Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wait for the Sweet Spot

 Things have been a bit hectic lately, and Laura has been to several shows in the past month.  She has qualified for the California Dressage Regional/State Championships in Rancho Murrieta with BB Magee(one of her mules) for the freestyle event with a 76%  in one of the freestyles, which is phenomenal for a mule, and fantastic even for a horse!  This weekend they are at Starr Vaughn trying to qualify for the First Level event at the Championships.  It's really exciting that another of her mules, not just Dyna, is doing so well in dressage.  Mules rule!

  Anyways, in spite of not having ridden in a month, I had a lovely ride on Lucky.  I lunged her first to get her to become round, use her body, and respond to my aids.  Then I mounted, and began to do a similar thing in the dressage arena.  I asked her to come round in the walk, then began to the do they same in the trot.  Once I had her moving round and free in the walk and trot, responding to my aids, I began the exercises I would do that lesson.

 I worked on 10 meter circles for the first time, starting by going the to left at the walk on a 10 meter circle at B. To help me out, Laura marked where I should go with small cones.  At first, I had some difficulty with having enough bend in Lucky's body; she was too straight, particularly at the rail.  I also pulled too much on the inside rein without supporting with the outside rein.  The inside rein is only used for flexion, the inside leg is at the girth and pushes the horse to the outside rein, and the outside leg keeps the shoulders from popping out. Once I had Lucky moving roundly, I prepared to trot the circle.  Before the transition I squeezed Lucky with my calves to create energy, capturing it by squeezing the reins.  The goal here was to create upward energy, rather than forward energy, so it was important that I captured it and didn't let her trot off.  Only once I had Lucky round and moving with energy did I ask her to trot off.  I kept her round through the trot by squeezing the outside rein during the transition.  I continued on the 10 meter circle.

 After giving Lucky a break to let her stretch, I prepared for a new exercise that involved half 10 meter circles and tear drop shapes.  I started with a 10 meter circle to the left at B, as I had been doing.  Once my position was correct and I had Lucky round and flexed nicely, I went from X, the part of the circle that touched centerline, onto a diagonal to P.  I had to keep Lucky completely straight until just before P, where I changed the flexion(and my diagonal when I did the exercise at the trot).  I continued on until reaching E, where I made a 10 meter circle to the the right, and I made diagonal to the V when I was ready.  
A basic diagram of the exercise.  The parts along the rail are ridden both to the right and to the left, but the others only in the direction the arrow is pointing.

 I tried the exercise at the walk first, and then trotted it. At first, I had to circle several times before heading onto the diagonal so I could get Lucky round. Laura didn't want me to head onto the diagonal until both Lucky and I were ready.  There where a few times during the lesson when things fell apart(I leaned too much to the outside, and Lucky lost her roundness as a result, becoming rushed and on the forehand).  At these times, I returned to the walk to rebalance both myself and Lucky.  For the most part, however, I rode nicely.  I kept Lucky round through most of the walk-trot and the trot-walk transitions.

Next, I took a break from that exercise to canter.  Lately, I have been able to effectively keep Lucky round through transitions between the walk and the trot, which is a huge improvement from a few months ago.  In the canter, however, I toss myself forward and throw the contact all away, losing everything I had worked for in the few minutes before the transition.  During this lesson, I worked extra hard keeping the roundness.  The first few times went just as they always have.  For the rest of the times, I focused on having a beautiful, round transition.  I worked on getting Lucky to the "sweet spot" in the trot before asking for canter.  Put simply, the "sweet spot" is any moment when Lucky is balanced and round.  Once she was in this sweet spot, I asked for canter, squeezing the outside rein to keep her round.  Miraculously, I had a wonderful transition. Lucky stayed round through the transition, and for the next few strides after.  It felt amazing.  Once I got several nice transitions like that, I repeated the same exercise as earlier, except with the canter added.

The canter version.

 This time, I started on a 10 meter circle to the right at E since Lucky canters more easily to the left.  Once I found the sweet spot at the trot, which was pretty quickly, I head across the diagonal to V, staying in the sitting trot and preparing for canter.  Just before V, I changed the flexion and asked for canter.  Lucky bounded into canter, staying round.  It felt amazing.  I cantered to P, then returned to the trot.  Then I made a half 10 meter circle at B and prepared to canter at P.  Once more, Lucky bounded into the canter, making a lovely transition.  I made one more circle at E, cantered, then walked at P, paying special attention on keeping Lucky round.  It was a beautiful transition.  Of course, all these transitions didn't just happen–I had to ask carefully to keep Lucky there.

It was fabulous to have a step forward.  Previously, I have watched people ride in a balanced, rounded  canter and wished that I could ride like that. Having a taste of that was amazing.  I'm so happy to have progressed so much this past year.  In fact, a year ago, I could hardly get a horse.  I wonder where I will be a year from now.

6 comments:

  1. So exciting! Those are totally huge steps in your riding career. What a great exercise too - I might need to remind some of my students of it

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    1. Thanks! It certainly is a big step forward, because it's the basis for higher levels of dressage and for other disciplines as well.

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  2. what an awesome feeling!! it's amazing how far you have come in a year - keep on working!

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    1. You, it is an amazing feeling. Thanks!

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  3. I admire you for your perseverance! Good luck:-)

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