The Zig Zag! I am not referring here to any social media chirpings of a politician who shall remain nameless. I only write about horses on this blog! For those of you who are dressage riders and are familiar with the zigzag I think you may be nodding in recognition and understanding why I call it the “dreaded” zig zag.
The zig zag is the bane of my existence as dressage rider. This year we moved up to the Intermediare 1. Here’s what is required in that zig zag at that level. I quote from the FEI requirements as stated in the Dressage Competition Handbook.
“A Down centerline. Between D&G 3 half passes 5 meters to either side of the centerline with flying change of leg at each change of direction starting and ending to the right . G flying change of leg. C Track to the left. “
OK! So what are my problems. 1) I am not quick enough getting Biasini straightened from the first half pass before asking for the flying change. 2) I am not quick enough getting Biasini back and with me as we head across on the 2nd half pass and so he takes over. 3) having lost it on the 2nd half pass I am not quick enough to recover and I miss the distance for the 3rd half pass. I just need to be QUICKER!
I have ridden the zig zag in competition in Florida this past winter. So I know that I can actually do it. Why am I concerned about it now?
In the time since I got home to Ontario, in April, my coach Belinda Trussell, has been working on getting me to improve Biasini’s frame, his lightness and his cadence (more air time in his stride). That has been going well. However……putting that into practice in a movement like the zig zag is another matter and having improved the gaits I now have a “hotter” horse. Hotter horses need quick and calm riding. Quicker again!!
For the record: Both of my coaches, Lou Denizard in Florida during the winter season and Belinda Trussell here at home, have given me excellent instruction with different exercises to work on the things that are involved in the zig zag without endlessly repeating the zig zag itself. They have also given me excellent mental images. Belinda’s favourite is to compare the zig zag to a waltz that flows back and forth. Oh how I wish I could execute it like that! So my difficulty with the zig zag is not their fault.
It is also not the fault of my horse Biasini. He can do a travers(haunches in) down the longside beautifully. A half pass is just a travers on a diagonal line. He can also do nice flying changes. It is his rider….me…that is not quick enough with her aids that causes us to make mistakes.
Last week while Belinda was away at a show I practiced on my own. Then quite by chance I watched a video of Charlotte Dujardin riding her new mount Freestyle in the CDI at Bolesworth in England. In the Grand Prix there is the zig zag to end all zig zags! It had five half passes and they have a specific number of canter strides allowed for each one. Here is a video. If you go to minute 4:27 you will see the start of the zig zag. In case this video will not play in your location there is also a You Tube video of the Grand Prix ridden by Charlotte on Freestyle back in April. The zig zag starts at 4:30.
I do NOT think I have to ride like Charlotte Dujardin. She is one of the top professionals in the world. But what I learned from the video is that she rides her horse with the same criteria: bending in the half pass, straightening, changing the flexion and then the flying change. Those are the things I must get right at my level as well.
She is, of course, quicker than me! But I’m working on that. I will keep you posted on my progress.