But First - Relax
We've all seen this training pyramid before, and through my many misadventures, I've been thoroughly reacquainting myself with it this summer.
Guys, the training pyramid, like, works.
There are REASONS why you can't have a good connection before you have adequate relaxation.
These old-timey dressage masters actually KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT.
After my giant Duh Moment of a dressage show on Tuesday night, I wanted to get in a ride in which I actually used the training scale and didn't try to muscle my pony around for the sake of surviving a test.
Crazy concept, right?
I really tried to be focused in what I was asking, and have an idea of how exactly I wanted Dino to be responding to me instead of just endlessly kicking him along because he feels behind the leg. There were several times where I found myself nagging away at him for no apparent reason, with no concrete idea as to how I wanted him to respond to said nagging.
Way to make your pony totally dead to the leg, self.
Thankfully I cut out that nonsense pretty quickly, and I also decided to try using a driving rein for the majority of my ride. Nothing gets rid of tension in your hands like not being able to put tension into your hands in the first place! Add in some tactful riding and a few assists from Mr. Whippy to get the pony moving off the leg, and we had a recipe for success.
Dino responded VERY well. Almost from the moment I took up contact, I could feel him truly connecting from back to front and stepping into my outside rein, and I was able to release the inside rein a lot more often than I normally can. He was also noticeably easier to move off of my left knee, looser on the left side of his neck, and it took a lot less pressure to get him to yield that shoulder over. Progress!
|Needs moar chill.|
In canter, I worked on trying to get him to stretch a bit more than he usually does, giving the inside rein more forward to encourage Dino to reach into the bridle and trying my best to keep him straight so that he could really stretch through his topline. We had some GREAT moments of loose, uphill canter when I did that - so, SO much better than when I ineffectively try to jam him together with tense hands and keep him going with an over-active leg and seat!
I also practiced closing my eyes for several strides at a time in trot and canter, especially going around corners, trying to feel where we were getting crooked or unbalanced. I found myself tipping to the inside quite a lot around the turns, and wouldn't you know that when I instead opened the inside of my body and sat up, our turns and corners got a whole lot better.
I was even able to switch back to a normal rein hold towards the end of my ride and still maintain the great connection I had with the driving rein. Our ride was, in short, absolutely delightful! Now, if I can only get my act together and ride that well at shows, we'll be blowing everyone out of the water.