I’m beginning to understand
February 13, 2011 4 Comments
I’m happy to report that I made good progress with respect to re-installing the forward gears in the mare. Her motto tonight was “Ask and ye shall receive.”
Christy was in between lessons and gave me a few minutes’ coaching, and with her encouragement, we got there – in both directions. And once I got the mare connected and over her back, following Christy’s instructions to leg yield out on the circle was surprisingly easy.
Getting to the good gait still a process for me. Mads (and frankly, any horse) requires me to ask and ride correctly, but when I get my act together and my ducks in a row, and actually manage to ride the mare effectively, back to front – well, wow. She gives me the most amazing gait, pushing powerfully from her hind end. It feels entirely different from her trot when she’s less engaged. When Mads is over her back and pushing with those hind quarters, the it feels like we have rocket boosters – you can really feel the oomph and thrust coming from those big muscles in her hiney. It’s the same feeling you get when you’re on a plane that’s barreling down the runway for take-off, when you feel those engines pushing the plane forward – you can feel that power behind you very specifically. This is the trot that Christy calls “the trot that has a canter – or a walk – in it.” That’s a good analogy, because in order to produce this gait, a few things need to be happening:
- I’m pushing her into the outside rein – and holding that contact – with an active inside leg.
- I’m driving her from behind, asking for more step.
- I am softening the inside rein.
- My posture is straight, my leg is long and draping, my shoulders are back – in other words, I’m sitting up and riding.
- I’m inviting the bigger gait from my seat by posting further out of the saddle.
- I’m using half-halts actively to encourage roundness and engagement of the hind end.
- The contact is elastic – I’m holding it, but am also inviting the mare to go forward and maintain flexion. However, I also have to “catch” the power coming over her back in the contact, creating a loop of power, balance and contact in which the rider supports the horse and encourages an even better gait.
What I’m beginning to understand is that this powerful, forward gait needs to be a constant state for us, not a fleeting occurance. I’m sure that the well-ridden dressage horse is always in this forward state of mind, encouraged by a rider able to generate the power and maintain necessary balance. This was a light bulb moment for me . This is what it means to truly ride forward.
More blogging! And riding!
Over the next week or so I’ll be riding my friend Stephanie’s horse while she’s on vacation. She blogs over at Dressage Adventures, and I’m recording my rides on Oliver there.