Sunday, July 8, 2012

Where Dressage Kicks my Butt

I've been working so hard on jumping with Cuna and making so much progress in both technical ability and mental confidence that I pretty much completely overlooked the entire dressage aspect of eventing. Our first ever dressage test together was literally in the show arena. We got a 38, which I was perfectly happy with. All our scores were between 5 and 7, so nothing terrible, nothing great.

The winner of our division had a 22. He could have had a refusal and several time penalties and still beaten us.

Not ok.

One of Steph's clients is out of the saddle for a bit recuperating. She can't ride for a while yet, wants a way to connect with horses, and gives great lessons. Win! She came out and kicked my butt this morning. Ouch.

Here's the rundown:

Cuna has been allowed to go like a camel by the kids riding him for the last few years. He cannot do that any more. Even just walking on a loose rein, he must look like a horse. No bulging underline, no running on the forehand, no trailing his whole body behind a poking-out nose.

LEG ON. When I feel like I just need to sit still and not change anything, that's when I'm about to lose the whole horse. I need to keep 50% more feel in my legs than I do in my hands. Half halts need to go leg, core, hand. Hopefully soon just leg and core.

Hands still. Cuna doesn't mind contact, but moving hands piss him off. I can run my pinkies through my breastcollar if need be, but I have to keep my hands still.

Elbows bending. I tend to lock my elbows and bounce my hands which is neither pretty nor useful. Once I have quieted my hands, my elbows will have to bend. Allow this. Focus on this.

Small circles are my friend. Cuna is long and inflexible. These help him supple and step through with his hind legs with a minimum of fighting and fussing by me. In addition, I can use an opening inside rein for a couple of strides to help show him how to bend his neck and get him into my outside rein.

Spiral in/spiral out. We did a lot of this. It forced me to ride Cuna on a smaller circle using my legs, then REALLY half halt him, then move him out complete with hind end cross over. It's hard for him right now (and killer for me, lol) but it will get prettier. Maybe not easier, definitely prettier.

All in all, Cuna can be a rocking dressage horse. I need to start retraining his muscle memory and demanding that he follow through.

Extra notes: it may be beneficial to go in a loosely adjusted running martingale for now, especially out hacking. It will help me remind him to walk like a horse without either of us getting too fussy.

I need to spend 5-10 minutes pretty much every ride with a jumping bat through my thumbs to get my hands up and properly aligned. I tend to ride with my hands flat, which is unattractive, ineffective, and annoying to Cuna.

Furthermore, I need to be spending abut that much time without stirrups to build my leg, core, and balance.

Eventually, the above two exercises will be done together.



  1. Sigh. Why does dressage work have to involve so many hard things??

  2. Darn those long chestnut TBs! Good thing they make up for it in the jumping phases. Thoughts on a no stirrups challenge?

  3. I'll be down for a no stirrup challenge!

  4. LOL, ribbon chaser! It's all about suppleness, long or short horse. Bend and leg yield on a circle for a few strides and then push forward into the outside rein going straight on the circle, my best friend. Straight lines bad, sideways good!

  5. Love the spiral circle for all horses. You can keep the exercise relatively low stress and strain by controlling the side of the circles, speed of the spiral-in/out, and the gait of choice. An opening inside really does help them learn to step across withe inside hind. Just give him some time. You are working against many years of muscle memory!

    I would scratch the running martingale. Dressage no-no in my book.

  6. Sounds like you are getting exactly what you need to kick your butt into gear.

  7. Score on the dressage lesson! I hope you can get some more. :D I'm so happy you've gotten to the stage with your jumping to where you can now focus on the dressage more, because the dressage is only going to make you both better and better. :D


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