July 14, 2012 2 Comments
I’ve spent a fair amount of time watching Christy ride her horses, and while I always learn a lot, watching her develop Remy over the last year has been especially informative, chiefly because in taking the skinny young OTTB from the track to the dressage ring required her to instill rhythm, contact and cadence in the horse. Within a few months of his arrival, Christy had Remy going well, and I especially enjoyed watching her work the long-legged boy at the trot, improving his use of his back. They would go around the arena, doing circles and serpentines at a spanking gait, with Remy staying round and yielding nicely when Christy asked for bend. I memorized what that looked like. And I’m trying to emulate it.
I know that she really had to work for that nice gait on Remy when he was greener, and part of that work was finding – and holding – her balance. While Derbs is no Remy, he is similarly sensitive to my position, providing me instant feedback on how I’m sitting. The degree of his forward motion varies directly with my balance and position on his back.
So instead of “trotting like Remy,” really, I need to be thinking “sit like Christy” in order to produce the big, forward, flowing gaits I seek. And I got a bit closer to getting there this week.
Thursday night’s lesson focused on many of the same things I noted in my post on Wednesday, and once we got warmed up, I had a very decent working trot going that Derby was pretty much sustaining. But I have struggled with maintaining that gait when we do anything other than go down the long side. So I was paying particular attention to my position (and the horse’s feedback) in my lesson.
As we continued working, things improved, until finally, we were doing a very nice 20m circle around Christy, who had become effusive in her praise. I had contact, I had forward, I had bend — and it was all pretty easy, I didn’t have to work to hold it. What had I done? Well, in addition to the checklist I noted in my blog post on Wednesday, I had added one more thing. Core engagement. When I engaged my core, I could feel my hip angles opening as my leg lengthened and I sat up taller. Derby immediately responds to this – when I finally put myself into the right position, he rewards me immediately by rounding and carrying himself nicely.
So here’s my updated checklist:
- Use the inside rein. If he doesn’t respond to a softening of the inside rein, and continues to hang, get busy with the inside leg while insisting with the inside rein (e.g. a direct rein). My desire to not hang on the inside rein has gone a bit too far. I am allowed to use it.
- When Derby feels “stuck” and braced against me, I need to mix it up. Flex him, do serpentines and leg yields – anything to get that neck unbraced and softer.
- Do as little as you can do but as much as you need to do to get the response you want – but be mindful. If the horse doesn’t respond when I ask nicely, I have to next ask not-so-nicely. Accepting no response results in a dull horse that’s dead to the aids.
- Ride with my core engaged, and my leg long and draping around Derby’s sides.
In other words, sit like Christy!