Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Our First dressage clinic

I really didnt think Tillie and I were ready to embark on a dressage clinic and just recently turned down the change to enroll in a few in early spring...but a good barn mate just has major surgery and was feeling pretty down about her green bean not getting ride time and convinced me to take Tillie her her horse (I did not ride her horse in it, our trainer  you all commonly hear me talk about "C" did).

I couldnt say no and decided to forgo our normal saturday jump lesson to attend the clinic instead. all in all it was a great experience...It felt more like was really a really expensive lesson, but it was totally worth it!

Sneak preview from the video

I was a bit more aware because I had a lot of eyes on me with auditors...I even forgot my phone to ask someone to video. Luckily, some of my helpers caught some and I am hoping I can round up a few more clips in the next few days from a few others.

I got on a gave a brief overview of Tillie but didnt want to share too much to try to keep the clinician coming to their own conclusions and have a fresh perspective. Basically - Tillie: Red head mare, coming 7, competing at BN currently feeling a bit stuck and not adjustable in the frame.

Ill refer to the clinician as "P"

P had us start at the walk and said go ahead and start doing your thing and Ill speak up as I see things...well it didnt take long for her to speak up lol. Initially it was all good things about the walk. She really raved at how great Tillie's walk was and complimented how it was deliberate, clean and would score well.

Then we pushed up into trot and P immediately picked up on my crooked issues but amazingly pinpointed what to do to resolve it:

Basically look over her outside ear and think outside hip to outside ear since I tend to twist my torso. She also commented that by doing this I can use my seat and hip to make the turn rather then my lower leg. I really took this to heart and am glad to have something to really start working on to fix it! I was even more thrilled when P just kept swooning (ok maybe im exaggerating here) over Tillie.

But in all seriousness she did keep remarking at just how lovely she was and loved her build and bone. She said she had 3 really nice clean gaits but seemed to be the most impressed with her walk.

Next, we discussed the adjust ability of Tillie's neck and how to stay ahead of her getting "stuck" and getting braced or stagnant in a certain frame. Of course the first thing to do - more inside leg. AHHH the more inside leg fix! Who woulda thought...Its so silly how clear and simple that is. To build on that P described it as getting her bending more off the leg. She also emphasized playing with the bit more and keeping her mind active...counter flexion without changing anything with the reins, all from the leg and just keeping the bit moving.

It was nice since she has us go large around the ring quite a lot...which is a bit out of my comfort / familiar zone of staying on a circle. I really didnt think too much of it, but it forced me to test the bend I had more since the circle naturally tends to help achieve it easier. I was please to find Tillie was pretty consistent either way.

Unfortunately our first canter attempt didnt get filmed, but it involved some leaping through the air which is unlike Tillie lately...although P had us canter pretty quickly into the lesson which we normally do not canter for quite some time in our rides or other dressage lessons. I also think the crowd being there mimicked a show atmosphere which has led to some resistance to the canter aid and bucking in past tests.
Getting that bigger stride!

P gave me a few tips:

  1. Canter sooner in the ride and make it not a big deal. Do it often so its routine.
  2. Sit on her in the transition (P said Tillie has trained me to get off her back in the transition with her sass and she is capable of handling me sitting on her back...in fact she said she gets more confident the more I do and rely changes into a more relaxed horse when I can use my seat).
    1. This will also prevent her getting croup high in the transition
  3. WIDE hands...She complimented the height I carry my hands, they need to be wider though in the canter to promote using both hips not hands.

I was a bit nervous clearly and horror of horrors got the wrong lead at one point...but P didnt mind because it was a better more correct answer through the tension. We spent way more time in canter then I normally do in general and I am excited that it is moving towards one of my monthly goals in getting her canter more rideable and adjustable. We cantered the long side, circles etc and for the first time didnt feel like I had a freight train of a horse.

When we changed direction, we discussed the left bend since I clearly know this is our harder side and want to over bend her. P on the other hand told me no...and in the clip below can hear her coaching me on a more accurate ride. When we rolled into left lead canter, I had a much better balanced left lead then usual (i believe you can hear her remark how improved it looked even from right lead). 

I am hoping someone got footage after this I can share of working on our trot lengthenings and stretchy trot...P was right in line with what C said that the key to getting Tillie to do a stretchy trot is the lengthenings...it will get her stretching out her back and spine, trusting her balance which will lead to trusting the stretch.

P also kept telling me to ride mini leg yields with a stronger right leg aid since she could tell thats the side she hangs on which is the left bend issue i feel...its the outside right muscles making it harder and heavier. She reassured ALL horses have one rein like this and its just something you have to know and ride accordingly. Describing the weight difference she also said it was good it wasnt THAT extreme and riding the bigger trot this was would help even more to even it out.

fancy pants canter

so in line with C's homework is riding tillie larger and asking for lengtehings not just on the diagonals but around the entire arena. We had two brief breaks and each time I picked Tillie back up P really raved over her walk and at one point gave us tips to get the higher scores that would make us "unbeatable at the level we are riding" :)

  • Dont be afraid to ride the walk forward. Tillie stays soft through it so ask for it. 
  • Rein length discussion (she was impressed i brought this up). The level we are at it is perfectly acceptable to ride one length at the walk and another in trot. 
Much nicer trot after canter...one more reason to canter sooner
 P also really worked on getting me to keep my elbows at my body. That has been an ongoing struggle for me to learn giving at my elbow only straightens them out...and that doesnt help me or Tillie.

I really enjoyed P's teaching style and she couldnt have been more complimentary of Tillie. She so loved her shoulder movement (especially at the walk) and asked her bloodlines and then asked how well she jumped to which I sorta said, erm well she sorta jumps over her shoulder but its getting better...P said that shocked her and after further discussion reassured me she has the ability in there and it will come because you can see it in her flatwork.

It was so fast that it barely felt like an hour and it was really a marathon lesson with few breaks. Which is fine by me because we were able to cover SOOOO MUCH.

Tillie on the other hand wanted nothing to do with me after she was back on the trailer and just wanted to be alone with her hay:



  1. Sounds like a really good clinic! It's always great when you come away with tools you can use on your own. Tillie looks fabulous!

  2. That sounds like so much fun! It's awesome when they like your horse too. :)

  3. you must have been walking on air after that ride! sounds like P really zeroed in on a lot of things to help keep Tillie progressing forward. awesome too that she loved the walk so much, since there's really not a whole lot you can do to fix a bad walk

  4. She is such a fancy girl! Sounds like it was a great ride!