Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dressage Homework #4

This is the last homework assignment from our June lesson. 
I hope to see my teacher again in July!

Do the "untwist"!
Going to the left, I need to practice the following exercise:
  1. Rotate to the outside of the circle.  My right shoulder must not be visible from the center of the circle.
  2. Raise my left hand and make sure that I have not tilted my wrist.  For this exercise, a dead giveaway is the placement of my whip.  It should hang vertically in front of my knee (Whoa.  Talk about instantaneous feedback.  My whip was very informative after I realized where it should be.)
  3. Stretch my right elbow back.
  4. Bend both elbows and let my lower arms float up.  Imagine that they are filled with helium, but my elbows are heavy with cement.  I should be able to jiggle the bit in the CORNERS of my horse's mouth, not against the bars of his jaw.  Holy Mackerel, did that make him light in the hand!

Before the exercise, I am collapsing left.  My left shoulder is lower than my right, although Harley is still looking nice.

Untwisting to level my shoulders: I could turn my shoulders out and pull my outside elbow back even more.

My wrists are softly rounded toward one another and there is a nice bend in both my elbows now.  My shoulders are very near level.  I am really concentrating, as evidenced by the funny face I am making!
Now while I am trying to do all those things, I also must remember to let my lower legs hang down and move with my horse.  My seat must stay "plugged in" from back to front.  AND my shoulders must stay down and my shoulder blades open.  Let me repeat.

There must be space between my shoulder blades
at all times! 

If I get lost, I can make space between my shoulder blades by sticking my elbows out to the sides like wings.  Silly, I know!  But it works.

I found this really tricky to master while letting my lower arms float up.  I wanted to raise my entire arm, but that was incorrect.  And just when I would have it, my whip would fly back behind my knee or my lower legs would stop moving or I started leaning forward, dislodging the back of my seat or my outside seat bone!  Let's just say that throughout the lesson there were many, many do-overs and many chances to laugh at myself.  What else could I do?

It is much easier for me to remain level going to the right, even in canter.  There is a nice bend in my elbow and a straight line to the bit.  I might be told to raise my lower arms more, but at least my shoulders look pretty released and my torso is hovering in the middle.

I am so grateful to have a teacher who emphasizes correct bio-mechanics rather than just "mechanics" in riding.  There is a definite difference.  Although she teaches the importance of contact and forwardness, she never tells me to drive my horse into my hand.  In fact she rarely mentions things like bend or half-halts, always correcting my position when things go awry and then Harley re-balances himself.  Her instruction is applicable to all types of riding and her students are a diverse group with all types of saddles and horses.  She is an incredible, compassionate teacher, but also very firm in her convictions.

Oh and she is also willing to teach in the rain! 
How did we get so lucky, Harley?

If you remember the preview post... what about his feet?
After our lesson, many "thank you's" and payment, my teacher asked about Harley's feet.  She knows the young woman who was my original barefoot trimmer and asked if she was still taking care of Harley's feet.  I took the plunge and confessed that I trim his feet myself.  She was surprised and asked how long I have been doing so (about two years).  She told me that she was very impressed and commended me on taking good care of his trim.  She has mentioned on separate occasions how he has such nice short toes.  Yippee!


  1. Loved this series Val. Thanks for taking the time to write it up. Lots of good stuff to work on. :)

    Your trainer reminds me so much of mine, who would say "bent, pointy, heavy elbows (kept at your sides)", and "drop-able forearms".

    1. Glad you liked it! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      It sounds like our trainers have resonating philosophies. :)

  2. I am so interested in this, but am starting, truly, from square one. I will come back and read all of these posts. Thank you for your detailed info. You both look great, btw. :)

    1. Thanks, Margaret. I hoping to keep this as a resource for myself and others.

  3. *Applause*Applause* Looking pretty darn good there girlfriend - Woo! Big difference in those shoulders. I had trouble sometimes with rounding both of mine forward (usually if I was concentrating a little too intently on what I was doing). Spending a couple of minutes riding with my arm twisted up behind my back, fingers flat between my shoulder blades solved that little issue in short order ;o)

    Congratulations on your kudos - proper barefoot trimming is tricky (therefore I am suitably impressed by your awesometastic skills *grin*).

    1. Thank you for this lovely comment, Jen!

      Concentrating on something does tend to steal concentration from other things. I think your remedy for the shoulders is pretty amusing. You made me laugh!

      I felt a little nervous when she first asked about his feet, but then I was so happy!


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