A Training Exercise from Germany

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The last couple weeks have been very busy. Our groom was on vacation, we were rushing to get home in time to watch Olympic dressage, etc. However, everything here is going well. Plus, I am official! I got my German visa last week.

12-Germany-Trail-Ride

The riding has been going very well. Ecco and I have made huge strides in his throughness and my ability to maintain it with independent aids. Ecco is a big mover and has a long, flexible back. His mouth is super light. He never leans heavily on the rein, but sometimes instead of the connection through the rein with the feeling of it breathing from me to him and him to me, it becomes static. When his mouth goes silent, for some reason my hands also want to be silent, and I find him just balancing on my hands instead of drawing on them. The right hand is worse than the left. In any case, I have been working on fixing that by first making my leg and seat and then my hand “quicker.” If his mouth is static, it is because the energy stopped coming through from behind so I have to wake up his hind end without pushing him faster. Usually, this means doing a little leg yield or making sure I am in shoulder-fore and really using my leg and seat aids. Then, I sometimes need to quicken my hand and gently move the bit so he unlocks his jaw and lets the connection come all the way through. Sometimes I wiggle the bit, but what I found works even better is to soften the rein and retake it gently. Then, when I look in the mirror, I can see him really reaching for the bit through his top line. Once I got this feeling, I was able to maintain it and all his work was more through.

Another exercise that tested both of our coordination was done on the diagonal:

  1. We rode from the corner tracking left in collected trot. 
  2. On the long diagonal, we kept the bend from the corner to ride in shoulder-in left. I kept my left leg was forward, right leg was back and I was focusing on feeling him in the right rein without over-bending the neck. 
  3. After the first quarter line, we began to straighten and on the same diagonal line develop a leg yield to the left. First, straighten on the diagonal, then add a little flexion right, then from the right leg push the horse into the left rein with no bend. Ideally the horse is parallel to the wall at about X to finish the diagonal in leg-yield.
  4. After the diagonal, you can begin the same exercise from the right hand. The combination of these two exercises makes the horse more supple in his body and more honest in both reins. 
  5. If you find this too difficult, go back and focus on first leg-yield and then shoulder-in individually. Think about taking your time and developing the correct feeling of thoroughness during the exercises rather than just changing from one movement to the next. If the horse is more connected and more through, you know you are doing it right!

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