The Olympian is my coach Belinda Trussell and also her “eyes on the ground” Olympian Megan Lane.
The Uber Model is a 9 year old gelding from Denmark who has the longest legs! He is tall and elegant and reminds me of those long legged models who glide down the runways of the Haute Couture shows in Milan and Paris.
The Beautiful Venetian is a 9 year old black mare. Her name is Bella Venezia!
The Uber Model The first horse Belinda rode for Megan was the Uber Model, Touch Me Marso. Belinda has been working with this nine year old gelding, who came from Denmark, for only four months.
“Does he stay nice in his back in the transitions up and down?” Megan asked. Belinda replied that in the last strides of a downward transition she could not let him out much or the transition would not be good.
“Play with the shoulder in and think, ‘that’s where I want to go in the piaffe.’ Also play with the activity and the tempo in the shoulder in. I think the shoulder in is going to help you with the transitions.” Megan said. She also told Belinda to make sure there was a reaction to any aid. “At any second when you touch him something happens.”
Megan asked Belinda to trot with a quicker tempo and more forward movement. When they took a break, Belinda said that improved things and she felt she had been going too slow in the trot work.
Megan also advised Belinda to “let him make a mistake.” Then, when Touch gave the right response, she asked Belinda to give him a break. For the transition from walk to trot Megan suggested Belinda “get him to think about the trot” while in the walk. But once he was in trot “He can’t stop until you tell him to. Do not let him walk until you ask him to walk.”
After a break Megan and Belinda discussed what they would work on next. “Can I show you the progression of where I am with the passage?” Belinda asked. “This is where I can use the most ‘eyes on the ground’ at the moment.”
So they began to work on Touch’s passage.
“In the collected trot slow down his front legs and make his hind legs quicker.” For the passage Megan suggested “Have the feeling of the extended trot in the passage.”
Then on to canter work. Belinda spoke about what she had been doing with the half pass. But “before I do the half pass, I could do with some help on where to place the canter.” Once Belinda had the canter that she and Megan thought was good she went on to do half pass.
Megan: “Every step is the same length.” When Belinda had completed the half pass she said: “Well done! Really good!” Then on to some trot work.
Belinda: “Is this too slow?”
Belinda: “Is this better?”
Megan: “ A little bit.”
Belinda: “OK so I have to think much faster!”
At the end of the session Belinda said Touch tries really hard and is a kind horse.
The Beautiful Venetian
Belinda gave Megan some information about what she has been working on with the mare. She said: “She’s not great if I repeat something over and over so I avoid doing that. And for the tempi changes I do them down the long side as she has a tendency to drift.” Then they started the warmup trot work.
“Play with shoulder in and travers to get her bending and make sure she lets you move her forward and back. The bending will help her relax a bit more.”
When they went on to the canter Megan suggested that Belinda use a “super passive seat and keep your leg a bit back to keep talking to her hind legs.”
They did some work on collected canter with working pirouettes. “Try to keep the bend and think more shoulder. The bend helps to relax her so she can bend the SI area and bend her spine. When you have more bend you have more control of her position. You can go more forward but not with less bend.” Those were Megan’s suggestions and they worked. Belinda said:” I felt I could control the rotation better and not just sit and pray.” I had to smile when Belinda said that as I have ridden many pirouettes when I have just been sitting and praying!
They worked on the half pass in canter by half passing to the center line, straightening and then to shoulder in, as a preparation for the flying change, and half pass in the opposite direction.
When Belinda executed this exercise on the Bella it looked so simple and so effective. And yet as any dressage rider knows it is not that easy. But it is splendid to watch and also to understand from the dialogue between the two Olympians why and how they are doing the exercise.