Dressage Horse Training: Patting my head, rubbing my belly and chewing gum

Hello everyone,

In my last lesson we worked through all three gaits, did some box work, transitions but I’m trying to distill it down to the most basic thing we need to fix. This was one of my favorite lessons from Clinton Anderson that you keep breaking down something complicated until you and the horse can get it. What I’ve found challenging in dressage is how to break things down, when you’re still struggling to understand the “thing” you’re trying to do.

I think in a nutshell, our challenge is when I’m trying to bring the horses up into a more FEI frame, they disconnect under my seat, use the underside of their necks and get behind my leg. In response, I lock my elbows, still my seat and we go round and round (and, i’ve worked hard to teach them this-chagrin).

To break this cycle, this week I’ve been riding at the walk on the buckle. I have both hands on the reins and am focusing on moving my arms forward and back with the rhythm of the neck at the walk. While I’m doing this I’m focusing on my body. I realize that I move my arms forward and back from my entire shoulder, releasing my shoulder blades forward. When I watched my video, I say that my upper body has a lot of movement.

When I bring my posture into a more erect position, Donzer wants to halt and he tells me he cannot move. For my upper back I like the physical therapy videos about getting rid of the neck hump. What’s working now is the exercise to raise both hands up in a “Y” and then pull my elbows down using my shoulder blades. If I also lift my sternum and collar bones then my upper back feels stable and correct. Moving my arms back and forth while keeping my upper back stable is using very different muscles and it’s quite hard actually.

To keep Donzer moving, I am using an exaggerated walking motion with my thighs so my seat does not lock up. Donzer is starting to understand that I want him to keep moving. What it feels like, is Donzer is engaging his stifles more and rolling in his shoulders over his topline. In fleeting moments. He has a gambit of pulling, dropping his back, walking fast out from under me to try to entice me to start wrestling.

I’m sticking to this walk on the buckle with my body correct for the next few weeks (or as long as it takes). Then I plan to start adding more contact. But, for now, I want to find that place where the energy is flowing and Donzer is staying with me.

Good riding,

Tara 🙂

Author, Out of the Saddle, 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding

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