Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lesson last night!

Soft came right away; forward took some time to add in. He was also stiff and resistant off the left leg. But we worked for a long time in the trot, pushing off the inside leg and keeping a rhythm with the outside leg. I think in our future we're going to head out to a field somewhere and concentrate very hard on just keeping rhythm, start a metronome in my head and keep it ticking through trot work.

We did squares, counting out strides and then turning on haunches. He can make a 90 degree angle in two strides easily now, but I need to start making it more supple. When he turns, he's like a block of wood, and I have to concentrate very hard on keeping him between legs and hands to make sure he doesn't ooze out anywhere. He also braces against my hands. So some pieces are there, but not all of them. I think I need more of a leg-yield feel in the turning, not be focused so hard on the great pendulum swing of him coming around the corner.

Leg-yields were good, but as always keeping track of the outside shoulder was a huge challenge. He had a couple really, really nice moments of stepping underneath himself, and as always he felt much better in his circles after some leg yields. In particular, carrying through the leg-yield feel into doing spirals in and out put him more and more into the bridle, and for a few strides at a time I had that beautiful, malleable feeling of holding him between my hips and hands, his energy and my concentration filling up that space.

He's using his hocks more and more, putting more and more lift and spring into his steps. Sometimes I look up at the mirror and wonder whose horse that is, round and using his hocks and with a thin line of foam at his mouth from chewing the bit. When he's really spot-on every drop of Spanish blood in him comes through in the thick curve of his neck and the bulk of his shoulders being used to swing instead of brace.

Canter transitions are coming along, especially the right. Left is still dicey; he's always been tougher that way, though, no surprise. We are slowly erasing his tendency to flip his head and brace outside just before the transition, to ask for the push and lift and rocking horse feel. Going left, we worked hard on leg-yielding him out on a spiral *while* asking for the transition, really focusing all his energy into bending left, then asking for the canter, and keeping the inside leg push through the canter, and then *especially* through the down transition, spiraling all the way back out, not letting him even think for a second of flipping back to the outside or stalling out through the down transition. It was *hard* but we got some really glorious work out of it.

I've been thinking of dressage lately like whittling your perfect horse out of an enormous block of wood, maybe a whole tree trunk. At first you can easily lop off large pieces, and then as you get closer, you slow down, you only take a sliver at a time but you're getting closer to the moment when you can crack another large piece. Tris and I are in that slivering phase right now, but we'll come around to another large piece soon enough, and the cycle starts again. It's more than a little addicting, this sport.

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