Inflation and Staying In the Middle

"I do the fancy prancing, you hand over the treats."
Despite my lack of writing about it, I've been doing a lot of riding. While we haven't had a lesson since the spring, I've been working hard on improving our dressage work and using feedback from shows to point the way forward.

Literally forward, since the lack of forward is what's been the most consistent comment on our tests.

Creating more energy in Dino has been the theme of our partnership for years, so as always I continue to try and find new and exciting ways to make that happen. So far, so good, and I've noticed improvements especially in the canter work, which has become a lot more self-sustaining as I make the effort to focus on cantering more and longer in schooling, trying to make my body feel like Charlotte Dujardin's looks, as well as adapting both Dino and I to the hot and humid summer weather. Since our last show, it's become a lot easier to do a full workout in the heat without either of us feeling like we're going to die. Jumping and trail riding have also helped tune up the Go Button, as has working on the lengthenings.

Ahhhhh, nature.
But as I've started digging into making the leg yield presentable for public viewing, I've noticed that I struggle mightily to stay in the middle of Dino's back, making his bend, balance, and lateral work ten times more difficult. I find myself often sitting off to one side or another, which is easy to do when your pony is 14.1 and narrow, and whatever movement I'm asking for becomes literally impossible for poor Dino. I've been trying to focus hard on keeping my body in the middle of his, and it's challenging! But when I get it right, everything gets easier.

Speaking of the leg yield, the biggest difficulties I'm having in that movement are getting enough sideways off the left leg, as well as keeping the whole darn thing straight. I got some great advice from a few blogger friends (thanks Karen and Austen!) and while it's not perfect, it's definitely improving! A big part of it has been keeping the outside rein very strong, but bouncy enough in the elbow not to shut down the forward. I got several good steps in both directions in our schooling over the past few days, and having the mirrors in the indoor definitely help, but it's far from consistent at this point! Dressage is hard, y'all.

What a rockstar.
The other concept I've been playing with is refining the use of the half-halt. I've known, mechanically, how to half-halt for quite a while and understand that its purpose is to rebalance the horse, but only since the clinic we did over the winter did I really feel concretely exactly how that aid is supposed to work and feel. Lately, I've been looking at it from the perspective of creating resistance in my torso while adding energy to Dino's body, with the result of him feeling like he suddenly "inflates" underneath me instead of just going faster. It's led to some really, really exciting moments in our schooling! I've felt a little taste of what actual collection must be like, and I want riding to feel like that all the time. Playing with this feeling of inflating my pony and then releasing him into an upward transition has been so, so fun, and Dino even offered me our very first canter-walk transition! I was working on puffing him up in the canter, got him very balanced, and asked for a downward transition and he just stepped into the walk like a champ.

It was absolutely the highlight of my week!

We've got some lessons and shows coming up over the next couple weeks, and I'm eager to see what we can learn and improve on in that time.


  1. you guys are so cute. I also struggle with staying in the middle for lateral work, although it didn't dawn on me what a PITA that would be on such a small horse until you mentioned it.

  2. My new boy has so much impulsion at the trot that I find myself landing all over the place in the saddle. Definitely something I need to work on, and mostly I think it's a core strength weakness... Someone needs to get stronger! (It's me, I'm someone.)
    So glad you guys are making so much progress this summer, and having fun while doing it!

  3. i feel like half halts are just kinda one of those things haha. everyone talks about them like they're super simple and straight forward. but like, actually there can be a TON of sophistication and nuance there. who knew?!? lol

  4. That first photo is the CUTEST. And wow - I bet that canter-walk transition felt so amazing!


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