Rodney’s Dressage May 2017

Breaking out the full-seat britches for lesson #2.

No surprise, our second lesson built on the first one [Dressage]. We halted. We trotted a few laps. Mr. E says we would have cantered if the footing had been better. On the grand scale of things, it remains pitiful. On our personal scale, it was FANTASTIC. A few of the strides where the best dressage I’ve done. Ever.

Perhaps it is Mr. E’s approach. He doesn’t use the ‘push with the inside leg, hold the outside rein’ blather. Or perhaps I’ve never had a horse who can do what I ask. Either way, Mr. E says ‘Do X,Y,Z.’ I do. Rodney does. Cool.

Partway through the lesson, Rodney was tight? Tired? Tense? I wasn’t sure. This made me miss Previous Horse. I’ve thought of PH as my heart horse because I always knew what he was thinking [In Defense of Caesar]. Now, I’m starting to wonder. I could hear him, but he never had the slightest interest in listening to me. That’s not a communication. That’s one party being loud about what they want. Regardless, I need to put the past behind me and ride the horse I have.

I’ve spent a lot of blog time pondering how the different riding disciplines overlap [Styling]. In my last saddle seat lesson, Coach Courtney told me to set my hands. Okay, I will, but that is the Wrong Way to Ride. One should have soft, following hands that are sympathetic to the horse’s mouth. Obviously. Fast forward to dressage lesson. For trotting, Mr. E told me not to pull but not to give. Really? That sounds a lot like Set Your Hands.

Later, Mr. E wanted me to use my knees. In fact, he asked, ‘How hard can you dig your knees in?’ Well, after five years of saddle seat, pretty durn hard. We will overlook the fact that my heels shot out sideways as I did so.

On a final note, Rodney seems to really like Mr. E. With both his chaperone [It Takes A Village] and Mr. E on the sidelines, Rodney started out the ride super relaxed.

Update: further thoughts from Mr. E in comments. See “themuerdago” below.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

3 thoughts on “Rodney’s Dressage May 2017

  1. To clarify…
    Riding Dressage well is a challenging pursuit. Coaching someone to ride dressage well, is harder still. How does one describe a feeling to someone who has never felt it? All one can do is guide a rider to apply aids in a particular way and sequence which helps the horse find comfort by complying with our intent, with the very few tools we have at our disposal to communicate with them. When that is achieved, eureka! Something is shared by the horse/rider entity, a feeling that can be replicated. Something that feels good to both! As a coach, I put the onus always on the rider, as it is she that I can influence. The horse being ridden will merely reflect the rider’s experience, fitness and feel for the task at hand.
    Remember, words can never do justice to a feel or feeling. One tries to be careful in the choice of words, to be understood by an individual as she is trying to apply said guidance while sitting atop a moving 1,200 lbs animal. Not an easy feat to begin with, for coach nor rider. A rider should always be willing and able to query, regarding any coaching they are unsure about. There it’s always an explanation that can further understanding.
    The squeezing with the knees suggestion is only as part of a half halt request to control the rider’s body from following a particular gait or tempo (laws of physics regarding inertia, balance, leverage apply) that needs to be modified or changed outright. Knees, core, different parts of the legs, seat are used so the rider does not pull the bit to try and influence the horse in this regard.
    Hands should be mainly used for keeping the jaw and poll of the horse supple and therefore comfortable in the happy acceptance of the bit. Having said that… Hands must be part of the ensemble. They are attached to a soft forearm, bending elastic elbow, upper arm that gently and firmly hugs torso, relaxed low shoulders, core that can follow or restrict seat, thighs, knees, calves and heels. Yikes! So, when it is suggested that the rider feel the horse’s mouth, without pulling nor throwing away the contact, that is done in ensemble. In concert with the whole. The term set your hands is very different in its implications, as it isolates that body part from the whole and would block the energy instead of channeling it.
    I hope this clarifies.
    Sincerely, Mr E.

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