Dressage epiphany

gina1
“I am most beautiful horse, yes?”

One of the things I love about the blogging community is the variety of opinions and techniques out there; I enjoy reading about what works for different people and their horses as well as the different philosophies people have about training. A couple of recent posts spurred me to re-think the way I was asking for lengthenings.

First, Megan of A Enter Spooking wrote an excellent and detailed post about the First Level tests in which she suggested that they’re a test of impulsion.

Then, Carly of Poor Woman Showing pointed out “The thing with lengthenings though is that the horse is supposed to lengthen their entire frame. This took many dressage judges writing this on my tests for it to sink in, but a longer neck should go with a longer stride in First.”

Usually, when I ask Gina to lengthen her stride in the trot I move my hands forward slightly and apply more leg. I’m basically attempting to move the flexible ‘wall’ created by my hands and give Gina more freedom to step forward without hitting a barrier. This works pretty well in the sense that Gina goes more forward, but she usually ends up unbalanced and above the bit.

Something in Megan and Carly’s posts made me re-evaluate what I was doing. This morning, I tried a different tactic. Instead of moving my hands forward and essentially throwing away the contact, I lowered my hands a little and let my reins lengthen while I squeezed with my legs. Instead of losing her balance and raising her head, Gina lowered her head, lengthened her neck to find the contact, and lengthened her stride. We repeated this on the long sides on the indoor a few times in each direction, then called it a day.

gina2
Sometimes she looks almost…cute.

By maintaining the contact, I was able to better support Gina. I felt like she understood what I was really asking, too. Our first show is in just a couple of weeks (March 12!) and I’m more optimistic about it than I was just a week ago, thanks to the ever-amazing equestrian blogging community!

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

16 thoughts on “Dressage epiphany”

    1. The idea sharing is one of my very favorite things! I’m excited about show season too, though maybe that will change if we completely bomb at next month’s show lolz

  1. oooh great takeaway!! keeping the right contact while allowing that lengthening of frame has been slightly hard for me to understand too – and perhaps we’ve kinda skidded along past that detail since my horse naturally does the lengthening well despite me. but based on Megan’s 2nd level post, having that connection and balance is really a critical piece of the puzzle…

  2. This is so true about lengthenings. They are HARD to get right, especially when you are teaching your horse about them too. The trick for me and Murray has been to wait until he comes into the contact with more energy and THEN let my hands go forward, and then we can both push forward together.

    (Why am I not always riding him into the contact with energy, you ask? THAT TOO IS HARD OK.)

  3. This is what is so addictive about dressage… you make one tiny change like this and get a majorly different result from the horse. Man I love those moments! They make struggling through the rest of it totally worth it 🙂

    1. What kills me is that these little changes seem SO OBVIOUS in hindsight! I’ve been thinking “Hey, dummy, OF COURSE the horse was getting unbalanced when you chucked the reins at her!” all morning!

  4. I was always told you have to ride all four corners of the horse all the time. Not that I do…. But it’s good advice! Glad you found a new button! Can’t wait to hear how the show goes!

  5. Awesome! I love it when a minor rider change results in a major horse change. I’ve always found that the lengthenings/mediums/extensions require more contact, not because the horse is leaning, but for support, just like you said. Glad Gina is all fancy now! Good luck at the show!

  6. Super interesting! Our next show is next weekend (GULP) and we’re supposed to do 1-1… I’ve got to try this to see if we can get a better lengthening. Thanks for the tip!

  7. I do most of my lengthening while working on long and low for that reason. I don’t move my hands, I just let the reins slowly out while keeping my leg on. Works well for Sydney!

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