Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Long Schooling Video: June 2011

If you enjoy watching a horse and rider school together, you will probably find this video interesting.  If you find watching dressage akin to "watching paint dry", than you might want to skip ahead to the canter parts and then call it a day.  Personally, I love watching horses school at home, in clinics or lessons much more than I like watching test rides.  I like to see the incremental progress and the conversation between horse and rider.  Unfortunately, the video was shot from a stationary tripod so we are far away, but I think you will still be able to get a feel for how Harley and I work together.

This schooling video is mostly about transitions and the canter.  I am happy with Harley's willingness and try in this ride, because, as I state in the video, he dislikes canter-trot-canter practice.  He used to shutdown and become a ball of tension after a couple repetitions, so the fact that we can stay on the circle and he maintains focus and relaxation for many transitions is a big accomplishment for my horse.  Our schooling sessions are not always glued to the circle, but I felt that it would be easier to see us on the camera if we stayed close to home.  Sticking to a circle also helps me evaluate his suppleness, balance, and attention.  And I get to work on myself, since he pretty much auto-circles.  I am very proud of my horse's work in this schooling session and I feel that we have continued to improve since June.



  1. I loved the birds! And yes, I watched all the way to end. I love how rhythmical Harley is. He maintains a very nice, steady pace. He never hurries, and he never seems to suck back. I also liked the "commentary."

    My only question is about where Harley's nose was. He seemed to be in front of the vertical, especially at the canter. Was your purpose to achieve a long and low canter, or a more collected canter?

    I know in my own lessons I am working hard to get both Speedy and Sydney back on their butts which will allow them to lift their front ends. My trainer has me shorten my reins (A LOT) to establish a barrier to slow down the front end which allows the hind end to catch up.

    Thank you for sharing the video. It is very difficult to post videos because it really opens the door for criticism. Watching ourselves ride, as much as I hate it, really helps us to really see what we're doing. It gives us the opportunity to find good things, and it also lets us see the errors in our riding. I hope you found your own video helpful. :0)


  2. Thanks for the supportive feedback and for watching this lloonngg video, Karen! Harley used to hurry a great deal, so your observation makes me very happy.

    I like your question about his frame. We were not working on collected canter exactly, but I was asking him to shift his weight back and slow as much as he was comfortable. In the video, he does collect from time to time as the transitions progress, especially going to the right. He does not have to have his nose in to be collected. The longitudinal stretch (over the back) and engagement of the hind end are more important. Since this video, we have worked on "collected canter" which he is developing by staying with my seat and shifting his weight back, which lightens his shoulders.

    I do want his nose in front of the vertical, as this keeps his throatlatch area open and keeps him released over his back. I was originally taught to compress the horse to put him "on the bit", but my wonderful teacher has taught me to always seek a stretch and lengthening of the neck. If I tried to pull Harley's nose in, the picture would look very different and would probably include rushing and sucking back. I try to focus more on asking him to keep his neck and back soft and shift his balance towards his hind legs with my center of balance and position. Interestingly enough, his forehead is more vertical going to the left, but his balance is more on the forehand with rushed, less balanced downward transitions. Cantering to the right, where his nose is more in front of the vertical, he is much lighter on this feet and transitions down without a change in tempo or balance.

    I hope that was not too much information! I just love this stuff!

  3. You are brave to post a video of your schooling. I loved watching it and I'm inspired to try and set up a tri-pod next time I work Jackson but I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to post it.

    I love how Harley is relaxed and stretching down while you work. Jackson's tendency is to be high-headed and I'm trying to teach him to stretch but it isn't easy so I noticed that Harley has that nailed right away. Jealous!

    Harley is also nicely forward, working over his back, reaching under at trot, and his canter has great rhythm. Jackson is still strung out at canter. I like your trot-canter-trot exercise. Do you pick a spot to transition or count strides? Or just wait for him to be balanced? I am working on trot-walk-trot with Jackson and it is very helpful. I'd like to add the t-c-t soon.

    See how inspiring you are?!

  4. Hi Annette! Thank you so much for your kind words. I am always a little nervous posting video, but I decided that all riding is a work in progress and most people know this. Supportive comments like yours and Karen's also make it feel very worthwhile!

    Harley has learned to stretch down (and I have learned to allow him); he used to be very tense and high-headed at times. I am working on a lungeing post with video to demonstrate some things that have helped us to progress. The canter has been our biggest challenge, which is why I write about it so much.

    I like to wait until Harley feels balanced enough to give me the transition. Once he is warmed up I ask at specific points on the circle. I usually do not count strides, although I do some of that when we are schooling canter to walk. He listens to my voice and starts to understand what a want. Visual markers like two cones placed so we can transition right between them also help him understand the plan while learning the cues. I try to use his tendency to anticipate to help us, although sometimes I have to remind him that he still needs to wait for me. ;)

  5. Val - thanks for the explanation! Never too much info. The more we all share our experiences, the better!


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