Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's All about the Brace - No Trouble

I had the pleasure of spending October 14th through October 24th at Sunflower Farm in Bristol, WI studying dressage with Amanda Johnson. This opportunity was so helpful to my riding I thought I would try to explain it a little. The underlying theme for both Hazel and Bacara was to eliminate bracing in any way shape or form and then there would not be balance problems. So I started in my head to think progressing was all about the brace, if I did not have it, I would have no trouble with the horse. Hazel is a muscular horse that needs to work on flexibility. We worked on Shoulder-In developing, Haunches in Developing and Renvers Developing. We did all of these movements and then took two steps off the wall and then moved back to the wall while keeping the original position. This really loosened the horse and increased her ability to step under and across better. Amanda said that I should not do this every day - so I have been alternating this exercise with shoulder-in to lengthen within the shoulder-in; haunches-in to lengthen within the haunches-in and Renvers to lengthen within renvers. This seemed to increase the ability of Hazel to have more longitudinal reach. These exercises are proving to help her in a very huge way. Bacara is a flexible horse that seems to have a few stuck spots and sometimes does things in a less than straight and through fashion. We really did focus a lot on improving her throughness and straightness. The shoulder-in to renvers proved to be very valuable. She really is tighter on her right side that her left. This really does help even things out quite a bit. I am thinking her saddle is contributing to this some as when I used a pad that Amanda lent me to help the saddle not pressure her shoulder bulbs, she had an easier time right away. I came to understand that I would have better downward transitions and balancing transitions if I used my seat way lower to ask for them. To me it felt like just above my ball joints in my hip area. I am not sure that is the correct term but I do know that the horse seems less able to brace the lower in your seat you are able to ask. Bacara and I have been working very hard to have really nice straight and through flying changes. I have found shoulder-in in the counter canter to renvers in the counter canter to straight and repeat really improves her collection and throughness. When this is easy for her and she is not bracing, the flying changes are easy for her. I am thinking I was just not picky enough on the canter quality. I have said this before and have thought this before that lateral looseness helps the collection and throughness but this practical application in the canter is extremely helpful! I think it was my mistake on understanding how much I could improve the canter. I feel like I have a better understanding on canter development now. Thank you Amanda! McKayla Hohmann came with me for the first week. She had the chance to take several lessons in a row on Hazel and came away with a better understanding on how much collection would be needed for FEI Pony tests. They worked on lateral loosening as well. We hope to make great strides over the winter with this pair! The opportunity to just focus on quality improvement without distractions really does make a difference and is a huge gift!