Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the Arena #36 - Halt. Angle. Flow.

The firing order for exercises aimed at improving lateral leg responsiveness (turns on the forehand, leg-yielding, shoulder-in, half-pass) is: Halt. Angle. Flow. Take note, these are consecutive, not concurrent. Only when the horse listens to the half-halt (halt) and is therefore better balanced, will he respond more easily to the lateral leg aid (angle), after which we must go with the horse freely in the direction of the chosen lateral movement (flow). Avoid using the lateral leg aid at the same time as the half-halt.  Erik Herbermann A Horseman's Notes

Slipped a ride in on the day before Thanksgiving with my new bareback pad, which I absolutely l-o-v-e. When I purchased it I had no idea it would be so helpful with dressage. I figured riding bareback would be good for my seat and balance, and thought it would be a fun, comfortable alternative to the saddle, but so far, it has also totally confirmed that my recurring turning issues are due to the unevenness in my hips--> legs--> stirrups. We had no sticky turning whatsoever bareback - everything was the same in both directions. I haven't worked up the guts to trot yet, but I felt really secure throughout the session.

I want my with saddle riding to feel like my without saddle riding... deep seat, open hips, even legs, relaxed and draping around my horse. I think Sally Swift compared that feeling to a melting ice cream cone dripping down the horse's sides.

Today's ride (saddled) was mainly about keeping the connection on the outside rein, while not totally dropping the contact on the inside rein, and a little bit of lateral work. After warming up, we worked with the cones, doing shallow serpentines. This exercise was super helpful as besides being aware of the contact through the turns, the outside and inside reins changed every few strides, with a couple of neutral strides in between. Don't forget about the leg! I also focused on making my aids as subtle as I could, and still be effective. In the midst of all of this coordinating, I was struck by something my trainer had said to me (long ago)... steering horses is more like riding a bike and less like driving a car. It has taken quite a while for that little nugget to sink in :)

Val cracked me up again with his trying to guess / decide what we would do next. I really can't repeat any exercise too many times without him anticipating. Cones are always for serpentines says Val. I reckon we won't be practicing entire dressage tests when we get ready to show either.

We finished up with some trot work - halt trot / trot halt transitions. I get a better response to my trot request from the halt than the walk for some reason... Val offered to canter a couple of times as well - those pesky crooked hips again. He has a really nice canter. I can't wait until we get the canter depart down, but that will have to wait for now.

As time wears on, our arena gets more areas of churned up, deep sand, which Val DOES NOT want to work in faster than a walk. I have no desire to risk injury, so we will be waiting for our next trip to my trainer's, or some substantial rains to firm things up before cantering on purpose. This is actually a good thing - it will give me more incentive to get the finances together for our planned "real arena". If can envision it, I can make it happen.


  1. I'm a big fan of riding bareback - as you say it highlights flaws and really puts you "in" the horse.

  2. It sounds like you and Val are doing some really nice work. The bareback pad is a great idea for balance and evenness. It's nice to have such a smart horse that anticipates the next move but it can also be frustrating. I prefer to find humor in in, Dusty does it all the time, so I try to mix things up with her too.

    Do you have a chain drag, that might help evening out the sand in the arena. Sometimes we have to use the rake to pull out and redistribute the deep sand in the corners where the drag doesn't reach. Hope you get more rides in.

  3. Kate-

    I'm loving the bareback thing - so much fun. Even better that besides fun, it's good for you :)

  4. Arlene-

    I'm choosing to see Val's anticipating as a form of cooperating - one that keeps me on my toes lol.

    I I'm sure, that I've been whining a lot about my arena situation... so much so that I'm going to do a post about it tonight :)

  5. I agree that a bike is just like a horse. The front wheel is the shoulder and the back wheel is the hindquarters.
    I'm glad that you are having some good rides! Can't wait to see you soon.


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