Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dressage Homework #3

The series continues...I have a lot of homework!  
Hopefully these posts will help me remember everything.

Use my good side to help train my weak side.
Since we are doing so well going right, my teacher encouraged me to ride a couple circles to the right to find the feeling and then go to the left.  Only stay on the left circle once and then return to the right to reestablish "north".  If I was really having trouble finding or keeping the straightness in my body, then she suggested that I only travel to the left for half a circle before returning to the right.  I thought this was some interesting advice.  I have read about the importance of not only riding your horse on his easier side.  This does nothing for his more difficult (stiffer) direction.  But what if your horse's easier side happens to be his "stiffer" side?  Harley is not really stiff going right, but it is his "stiffer" side.  He is flexible enough when traveling right, but the real strength is that he is more easily made straight.  The left side is his more bendy side (and my more bendy side!).  In fact, it is too flexible, which makes if very easy for both of us to collapse.  This makes his left side the more difficult direction to ride, because it is the more difficult direction to find true straightness.  He can fool me into thinking that it is easier, because he goes on the bit easily and flexes to the left more easily, but our balance is tenuous until we can align ourselves laterally.  Longitudinal balance follows shortly thereafter.

I have a strong habit of collapsing in the left direction.  It feels normal or comfortable to me when I let my left ribcage sink toward my hip.  This offsets my weight onto my right seat bone, which also feels normal to me and inviting to Harley to do a flying change onto the left lead if I happen to collapse left while in canter right.  This is more likely to happen on a straight line, which explains why he likes to throw those changes in on the long sides of the arena.  This also explains why it would be more difficult for him to flying change from left to right canter.  If I am collapsed left when I am hoping for the change, neither of us is in the right balance or position to do so.  My teacher explained that correct practice was the only thing worth our time.  Repeating several collapsed left circles would only serve to un-train Harley and my own body.  If I want to re-circuit my habits, I need to make every repetition as correct as possible.  Look to what we do well and use it to improve our left direction work.  She warned that "perfectionists" and dressage riders alike tend to focus too much on what is being done poorly, which is why she gave us permission to use the positive!


  1. I have the opposite problem, right side is weak and my right side collapses! I am going to try your trainer's suggestion next time I ride :)

    1. Cool. Hope it works out!

      I tried it a little today, but I have to admit that I completely forgot for half the ride. Thinking too much about other homework's.

  2. Maybe it's just me (or the camera angle), but it looks as though Harley was "collapsing" right along with you in that first photo.

    You both appear to be in a better frame in the second picture. Or am I just imagining things?

    1. Yes! That is precisely the point that my instructor makes. If I collapse, so does my horse. If he collapses, I am encouraged to do so, too. Since I am the rider and he is the horse, I have to try to have the control to keep us straight with my own posture. Good eye!


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