Dare To Be Aware: XTreme Bareback Dressage & Lesson Recap

A glimpse at what our winter has looked like
On Friday and Saturday I had two very different and very wonderful rides!

After work on Friday I finally got to enjoy playing in the snow after a very unusually warm winter. Dino and I set out for a walk around the property with Sully and his mom, and the boys were very excited about getting to go out for a ride in the snow. Both of them were power-walking around the farm, and Dino felt like he would use any excuse I gave him to burst with energy. We had a great walk, though, and by the time we got back to the barn Dino was feeling much more relaxed and soft. I asked my friend to take some video of us trotting and cantering in the snow, and guys, I am SO pleased with what I saw! Sadly my phone died before we could get footage of our (awesome!!) canter through a big drift, but the trot media is pretty great!

The Cute. We has it. 
Dino has been feeling really good lately - we've been able to maintain a quality connection most of the time, and I've been working really hard on being aware of what my body is doing and how his body responds. Dino works with his back up and swinging more often than not, and his movement is starting to feel lighter in front as he gets stronger. I haven't been riding with a whip or spurs much at home, and Dino is getting lighter off my forward aids. My seat has gotten more balanced and secure, allowing me to get my hands out in front of me where they belong. I got to SEE the fruits of my tackless labor yesterday, and it was awesome to have a visual of what I've been feeling all winter.

video

While of course there is still a LOT to improve upon, I'm really, really happy with the quality of this 'just dinking around' trot. Learning to ride this pony correctly on the flat has been such a long process, and I just get so excited when I see us continuing to get better as I get more educated and more aware of how my riding influences him. This week especially, I've become acutely aware of how I like to create a false sense of contact when my reins are too long by pulling back until I feel the bit at the other end.

NOT GOOD!

By keeping my reins short, my hands stay forward, and I can push with my leg until I feel Dino in my hands.

You know, just basically riding correctly back to front.

These simple concepts are so hard guys! But so rewarding to figure out.

So, after giggling wildly as Dino and I cantered through the snow, I cleaned my tack and got ready for a jump lesson the next morning.

I was unable to bribe my husband into freezing his butt off to video me two weeks in a row. 
We started the lesson with more flatwork than we've been doing lately, beginning with walk-trot transitions and lots of circles and changes of direction at will. We focused on riding forward down into the walk and taking a moment to breathe and think about each transition before asking. Dino needed some reminders about what leg means, and felt dull and stiff to start, but as I concentrated on riding transitions full of energy with my seat and leg aids, my pony transformed into a forward, round, balanced little dressage beast. I just kept my reins at a reasonable length and thought about dropping into my elbows to 'take' the contact, and Dino dropped down into the bridle, lifted his withers, and started reaching for the bit all on his own. He kept up this awesome roundness through all our transitions, and we started adding in sitting trot and lengthenings, Dino staying round and uphill and with me the whole way. I didn't have to nag or fiddle or kick at all - homeboy just kept working. Every time I glanced in the mirror I actually really liked what I saw, and that was awesome!

We went on to drop our stirrups and do some work without them, and Dino continued to totally kill it,  performing transitions within the trot, back down to walk, and then up into canter. I had to start to work harder to keep myself upright and with him as I got tired and began falling behind the motion, but it helped me feel the difference in Dino's movement when I fell behind vs. when I was able to hold myself up and light in the saddle. My trainer was saying something to me about the shape of my pelvic floor that didn't quite click with me - I'll have to ask her to elaborate next time! But it was an awesome feeling to be able to just cruise around making balanced and rapid-fire transitions, and hear words like "Beautiful" and "Lovely" and "Awesome" and "Perfect" coming from my trainer's mouth! The quality of Dino's flatwork in lessons has improved SO MUCH in the last couple years, and it makes me happy.


The jumping portion of our lesson was nothing terribly technical, but helped me work on a focus on and awareness of our balance in the turns. We started with jumping a 2' vertical on a big circle, and the first couple times we jumped it the distance was super close and awkward. Dino was falling in to the right, I was diving down right along with him, and we were sort of shuffling on the forehand around the turn, forcing us to chip in to the jump. Less inside rein, more outside aids, lifting my right shoulder, and thinking about pushing his ribcage out on the circle with my inside leg did a lot to smooth everything out! But again - I had to be aware of what I was doing wrong in order to fix it and do it right.

We did this exercise three times in each direction, and then added in a crossrail on the other side of the circle. Again, the focus was balance through the turns and maintaining a steady rhythm around the circle. When I got it right, the exercise flowed effortlessly! When I started dropping my inside shoulder and motorcycling around the turns, things got messy.

The little course grew as the lesson went on, morphing into jumping the two small fences on a circle, coming around to jump a crossrail oxer on the diagonal to change direction, and then jumping two more small fences on a second circle at the other end of the arena.

Dino and I navigated it successfully, and things were SO much smoother and easier when I focused on riding balanced turns and then pushing forward out of each corner towards the next fence. When I got sloppy with the turns, the quality of the jumps suffered. Dino, champ that he is, only objected mildly to going back to jump after each break. What a guy!

For our last course, I requested that my trainer put the crossrail oxers up to "real" oxers.

That's right, y'all. I ASKED FOR OXERS.

And we nailed it.

We jumped the crossrail, around the circle to the right to the 2' vertical we started with, out of the short turn to a 2'3" oxer on the diagonal, left turn to another 2' vertical and then rolling back to another 2'3" oxer on the other side of that circle. Dino felt AWESOME, taking me to every fence, and I was able to focus on finessing the turns and simply shaping what he was giving me, instead of going into a blind panic and wondering if we had enough to make it over the fences. I ended the lesson with a huge grin on my face!

"Hai Mom."
My takeaways and homework from this week are all connected to being aware - of my body position, of Dino's posture, of how we're navigating our turns and influencing each other. The more aware and cognizant I am of when things are not right, the better I can fix them and make them better!

Oh, and just for the record, this was Lesson #5 WITHOUT Refusals. Show season 2017, I'm comin' for ya.


Comments

  1. What an inspirational post! You guys look great in the photos and video!

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  2. YAS you go girl. cant wait to see you two out and about!

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  3. awww i LOVE that first pic!!! actually all of them and the video too haha! i also love reading about how great the lessons have been lately. yay for momentum!

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  4. Hell yes asking for oxer and yet another lesson with no refusals. Y'all look amazing and you're going to have a hell of a show season!

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  5. Agreed, you both totally have the cute haha So good to hear things are going well with lessons, it's a good mental place to start the season with (:

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