to find the Sweet Spot. We couldn’t achieve poll high always(damn you slouchy posture) but self-carriage and a form of stretch were consistently there and we were harmonious even though our balance was a little off sometimes. We got some nice scores and comments at Training and First, and most of all, Jet trusted me enough to take his spooky self to shows and be quite obedient. That was a big deal to me.
Now that I’ve made some big breakthroughs and figured out my posture, the correct stretch, and different versions of the half-halt, I have second guessed myself once or twice about having an almost 18 year old pony that is just now getting some of the more technical “real” dressage stuff. But. If I had hauled Jet to one of our local dressage people with his inverted tense self, I’m sure hardware would have been suggested. Lots of lunging to wear him down. Trainer rides. A dressage bred horse. And on and on. By focusing on the partnership first and then working my way up to the more technical skills, things have taken a long time. The upside though, is that I know how to problem solve the relationship, I know the lower level technical skills in and out, and now that I have the ability to sit up and half-halt (occasionally) the world is our oyster.
Now, Jet will only stay sound doing harder work for so long, but who knows how long that will be? Could be next month or a few years from now. Meanwhile he is happy to work for me and is my best boy. The thing is though, by working slowly through the steps, I understands the ins and outs thoroughly so I can take that knowledge to the next horse. Honestly, probably one of my only regrets is not doing the online Dressage Naturally courses. I think I would have gotten to this point much quicker with more input and video feedback but also spent thousands of dollars that I used to buy my next horse. Life is trade offs.
Do you have any regrets about your training path or decisions you have made about your horse experience?