Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

The Long Version

So I have been informed that "that was an amazing ride" is insufficient detail :) hahaha so here's the elaboration of last night's ride...

Basically anybody who's had a lesson with me in the last couple weeks will know what I was up to cause it's the same one I've been making them do :) I was waiting for a rainy day (literally - wanted to be inside so I didn't have to move an entire course to arrange it) and finally had one (don't need any more for a while now :).

So this exercise involves 6 poles on the centre line, each set 9' apart. 9'? What do you do w/ 9' spacing? Yeah we'll get there. And, with a little bit of creativity, will take you through steps 1-3 on our infamous dressage pyramid (that'd be rhythm, suppleness, contact for those who are temporarily drawing a blank on that :). And to be quite honest it could take you through the other 3 steps too -- but really, I'm sitting on a 6yo OTTB, who's built kinda like, well, a race horse. Imagine that >;-P So as a result, we don't worry too much about those lofty steps way up there -- any day we make it to step 3 is a good day :)

In the w/u the focus is entirely rhythm. Lengthening and shortening the stride while keeping the same rhythm, and because I know how this particular horse's mind works, the occasional insertion of basic lateral activities (shoulder fore and leg yield mostly) otherwise long and short quickly leads to gallop and halt -- which, while super for a reining horse, is generally frowned upon in the dressage ring *g*

Once she's moving freely and generally responsive we trot through the poles. Focus on holding a straight (see I told you the higher levels could come in!) line on exactly a 4.5' trot stride. The first time through was slightly less than graceful hahaha but after that the world was good. So then we did a serpentine or two using the poles as guides (ie left around the first two, straight between the second and third, right around three and four, straight between four and five, left around five and six). This was still pretty casual. Generally going the right direction but in a fairly long frame and not really engaging in the turns. Could've been for the stronger dr horses for sure -- but we only have so much strength in that hind end and there was a lot I wanted to do :)

Next step... In walk. Nice forward power walk. And with my horse that's an exercise all on its own *g* But sobeit. Establish said walk and point at the first pole. After pole one, before pole two, turn left and ride a circle that takes you back to the center of pole one. Walk straight over pole one AND pole two, then turn right before pole three and right a right circle that takes you back to the middle of pole two. Walk straight over poles two and three and turn left... Rinse and repeat >;-P So essentially at every pole you're riding a circle that is at absolute most 18' (and since I do striding in feet and circles in meters that requires translation -- it's slightly over a 5m circle!). Craziness. AND trying to get your horse unbent and properly straight inbetween. Focusing on accuracy of the circle (bend, shape, etc) and rhythm (no you can't slow down!). Let me tell you, by about the third pole you're thinking two would've been a good place to stop. hahaha

So we do that once or twice and then shake it off and go for a nice power-trot around the ring. Si was all for *that* idea let me tell you :) "Look Laur, look how much I can stretch! Let's just do this now." But alas, all to quickly we have to return to work. Ok so in trot, now in trot that'd be just insane, so instead we'd go over TWO poles, circle right, trot straight over four (insisting on the 4.5' stride we perfected earlier), circle left over poles three and four, straight over four through six, circle right over five and six. No problem. She actually did this really really well. Far better than in the walk. I was pretty thrilled at that :) Other than the minor need to shy at the barrel by E that'd been there the whole time but you don't go close to it in the smaller circle *g* Classic.

Off for a stretchy-canter around the ring. N what a canter it was too -- way up in the back. Pretty kewl :)

And then I got ambitious -- remember that idea that the walk exercise was too small for the trot? Well it probably is, but we did it anyways :) hahaha And it was *hard*. Really hard. For both of us. hahaha I'd say she really got two out of the six circles on any given attempt, but man they were about as close to perfect as it gets. And the others? Well there's no need to discuss those :) Needless to say we didn't do many repeats of that as she was trying SOOOO hard and while she's much stronger than she used to be, she's still not *that* strong. And after the twisty-turny trot circles the best halt at G ever. Square. Straight. And right from the trot. I was pretty happy at that.

So we leave the twisty-turniness and go for a canter around the ring. She settled into this lovely round UPhill canter (definitely not in her contract usually) so I thought I'd play with it a bit. Asked her to lengthen and instead of our usual scoot-forward-and-down variation she just floated a little higher and covered slightly more ground. So *that's* how it's supposed to work >;-P hahaha absolutely amazing. And then she topped that by actually coming back to me and collecting (which, to be honest, usually ends up with us in a horrible trot). Nice, balanced, organized. I was sooooo excited. (I think the resident h/j people were a little puzzled as to how I could be so happy with dressage :) So yes, we left it on that *g*

For the curious -- the canter variation of the exercise is usually circling *around* certain poles in reducing numbers (ie circle around 4 of them, then 3, then 1 -- good luck w/ that!, etc. 2 doesn't work so well unless you've got really short poles). The striding doesn't work so well to go over them the way it did in the trot, because of course it's set on a 9' stride -- and we usually aim for a 12' canter stride. If you're working on the collection thing you can bounce your way down the centre line :) Or if you're sitting on a pony :) But we skipped all those steps for today.

And *that* is the long version of yesterday's post :)


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