Monday, May 21, 2012

Restful Preparation

It's field trial season again, so Louie gets a few weeks of light duty as we stay busy with the trials. 

In his down time, Louie is enjoying relaxing in the sun, eating acres of lush green pasture (yes, he is fat already. . . ), a massage, and the occasional ride (or in today's case- trail ride around the property!). 

Our first recognised dressage show is rapidly approaching- on June 2nd.  Since I'm missing 3 lessons, Julie is going to ride Louie 3 times in the week before the show.  So he will get 3 rides with Julie, then my lesson, then a bath and probably a little lunging and massaging the night before the show. 

Thankfully I have the tests pretty well memorized from having ridden them a few times now.  I know it's not a very traditional way to prepare for a show, but I'm hoping Julie's 3 rides, followed by my lesson and schooling the day of the show will be enough to get us back into the zone.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lesson 24: Outside Aids

We had a dressage lesson this week as it was exceptionally rainy outside and the outdoor arena was not serviceable.  The indoor arena, while workable, is not ideal for jumping, so we worked on some flat work.  This was actually a good thing though, as I'm going to miss my next three lessons due to the dog field trials.  Julie is going to use those three lessons instead to put three rides on Louie again during the week I come back.  I am hoping to practice a little bit during the next few weeks, but I won't get in any regular work to prepare for the shows I'm hoping to do next month, so hopefully Julie will be able to help keep Louie going while I'm gone. 

Well onto this week's lesson.  We worked a lot on a new concept- getting Louie to stretch without using the inside rein.  We already know that if I tug on or wiggle the inside rein a little bit, Louie stretches down pretty willingly.   But while this is correct, his response is not always correct- what also often happens is that he ducks back behind the contact and stays completely without contact on the inside rein.  He also has a tendency, depending on which way we're going, to lose his left shoulder (falls out on the circle), and shift his hindquarters to the right (especially when tracking left).  So. . . to remedy these things, we focused not on doing anything with the inside rein, but to think about getting him to reach for the outside rein, and use an outside leg to accomplish that.

We also found that when he curls, or ducks behind the bit, one great way to get him out of that is to use the outside aids- outside leg (kicking if need be) and a steady outside rein.  It really seemed to work well to keep him on the contact better.  The only other ways we have found that can work are to go a little bit sideways, or add a lot of leg (and stomach to prevent him running off) and hold him until he wants to lengthen his neck. 

During the lesson Julie also pointed out some of the little posture corrections like making sure that I don't extend my wrists as I have a tendency to do. 

We worked a bit on trotting straight down the center line.  Louie has a tendency to want to "look at the scenery" so naturally he trots anything but straight as he looks from left to right, his body turns and curves with each step . . . so we went sideways.  We trotted shoulder in down the center line.  It took a little figuring to get this right, but we eventually got a very nice shoulder in when I focused on trying to bend his body more, but not go too sideways.  I had to keep my "outside" leg back and use that quite a bit to keep the haunches from drifting too far sideways and straightening his body out.  I also had to focus on keeping my outside rein- once again outside aids. 

Another exercise we did to work on lengthening the neck was trotting in a nose to the wall leg yield down the straight side, then asking him to stretch on the short curved ends.  This worked pretty well so long as I got a good half halt in each corner of the arena.

We worked just a bit on the canter, trying to get a good half halt before the depart and thinking about trying to half halt every few strides during the canter.  We need to continue to work on making the half halt go through in the trot, and getting the haunches engaged to get a nicer canter.  All in good time. . .