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Video - First time schooling a test

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  • Video - First time schooling a test

    Finally had a dressage lesson! Here is a video of us (me and my 4 yr. old draft cross). It's our first time in a dressage arena and our first time schooling a dressage test. We traveled in to the trainers, and rode for an hour before we tried this test so poor Ginger's getting very tired by this time. The video starts a little bit after I had already started riding the test.

    What I can see: Ginger is starting to do her trot/hop move here (she does it when she's tired or stiff), and I goofed up and did more like a 15m circle than a 20m circle , but I think she was pretty darn good considering. You can hear the wind howling too.
    I'm riding in an A/P saddle so that's not helping my position but I can also see that as I'm getting tired my arms are getting straight again. We worked on that during the lesson prior to the video.
    Also, our downward transition at the end from the trot to walk, she collapses under herself in the hind end.

    What do you think? Is there any hope for us?

  • #2
    Yes of course there is hope for you. You and your horse seem to be a harmonious team. Take as many dressage lessons as possible so that you and your young horse can continue learning.

    Here are some little tips I can give you from the video.
    Keep your elbows bent. They are quite straight most of the time. It is important to bend them to help form a steady contact. Often your reins were 'jumping' meaning that they were slack for a stride and then became tighter. You don't want to pull on the reins but you do need to have a consistent contact.

    In the free walk you were pumping quite a bit with your upper body. It is great that you wanted to create energy in the walk but pumping will not help you accomplish that. Your horse needs to be infront of the leg so that when you put on your leg he goes forward. If you can safely carry a dressage whip with him then tap him with the whip if he doesn't understand that your leg means to go forward.

    Looks like a very willing horse. Good luck.
    Das größte Glück der Erde liegt auf dem Rücken der Pferde. Das größte Glück der Pferde ist der Reiter auf der Erde


    • #3
      You'll be amazed at how much she'll change with correct work It takes time and hard work, just keep at it!


      • #4
        The video is a little hard to see esp at the start of the test. The camera moves a lot and the horse and rider are often quite far away.

        I don't see any 'collapsing under herself' at the last transition, I'm not exactly sure what that means, though. I take it to mean the horse stumbles or loses its balance, 'collapse' sounds like something major, there is a blip in the video, but the transition itself and halt looks fine, if lacking energy.

        I'm not sure you followed the test figures enough to score well, before the diagonal it looked like you 'cut off the ring', maybe the ring is wider than 20 m and you're trying to make a dressage ring sized ride; if so, use cones or markers to be sure your figures are accurate.

        You don't appear to be getting any response to your leg most of the time, you pump with your seat at the walk. Instead, use your leg once, and then use your whip firmly. Your horse needs to react to your first leg aid.

        The horse's head carriage is quite unsteady, moving up and down constantly, and the rein tension changes frequently as you post so that the reins go slack, tighten, go slack frequently. The horse changes from nose out to nose in and down.

        This is related to not having a response to your leg aids.

        Although the horse sometimes takes quicker, shorter steps, most of the time, the gaits seem to lack energy and forwardness.

        The horse looks very content and you two seem to get along very well and know eachother very well. It's a general picture of a very happy, kind, very stable and reliable horse, but to score well in a competition, the horse needs to respond to your aids and perform accurate figures.


        • Original Poster

          Dressurfan - Ick! I hadn't noticed how much I was pushing at the free walk. Not cute. I will have to work on that.

          My elbows are a big issue for me, something I have to constantly think about. During the lesson when I moved my arms to where they belong and bent my elbows, the horse's head and neck were much better. Amazing. Hehe.

          SLC2- The "collapse" was right before the blip in the video. Watching it again, it's not as dramatic as what I thought I saw the first time. By collapse, I just meant her hind end drops a bit from not moving forward into the walk enough.

          As I mentioned in the OP, I knew as I was riding that I had under ridden the circles. It's a standard arena; I just turned too soon (twice ). It's the first time I have tried to ride the figures. I was kicking myself afterward.

          As for a lack of response to my leg, I will be using a whip from now on if she does not respond to my first request to move on. I have been soft on her up until now which isn't doing either of us any favors. I was carrying a whip but haven't really used it. Pointless I know.


          • #6
            Yes, it's hard not to be too soft on your own horse, especially when it's a young horse. But being a bit stricter about her response to the leg aid will really help you. I think your elbow problem is related to your horse's behind-the-leg issue. It is tempting to want to throw your hands and arms out infront of you in an effort to encourage the horse to go forward. I think this is a habit that can develop when the rider is having trouble keeping the horse forward. But really the forwardness needs to come from the leg (backed up with the whip). If she is forward enough, you wont feel like you are restricting her when your elbows are bent and your hands are steady and just infront of the saddle.
            Also, although the accuracy of the TEST is important in a show, I wouldn't beat yourself up about it. I think the way the horse is going is more important than if you forgot if you were supposed to do a 20m or 15m circle. Work on riding your horse and the accuracy will come when she is on the aids more.
            Hope that makes sense. She really is a cute horse.
            Das größte Glück der Erde liegt auf dem Rücken der Pferde. Das größte Glück der Pferde ist der Reiter auf der Erde


            • #7
              The walk on these guys is SO easy to shut down. Be sure you're allowing her to telescope her heck at the walk and not stealing her forward with each step! I found that is what I was doing when I had to push him so hard in the walk.

