"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Friday, August 24, 2012


Last night I had another good ride on Lily. I finally, finally purchased the book 101 Dressage Exercises, so I wanted to add some of these to her workout. I switched out her pelham for my baucher French link, which she likes, because some of the exercises I wanted to do involved lateral work, and I didn't want the additional leverage of the pelham for these exercises-I wanted her to enjoy it, not be tossing her head in frustration.

We started out with our usual walk on a loose rein, then did some shoulder-in at the walk in both directions to loosen her up, and we moved on to a regular trot. Again she sucked back in the corner closest to the gate that leads out of the arena (not the barn gate, the one that leads to the parking lot. She's never cared about this gate, and if it's open she has to be coaxed to exit through it) and pinned her ears when I asked her for more trot. That was it. She'd been doing this for 2 weeks and I was done. I smacked her on the shoulder, not hard, but enough to make a sound, and this completely took her by surprise! She jumped into a canter. I immediately brought her back down to a trot, quietly, and had her circle in that same corner at a trot. She settled down quickly- this was the kind of reprimand that a year ago would have kept her nervous for a week!- and continued at a nice working trot. She did not try to suck back at that corner again, so for the first time in 2 weeks we actually had a normal workout of walk-trot-canter sequence. With the baucher she would occassionally go above the bit, but not the way she used to in the beginning, back when I first started working with her. As she warmed up, she was almost leaning on the bit when I asked her to lengthen down the long sides of the arena. Slowing my posting seems to help lighten her, and I can feel her back come up underneath me in these instances. I wish I had constant video of our work. It's hard sometimes to know if what we're doing looks the way it feels, especially since I haven't done any of this on a seasoned dressage horse to know how it should feel.

We started with this exercise at the trot, which we had already been doing, except we do the short sides of the arena in shoulder-in only:

Changing bends was actually simpler with the baucher, and she kept up the trot all the way around the arena, in both directions.

We then took a walk break on a loose rein, and afterwards, I picked her up and did this one:

She totally rocked the side-pass. The square was probably more rhomboid in nature, but her side-passes were fairly straight and even in both directions (I had no markers, so I knew the sides of the square were not all the same length, but whatever), and quarter turns on the forehand were perfect!! I had never asked her for any kind of turn on the forehand while riding. She received lots of pats and another walk break.

I let her do some medium trot around the arena, with large 20m circles maintaining the pace, and back to a walk. We then practiced walk-canter-walk transitions once around the arena in each direction. Still a couple of trot steps going into the canter and back to a walk when on the left lead-I have to set her up perfectly to be able to go into the up transition without any trot, especially on this lead. We got it on the second try.

Lily was really into her trot work last night, and wanted to fly at the trot. I collected her into more shoulder ins down the long sides of the arena again, again once in each direction, and her energy was such that she gave me some of the most forward shoulder-ins ever so far. We then we tried our hand at a canter circle, with a halt after a full circle. I didn't expect her to be able to pull this off, as it is an advanced exercise, but she surprised me by giving me a clean halt and a very "up" canter depart on the right lead. It was excellent! We did it 3 times on the right lead, then gave it a go on the left lead. Not so successful-Lily picked up the incorrect lead twice (my fault-I wasn't sitting straight in the saddle), then became VERY riled up, anticipating the canter depart from the halt to the point that she actually sprang into the air, all 4 feet off the ground at once, before I could properly cue her. Laughing, I had her stop and stand, but she kept wiggling-to the front, backwards, and to the sides! I finally got her to settle down and just stand quietly for a few seconds, during which she kept turning her head to nuzzle my left foot, like, "Mom! What are you waiting for? I want to GO!" When she finally just STOOD, I just asked her for couple of trot-canter-trot transitions on the circle to relax her. Once she'd stopped anticipating, we moved on to a different exercise. I probably should've tried the canter-halt circles again, but I know my mare, and to press the issue would have just caused her get more and more revved up-I'd rather keep her in a meltdown-free state of mind; we can always re-visit this exercise later.  

So we moved onto this exercise, in which I discovered we really need a longer arena (ours is 20x40m):

The leg yields down the short diagonal were just taking us right into the corner, so in the corner I'd cue for the canter and we'd do a canter circle before coming back to a trot back up the long side of the arena. She totally rocked this exercise too, on the left lead more so than on the right for once. To the right, she did have to re-balance herself with a couple of trot steps on the straightaway before she could pick up the canter. I really liked this one-we'll be practicing it more.

We repeated our canter collection & lengthening sets from our last ride, and shallow canter loops, which she again did really, really well! We then walked out for 10 minutes. The evening was significantly cooler from the night before, with a breeze that was almost chilly blowing in, and Lily cooled down quickly. No ice boots for cooling down-a good hosing was enough, and then she went out with little Willy for the night.

Lily loves Wee Willy :)

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