Tuesday, July 8, 2014

No Stoppy-Stop With the Handsy-Hands

For the last two months, I've been in lesson heaven. Those familiar with my story know that I am adult amateur in every sense. Until this year, I'd never ridden above First Level dressage before, I work full time, my horse is not a well-bred dressage super star, and my time is incredibly limited. Add to that the fact that I see my trainer only once a month, and it's surprising we're even working on Second Level at this point. So when my trainer mentioned having me trailer the couple hours to her place for a mini "working student" day, I pretty much tossed Guinness into the trailer immediately.

I've been lucky enough to have two of these working student days in the last month on top of my regular monthly lesson, and the amount of feel I've picked up and the mechanics I've learned are really astounding. I don't feel like the same rider I was a month ago. Guinness has been really benefiting from all of my extra riding as well. He doesn't feel like the same horse. He's more confident in the bridle, more on my aids, more flexible, and overall more like a dressage horse.

Still for all of the overall improvements, I'm still working to perfect the basics. Top of the list right now? Eliminating pulling from my half halts and halts. 

Right now, the issue seems to be rooted in my balance. My first instinct is to drop my core behind the motion, which leads me to fall out of rhythm with my horse and lose all of the effectiveness in my seat. Then, I try to stop the growing freight train by lowering my hands and giving a pull. This, of course, just pulls my upper body further behind the movement and causes Guinness to lock his neck and poll against me.
This is pulling. Dear self, don't do this. K thnx, bai. 
The solution? Beat into my brain the need to push the center of my back out towards my hands, while leaving my contact alone. The most I can do is work the reins a bit to keep Guinness flexible in his poll and stop him from locking his neck.

The change in Guinness' way of going is amazing when I manage to stay with him through every half halt. However, I am amazed at how much core strength it is taking me to stay forward enough with my body while still sitting up with my seat.

This horse. What an ab workout...

15 comments:

  1. The mini working student program days sound fun! Oh dressage, so many little details to cover.

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    1. It is fun! I'm constantly amazed at how all the work on other horses translates to my own.

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  2. Thanks once again for the great post - short and to the point! Now that I have Riva going forward - she is like a freight train...so hard to remember not to pull. Now I need a post about good core building exercises :)

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    1. Haha, I need that post too! I hope you find it!

      Judging from what's sore on me today, the muscles I'm working are the upper abdominals, so, just below my boobs. I didn't know those moved that way...

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  3. A trainer I rode with last summer put such a fear of pulling in me, that I wasn't closing my fists or being strong enough in my position (I let the rein get longer and longer of fear pulling!). Once I got through that end of the spectrum, I started to find a happier balance.

    Unless one of my boys is being particularly unresponsive or stiff, I've gotten pretty decent at slowing or halting through the use of my seat and core. I didn't realize how much I was pulling until I wasn't! :0)

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    1. I know, right?! It's always such a balance. This horse of mine has always been so finicky about contact that I've let him get strong. Now, my fingers are starting to ache after riding! Oh no!!

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  4. I had a dressage lesson last weekend and it MURDERED my core. I felt like a pathetic weakling and I ride almost every day!

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  5. I struggle with this too! While yes, we do need contact there also has to be an allowing hand an a playfulness to the neck. I have been trying to really focus on this lately because while I don't pull on purpose sometimes I get "stuck" there and then so does my horse's neck! argh

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    1. Yes! That's exactly it! The moment I get tense, my horse goes into neck and poll lockdown. :/

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  6. I think your idea of a dressage rider's half halting support group is great :D Argh, how can half halts be so difficult?!?

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    1. No idea! They seem so simple ... !

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  7. I just want to say I love this title! Struggled with the same issue for years, and still do really. My favorite move is to gently pull when I want Simon to extend his stride during a line... yeah, that's smart.

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    1. Aw thanks! When asking for an extension I actually do the opposite, throwing the reins at my horse's head and watching as he flails and falls on his forehand. Why are hands so hard?!

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  8. I needs to learn this for my freight train that is Nancybelle

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