Today I had a rare treat. My coach, Belinda Trussell, invited me to watch her lesson with Debbie Macdonald. In case you do not know Debbie she has competed in the World Equestrian Games, the World Cup, and the Olympics for the US winning both Team and individual medals. When she was the technical advisor for the US Dressage Team, at the Tokyo Olympics, she led them to Team Silver Medal.
The Warm Up
Belinda was riding her big horse Touch. Belinda, when asked what she would like to work on in the lesson, answered : “I would like to do some work on the pirouettes. They could be better.”
“We all want to be better…. we’re dressage people.” Debbie replied with a smile. For the rest of this post I will note what was being worked on and what Debbie was telling Belinda to do.
The walk. “Keep him light in the contact and ask him to walk with more enthusiasm. Pet him, play, make it fun. Think of the walk to piaffe in the Grand Prix Special. Train him to not look to you for support.“
The canter aid. “Walk on and move your leg back that’s all that is needed “
Canter and transitions to trot . “I don’t want more than the weight of the bit in your hand. Don’t sit silent use your butt. You should feel like you don’t need much hand at all.
The pirouettes. “Let’s play a little bit and do the pirouette. Use your leg, just a little tickle. A lot of people collect way, way, way, back. Just collect him in two strides because he has to be in front of you in the pirouette. Rock your shoulder back don’t ride with a locked elbow. Use the outside rein to collect and the inside rein for bending. Do not be in a hurry to rotate.”
“Look where you are going.”
On riding “I’m all for not working too hard. Belinda you’re not much taller than me and we can’t ride that way.”
Supporting the horse. “Always keep reminding him he’s doing a super job. Pet him, Pet him, Pet him! Tell him he’s a ‘good boy’.“
Passage Piaffe transitions “For the Piaffe think passage on the spot. Pet him and let go. Sit back and let go. Get loose and take your leg off and pet him. A soft bend and he can come up but held too tight he cannot so pet him.”
What did I learn from Debbie’s words? I learned that petting the horse’s neck could be praise and also letting my hold on the rein loosen. I need to ride more with my butt and less with my hands. Belinda is an experienced Grand Prix rider and when she would receive an instruction from Debbie it would take her less than a second to execute it. I know I am not that quick but nonetheless all the instructions were things I need to learn as well in the work I am doing with Biasini.
At the end of the lesson I thanked Debbie and told her there was much I could use in my own riding. I told her I trained with Belinda and that she has no respect for my advanced age! Debbie laughed and Belinda had over heard what I’d said. “This lady can ride!” said Belinda. “And that’s why she pushes you,” Debbie responded.
Well that’s it really. I just have to ride on!