Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Monday, March 19, 2012

The First Western Dressage Group Lesson



Last Friday evening was the first Western Dressage group lesson. There were only 3 of us, Sandy, Virginia and me. This was actually an extra group lesson, as most of the riders will come this Friday.

We had a great time, learning to keep the horse traveling correctly in the bend of the circle. We parctice "threading the needle" exercise, moving along the rail, riding a circle, going straight, then doing a half circle, riding the rail the opposite direction, doing a circle, etc.

The horses were responding, giving at the jaw, stretching down into the bit, strengthening the neck, learning to lean on the bit. The basics of dressage. Small steps.

I had an individual Dressage lesson last Tuesday with Shaggy, a few days before the group lesson.  My third dressage lesson ever and my first with Dara.  She is a wonderful, kind instructor who teaches in a coaching atmosphere.  She explains what to do clearly, she tells you the moment she sees a response in the horse, and when something is confusing, she explains it another way.  She shows exercises that will help a horse to build up his topline.

"Relaxed Tension" was one way for her to explain how much contact needs to stay on the reins.  I hold with contact, and that is where the change in me is starting.  I hold with a give and take with following hands and elbows.  Dara is teaching that at first, really give so the horse feels no contact when the horse gives.  Yet, there needs to be tension on the reins at other times so the horse knows to go into the bit and search for the bit, not quite leaning on it but feeling it.  So much a fine line to teach the horse where to go and to teach the rider how much or how little to hold.  I will try to explain this more as I learn the steps.  Letting totally go when the horse gives, to maintaining some contact, to eventually have the horse carry the bit.

For now, Shaggy is a fast learning.  We worked on keeping the bend in the circle, leg yielding out, then circling.  He picked up on this and stays in the bend.  Then we worked on having a slight bend, while traveling straight, and asking for a leg yield out. This is a little more difficult for him to give the ever so slight bend and maintain traveling straight. He would start to travel at a faster trot, and I would half halt, with my inside thigh and my seat, and bring him down to a slower trot.  Other times, we would come down to a walk or a halt when he becomes anxious and wants to travel faster. We will work on this a little each day.

Shaggy worked hard on Friday.  I didn't think we were working too hard, and it wasn't even an hour, when he decided he was done.  He showed a little frustration, then decided to go faster into a canter to complete his exercise.  I slowed him down to a walk, left him relax, and we completed one more exercise, then we were down.  I wanted to get him back to a working, relaxed mind, do a simple job, then walk off relaxed to tell him he was done.

He settled down and hung his neck out on a very relaxed long rein.  We ended the moment on a good note.

This Friday is another group lesson and I'll have more to share!

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"TRAINING THE MIND OF THE HORSE AND RIDER"

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