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.
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!