Nailed It: Dressage Edition
|LOOK AT THIS SWEET LITTLE MUPPET!|
The dude seemed happy to see me when I returned to the barn on Sunday evening, and happily came over to greet me and see if I had brought him any snacks. The sun was getting lower and the air was lovely and cool by the time I got on and headed to the dressage court for some flatwork.
Now, I don't know if it was my good attitude, Dino feeling refreshed from his two-day break, the cooler temperatures, Dino finally having regained the fitness lost during vacation, or a divine blessing, but we were both ON IT for this ride!
I started working Dino before I even got on his back with some simple in-hand work to get his brain focused. Jogging, halting, backing, and just generally getting his mind on me instead of getting all googly-eyed about the deer in the soybeans. And the woodchucks in the hedges. And the birds. And hey what are the donks up to? Etc.
Once I was in the saddle, I marched him purposefully down the hill to the dressage court. A lot of times I will let him meander to wherever we're working at his own pace, in his own time, without asking for any focus. It can take up to five minutes or so to get to some areas of the farm where I like to ride, and it makes me feel like I'm "being nice" and letting him "warm up".
I'm really just making problems for myself and creating a belligerent pony when I do that.
So, while I let Dino have a nice long rein, I kindly insisted that he MARCH down to the court, instead of ambling along at a snail's pace whilst tripping over his own feet. EuroPony was happy to oblige!
The trot took a little bit of doing to get where I wanted it, but Dino was in a fabulous state of body and mind and was very willing to work with me, and having done the work at the walk in the first place made the process a lot quicker and smoother than usual. In no time EuroPony was moving well off my leg, bending softly, coming up over his back and soft in the bridle. I could stretch him down, bring him up, change directions, change pace, change bend, with minimal effort and no weird contortions on my part.
So I asked for the canter, and HOLY COW I GOT A CANTER.
After a little head-flinging in the depart (I take full responsibility for throwing away the contact here!) Dino stepped into a lovely round canter. He was not leaning on my hands. He was not behind the leg. His back was up. He was bending. I began to wonder what alien had abducted my pony and left me an extraterrestrial changeling, that this creature should give me such a glorious canter the first time I asked!
I rode a few times around the whole court, made some circles, and then brought Dino back down to the walk and patted him profusely. I asked for the left lead canter. It was just as glorious! We tried a little counter-canter, which always sharpens Dino up and gets him to straighten out and 'stand up' more. He was fantastic! The thing that really made a HUGE difference in the connection at the canter was that I was focusing hard on keeping it light, and releasing from my elbows when Dino softened in the bridle. I have such a bad tendency to want to keep the bit to myself instead of giving it to my pony and encouraging him to move over his topline into the bridle. My left hand, especially, needed to give a LOT to keep Dino round, soft, and bending, but when I released that left elbow forward the connection was effortless.
At this point I was grinning like an idiot, and dropped my stirrups to do some more trot work now that my pony was fantastically round, straight, and on the bit after the canter work.
Dino continued to give me absolutely lovely work - he made it feel easy. I never felt the compulsion to do weird things with my hands, or nag him with my leg, or get after him with my whip. He was so light off my seat and delicate in the bridle, I didn't need to ride as loudly as I sometimes do.
|The cutest little pony ever!|
It's moments like this that make riding the most magical, addictive, empowering sport in the world.