Monday, March 9, 2015

Dressage Fun

told ya. banging.
Courage and I participated in our first-ever (together) dressage clinic this weekend. As per the usual, I was proud of my little man and thought that all my friends would be deeply interested in what I was doing, so I talked Alyssa into coming both days to take pictures.

She may have ended up regretting that choice.

Saturday was our first ride. Our outfit was completely banging, which I was proud of. The clinician was less interested in that and more interested in the fact that while I've gotten Courage to give up the base of his neck some, his solution was to then shorten his stride and release his neck while still holding his back tight.

Naturally, the quick fix is to ride MORE FORWARD, but funny thing, when you push Courage forward, he gets more tight and his stride quickens. So instead of all the cool and fancy dressage things (that we can't do anyways yet), 85% of our lesson was at the walk.

Courage learns by slowing down and taking the pressure off, not jamming forward and hoping he figures things out along the way.

The ride focused on teaching Courage to stretch all the way down to the ground, first at the halt, then at the walk. Once he figured out what I wanted, I had to ask him to go slightly more forward.

best day 1 shot
If he stretches down and slows down, he's still holding his back tight. It was when he'd stretch down and walk forward and especially on a turn that he'd really lift his back and stretch his topline.

At the end of the lesson, we incorporated it into the trot a little, but it was hard work for Courage, both mentally and physically.

nailed it.

Because I am poor/a tightwad/motivated (you pick), I didn't want to take the same lesson twice. I warmed Courage up on Sunday using the principles from the lesson Saturday and had it down. Our clinician was impressed.

That lasted like .02 seconds and then we were back to work. Since Courage understood the concepts, it was time to start applying them.

but so fancy
We immediately added in walk/trot transitions. Courage was doing famously and then the clinician said "canter".

We were going right. I wanted to say "LULZ WOMAN U CRAY CRAY", but I hate people who don't believe in themselves and talk back to the instructor.

So I did what she asked--I kept Courage active and loose. I sat up like a dressage rider instead of perching like a happy jump rider. I brought Courage back every time he braced.

I still didn't really think he could do it, recent bodywork or no, but then....


This was where I really loved the clinician--we attempted to canter a couple of times and each time Courage braced and tried to run.

So the clinician had me bring him back to walk and do the same thing in w/t transitions a few times, then ask for the canter once he was comfortable.

It made SO MUCH SENSE to a Courage brain.

i love his mane in this one
We have some really great exercises to work on. The clinician was very positive about us--she said I have great feel and she was very pleased with Courage.

In fact, she said that when she comes back in a month or two, she thinks I'll be able to have him correctly and consistently on the bit at all three gaits.

:-D Nothing like a little confidence.


  1. Love this! And the clinician sounds awesome :)

  2. Wohoo! Great clinic and money well spent. I especially love the right canter picture (more than your previous left ones btw ;))

  3. Wow. So much fancy. The pictures are stunning. Go Aimee and Courage!!!

  4. "Dressage" and "fun" in the same sentence??? Be still my jumper heart! :P

    You guys are gorg btw.

  5. I am so happy for you! And this was such a good post for me to read because this is exactly what I have been struggling with with Murray! He gives up the base of his neck but his stride gets TEENSY and he's clearly not using his back AT ALL. So I am extremely happy that I will get to incorporate these exercises into my ride some more and keep working on getting a huge, bodybuilder neck that is floppy and gorgeous.

  6. Sounds like it a was a productive two days for you, even if a lesson at the walk is never anyone's favorite.

  7. I just love everything about all the pictures and words in this post!!
    Your clothes.
    His clothes (esp combo wraps <3)
    His hair
    His body
    His movement
    Your position

  8. This makes me so happy! You guys look good! (Attire and riding-wise!)

  9. Yay!! Sounds like a fabulous clinic with golden nuggets of wisdom you'll be using going forward =)

  10. I REGRET NOTHING. Yah hear? Because look! Pictures! And I learned stuff too!

  11. I love how Courage's mane is all flippy-uppy in the pictures.

  12. One of the best feelings of dressage is when the horse gives his back and really moves rounded and forward. I learned how to do it at the walk as well. Great start. Now, wait until he's solid at it and you are going to find wonderful rewards when he jumps again. So exciting!

  13. Love this!! you both look amazing, and I'm always jealous of the photos. You and Courage really, really, really make me want to get into dressage with my western pony.

  14. Woohoo! Way to go Team Courage!!

  15. So much awesomeness happening with you guys!

  16. So excited for you! Sounds like a great clinic :)

  17. What a great and productive clinic! All of your hard work this winter is really paying dividends now :D

  18. Nothing makes me happier than a good left lead canter (Tucker's weaker side) so I KNOW that awesome feeling like you've just done the impossible when you get a good canter on their hard side. You guys rock! So happy you have photo evidence, he looks absolutely lovely.

  19. Ahh yesss right lead canter ftw! You guys look great (dressage-wise and outfit-wise).

  20. Love a good clinic, and SUPER love having 2 very different lessons back to back.

  21. Boo Ya baby - sounds like an epically awesome way to spend the weekend perfecting your dancing Diva skills!

    Ps: not to be a pain in the butt but have you done a teach me Tuesday on the topic of spurs, broken down like your awesome stirrup iron approach...

  22. Courage says that those warmbloods ain't got nothin' on him. He looks great!

  23. All of this just resonated so much. Guinness does the same thing (gives neck, keeps back, gets short) He also learns very similarly to Courage. You have to really slow everything down and show him clearly what you want. Then slowly add that in at faster paces. Pushing for "forward" just makes him more tense and tight. It's almost never the answer, despite every dressage person ever spouting it as the end-all of solutions. ;)

  24. Love those learning moments! Go you and Courage, he looks lovely!


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