Committing to dressage
One of the clinicians for GCD’s junior rider camp offered to teach private and semi-private lessons Friday morning before the camp got underway. Because I’ve been spending far too much time with dressage people, I signed myself up for a semi-private lesson with a friend.
I debated briefly on which horse to take. I ultimately decided on Moe for a couple of reasons: one, I’ve gotten plenty of feedback lately on what I need to be doing with Gina; two, I need more help with Moe’s particular styles of evasion.
Dressage is not Moe’s strong point. It’s never been our best phase, which I’ll fully admit is my fault. When I was younger, I never dedicated much time to it because dressage is lame as hell when you have a horse who enjoys jumping as much as Moe does. But I want to be competitive next year. I don’t want to go to an event and be tied for last place after dressage. I don’t want to move up the placings solely because someone screwed up on cross country or stadium. I want to put in a good dressage test and maintain my placing through the next two phases.
Moe’s had a lot of time to develop bad habits and evasions in his dressage work. (Hilariously, one of them is bucking his lesson children off at the canter when they do something he really dislikes.) He starts by poking along at western pleasure speed until he’s bumped with my nubby little spurs. Then he throws his head up indignantly and minces along at a slightly faster pace. He eventually loosens up and relaxes into a bigger, springier step, lowers his head and begins to stretch over his back. This feels so good, apparently, that he feels the need to stretch and stretch and stretch downward until I attempt to gently bring him into a less stretchy, more on-the-bit frame, at which point he’s back to indignant flailing. Transitions are a hot mess no matter how balanced he feels before they’re asked for. The best things I can say about his dressage are that his halts are square and he’s straight down center line.
Tomorrow, I want discuss what I can do to help Moe have better transitions, how to ask him to come on the bit after stretching, and how to get more forward gaits. I want advice on how to ride Moe more effectively so we can go to recognized events next year and score well in dressage.
I’m planning to spend most of the winter working on dressage with Moe. It’s not an exciting prospect, but it’s the only way to get better.