I don’t think there is any human endeavor that proceeds exponentially upwards. Certainly in dressage progress is marked in a rather erratic graph. Up! Down. High! Low. But over time there is progress.
This past week , in my lessons with my coach Belinda Trussell, I had highs and lows. One lesson we spent working on the trot. It all went well. A high! The next lesson we worked on the canter.
“What canter movements would you like to work on?”Belinda asked. I thought for a moment and then said I would like to work on the half pass and the straightening to the flying change. The straightening is a real weakness for me. We started with travers ( haunches in ) on the long side and then on to the half pass out of the corner to the center line, straighten, flying change.
“Bring the quarters! Bring the quarters!” Belinda repeated several times. This meant I did not have Biasini straight. His quarters were lagging behind. I did several things to try to improve this: more outside leg to push the quarters over, more inside leg to keep him from going sideways, more outside rein to straighten his shoulders . None of these seemed to be working. A low.
“Tell me what you are doing to straighten him.” Belinda said. I told her . She then suggested some other exercises that might help me. We did them. Still not good enough.
“I think I should pop on. I haven’t been on him in a long time and maybe I can feel what he is giving you.” Belinda said. She put on her helmet and mounted up. Of course when she did the half pass he went sailing sideways, straightened and did a nice change. She was not carrying a whip, she did not kick or pull.There was nothing visibly forceful in what she was doing . But the effectiveness of her riding had the desired effect.
“Come and put your hand in between my ankle and his side.” Belinda suggested before I got back on Biasini. I did this and then she demonstrated how much push she was giving with the inside of her ankle. Ah! A clear strong push. Knowing Belinda I already knew that once I would have Biasini responding to this aid I would make it a lighter aid. But for now it would need to be strong and clear! It is not held on but on and off with each stride of the horse. I got back on Biasini. I did my best to give a stronger aid with my ankle (just the ankle not the whole leg) and also a firmer half halt with my outside rein.
Well it worked! Here is a video.I was pleased once we had completed the movement and I knew better than to relax for even half a second. I had to make a good turn with no change in the frame. We finish up with some trot and my ankles had to work again to make it even better.
“Push the boundaries,” Belinda tells me. That was a high note and a good finish for the lesson.
- feature photo (c) Connie Gee*