Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Get your balance and Keep it!

I have been taking several clinics with Lientje Schueler, which has really made a difference in my riding.

I have had over the years a global problem asking my horses to go into an uphill frame and to stay there.  I see many horses at horse shows with flat backs and high necks doing all of the movements but in a really stiff way.  I know I have always hesitated to push my horses past where the point that I lose the feeling of their back swinging.  I have always felt that an uphill balance with a frozen back is not what I am looking for.  It turns out I was right but had no idea how to get uphill without losing the swing of the horse's back.

Many clinicians have you force the horse to work uphill - but then you get an inactive back in your horse.  Others never try to help you with longitudinal balance because it is simply too hard.  Lientje has step by step process on how to keep the topline relaxed while riding your horse in an uphill dressage balance.

Step one is to be able to push the haunches in whenever you want to and whenever you need to.  This needs to be there not because it is the fix but because it supports the solution.

Step two is to ask the horse to move its shoulders to the outside of the circle and flex the neck at will. (Note that if you nave no influence on the haunches - they will just sneak to the outside of the circle.)  Another part of step two is to be able to move the shoulders to the inside of the circle at will.  Note that in this situation the rider must still be able to hold the haunches where they are needed.

I was doing 1/2 pass in my last lesson in the trot and we played with speeding up the shoulders or slowing them down. (In the past I just stabilized the shoulder and adjusted the haunches.)  The ability to ride more lateral flexibility into the shoulders allows the horse to have a more supple topline overall. WOW!

The horse I have been riding has a very good trot and I seem to be able to teach her about collection there and then transfer it to the canter.  For example, she is willing to Piaffe and that helps her understand that she needs to use her belly for collection.  Anything you can get your horse to understand in one gait will help the other gaits.

The two most important things, teach them in the gait where they can hear you the best and very importantly, find a way to access the lateral flexibility of the shoulder!

Have a great ride every time!

Friday, December 9, 2011

What is nagging and what is overcorrecting?

I teach a lot and I had a student say she did not want to nag her horse.  What is the difference between nagging and correcting your horse?

Nagging is a funny word, not one I usually use.  I usually say the hardest working rider is the one that corrects just under the amount required to make a change in the horse.  This is usually done by someone who is a little more sensitive than their horse.  Once the rider understands that the sensitivity of the ride is determined by the sensitivity of the horse, they usually increase their correction to an appropriate level.

Over correcting is a problem with some riders as well.  This is the rider who wants respect and they want it now.  There is no discussion and that is final.  The problem is that the horse will do what is asked of him or her but they end up looking mechanical and dead in their eyes.  That is not really what we are after either.

The rider who makes appropriate corrections is the rider who uses enough correction to get the job done but does it in a conversational way.  Basically telling the horse he or she is not trying enough and they should consider using themselves a little more.  For example an assertive rider will touch lightly with the whip and if no response is felt will go to a medium touch before going further up the scale.  In this way the horse knows he or she needs to try harder but is not afraid of the rider.

Sometimes we see very skilled riders coming in with very hard corrections.  When they do this most of the time and their horses look mechanical at best.  If the rider is very skilled. they may do the requirements very well but their horse never seems to enjoy their job.  The advanced riders have a huge responsibility to correct in a proper amount. The beginning and intermediate riders copy your behavior. 

Have a great ride every time - both rider and the horse!