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Megsabelle
Oct. 8, 2010, 11:31 AM
Hi all! I am a dressage newbie and have been working with my TB mare for about a year. We did all 4 training level tests this year and won each time with scores from 67% to 75%. Now, these we just schooling shows and I realize that if we are going to move up to first level, we have a lot to work on!

To that end, tell me what your schooling program is like for your lower level horses! I usually get one lesson per month, so much of my saddle time is on my own. I am particularly interested in exercises to encourage hind leg engagement and lateral suppleness. My mare is very, very light and soft in the bridle, so any exercises that encourage acceptance of some contact and "throughness" through the topline would be a appreciated as well!

Thanks in advance!

Pics from our show this weekend! :)

http://i54.tinypic.com/ifwzys.jpg

http://i51.tinypic.com/2d9zmgw.jpg

http://i53.tinypic.com/160zfo2.jpg

TropicalStorm
Oct. 8, 2010, 01:17 PM
Congratulations! I love the first picture-I hope you're framing it :)

I'll wait for someone with more experience to chime in for some real exercises, but my guy is showing 1st and schooling 2nd, and I work tons on transitions and am expecting them to be crisper and sharper. I also do transitions within the lateral work (so I'll trot and do some leg yield, ask for a transition to walk while he's still leg yielding and then pick up the trot while still leg yielding) With my guy, I find that low caveletti work helps get him more active as well, especially if its spaced a little further apart.

If you are by yourself, can you have someone videotape your ride? Watch it back and get an idea of what's really missing.

netg
Oct. 8, 2010, 02:11 PM
She's lovely!

I'm no UL rider, so I'll just tell you what's working with my TB.

He isn't one where I can have a set routine I follow, so I have to go with feel. Straightness and a willingness to go forward and come back to me are THE keys for him.

I do a lot of stretchy work, because he has a tendency to tense up too much. He goes "oh, lift my back and reach forward with my legs, if I get all tense in my body I feel like I can do that more!" So I just stretch and ask him to relax and move through his back, then when I ask him to come up into contact in front by holding and using my legs, he goes "oohh, I lift myself even more now, awesome!" I swear he actually has that kind of enthusiasm.

Transitions, transitions, transitions. Within a gait, from one gait to another. Work on getting a prompt response and not having to nag. Make sure as you trot along you don't have to nag constantly, or you won't be able to easly get self-carriage and more difficult work, as you'll be putting all your effort into the basics.

He's not the best laterally naturally, so I work on just getting his body where I want it when I want it. Overbend/counterbend/proper bend and switch to squares when doing circles, working squares/rectangles where I ask him to really use the inside hind on the corner and lift around it instead of dropped onto the inside shoulder through it, with him straight on the sides, etc. I rarely ask for specific lateral movements other than leg yields, but when I return to HI/SI they are each improving from the other work we do.

Yesterday he decided to offer up a lovely collected trot when I was doing walk/trot/walk transitions - much more rocked back on his hocks than the simple "slower" I had been asking him for, though of course much nicer as well. He's also been offering (technically incorrect for showing so far, but getting the right idea) walk pirouettes when I ask him to move his shoulder - going "oh, if I rock backward I can keep walking and REALLY move my shoulder for you-but don't need to move my back legs much of anywhere besides up and down!" He's not quite strong enough for a real extended trot yet, and keeps trying to offer it up where I keep asking him not to, because he makes himself very sore if I let him work as hard as he wants. Silly workaholic!

If you don't have the feel to really get it on your own, I highly recommend 101 Dressage Exercises, and go through it with your instructor to determine which you should work on until the next lesson, and how to know you're ready to move on to others. There is a lot you can't be taught via a message board and really need that person on the ground helping you with if it's not something you already know.

Good luck! I hope you have as much fun as I'm having with my guy at the start of our journey together. :)

Megsabelle
Oct. 8, 2010, 02:25 PM
Thank you so much for the compliments and well-thought out replies! I see both of you recommend transitions (within gaits and between gaits) and that is something I have really started to devote some time to. In fact, last night I did some canter lengthenings for the first time! I have ridden her in my jumping saddle and done some hand gallops, but this was the first time I asked for a longer stride whilst (trying) to stay seated in the saddle!

I got 101 Dressage Exercises recently in a trade deal, so I will give it some attention soon!

TropicalStorm- I actually use cavaletti on occassion and have done some small jumps, but haven't recently since I am apparantly too lazy to set them up and put them back, LOL. I will get back on track with some of that work for sure!

netg- I am interested in the idea of riding rectangles and squares instead of just circles and intend to play with ring geometry tonight!

I thought it would be interesting to post a pic of us as a pair just about one year ago:

http://i55.tinypic.com/107jt09.jpg

And this one is from one month before that (when I had just gotten her- I think this was our 3rd ride):

http://i55.tinypic.com/ngeq0l.jpg

I think we have come a ways since then!

netg
Oct. 8, 2010, 02:38 PM
I recognize that "I'm not quite going to accept contact and go straight" head twist in the photo when you first got her!

My horse has a tendency to do that, particularly to the right. In his case, that happens when he's not using his back end properly and just needs to go FORWARD to get through it. It feels as if he's "stuck" and losing energy, so I just ask for forward for however long it takes to feel as if he gets that concept, then ask him to come back to me again and he is right where I want.

There are some square exercises right toward the start of the book - I don't remember if they were warmup exercises or not. My guy's right hind is his weaker, so he took some work to get him able to do turns pushing off it on a square. It lets him spend straightaways not using all his strength on that leg, yet asks him to continue to straighten and balance and build more strength on the corners. He also gets gymnastic crossrail and low vertical work, and his tendency is to always want to push off more with his left hind there, too, so of course we work on evenness and trying to get him to use both hind legs equally.

Those two older photos really show that she's quite a naturally lovely mover. What a fun project!

Megsabelle
Oct. 8, 2010, 02:46 PM
Yes- she is still a little "worried" about contact and has a tendency to curl up, especially if we are not warmed up and in a forward frame of mind. If I drop contact on the outside rein, she'll still cock her head a bit, but I'll tell you what: part of the reason I love TB mares so much is that sense of justice. If I do right, she goes right. If I do wrong, she's not going to cover for me, ha!

Really, though: she is one of the better-minded animals I have ever had the pleasure to work with. She loves people and is full of try. I began my dressage career with her (you can probably name about 100 flaws in my riding based on those pics that I brought from hunterland into dressageville). I am really excited about seeing where we go together!