              Keeping her in front of your leg is going to be a key, and something you have to work on a lot of she has a phlegmatic personality (mine doesn't, but I have a lot of friends with drafts and crosses who do and it's something they are working on constantly.)

              Jane Savoie talks about keeping horses in front of the leg in Half Halt Demystified and has a bunch of great stuff about it on her Dressage Mentors site (that's her subscription site- I think you'd really like it). There's also a good Steffan Peters video on youtube.



              • Original Poster

                Yeah, I've been using my legs to the point of exhaustion. My trainer noticed pretty quickly that I was working quite a bit harder than horsey.

                My arms are a long term problem from back when I was riding TB's actually. I think I was bracing a lot then, and trying to hold them up off their front ends when they were pulling down. Not used to having a horse that I don't have to hold back, and really she doesn't feel heavy on her forehand so I need to just relax, sit up, and soften my arms.

                We have plenty of time. We won't show a dressage test until June when we try an amoeba level CT.


                • #9
                  In the walk and canter, it's not just softening but following- Jane Savoie reminds everyone to "row row row your boat" in the walk to allow that telescoping. I even sang to myself a few times at first to get the rhythm down, and it really made a difference.

                  From what you've said about your girl, she's very cooperative and trainable so I don't think keeping her in front of your leg is going to be so hard if you just work on it frequently.


                  • Original Poster

                    Originally posted by Ambrey View Post
                    There's also a good Steffan Peters video on youtube.

                    Great video! Thanks. If it wasn't 1:00 am I'd be out at the barn trying it out right now.
                    She really is usually quick with her transitions. She has an almost instant walk/canter transition. She just isn't moving forward enough once we're in the actual desired gait.


                    • Original Poster

                      What do you mean by telescoping?


                      • #12
                        Yep, and you can't really "do" dressage without the forward surge off the leg within the gait. At least that's what I'm told It sounds like she'll be happy to oblige once she understands exactly what you expect!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by VTHokie View Post
                          What do you mean by telescoping?
                          I wish I could show you the video- their necks lengthen and shorten at the walk, and if you don't follow that movement with your hands you will steal away their forward momentum. Same at the canter!


                          • #14
                            'Telescoping' the neck refers to the neck being pulled in or shortened like closing a telescope.

                            Unfortunately, it's also come to mean, in many people's minds, that they should avoid using enough leg to get their horse to face the bit and step into the bridle. So they don't have a connection with the bit, like with your video. The topline isn't rounded, and at every step the reins go slack, tighten, go slack, etc.

                            Not only does this mean the horse isn't connected with the bridle, or supple in the poll, it also means that every single step he takes, he gets a bump on the bit that tells him to slow down more. To the horse's mind, it's probably odd to have the rider urging him and yet every step of the way the bit comes into action and tells him to slow down.

                            So what happens? He slows down more, and he starts tuning out both the rein and leg aids. Pretty soon, he goes around setting his own pace - speeding up near the out gate, slowing down after he passes it. His rhythm and his steps are inconsistent and his head carriage gets more and more unsteady. He can't stay connected to the bit because there is no energy going to the bit; every time he does connect, he gets a bump on the mouth that tells him NOT to connect to the bit.

                            What is needed, is more forward energy going toward the bit, and the reins to be a little shorter (not to pull the neck in, but to make a connection possible) so the base of the neck can lift and a supple connection with the bit can develop; it takes a lot of forward energy to create that, plus a correct rein length.

                            It's done without pulling backwards to create the connection or hauling in the reins. The adjustment to rein length is just sufficient to give the horse a comfortable place to meet the bit.

                            It can't be done with the reins so long they hang down in a loop - if so, and the horse meets that bit where it is, he is more off balance, and he knows it.

                            Usually the instructor tries to correct the situation by telling the rider to shorten the reins. The rider resists, because of all those classical dressage books he's read, and the horse resists because he is in the habit of being ridden another way (horses can't read, all they know is what is familiar and what is easy). The instructor may get on the horse and immediately create that forward energy, so the connection is there and the head carriage and rhythm are steady with lifting of the base of the neck, but often he can't get the student to do same; the student has to both shorten the reins and get the horse to move actively forward and face the bit.
                            Last edited by slc2; Mar. 15, 2009, 07:59 AM.


                            • #15
                              Attractive horse. Energetic steps, but slightly rushed tempo at times. Rider has a tendency not to ride deep in the corners, thus not reaching some letters. Free walk has martch and clear rhythm, but lacks the steady continues stretch downwards. Horse's neck should be clearly pointing downwards thru the whole free walk, try to give a bit more rein and encourage your horse to stretch downward. Again, make sure to touch a corner letter for a crisp finish of the dressage movement. Accurate up transitions, but "Tranters" at first. Make sure to give clear aid for trot. Some moments of stiffening of the neck leading to the varied trot tempo. Rider didn't show 20m circle, needs to reach letters. Rider cut the first corner of the diagonal, smearing the geometry of that dressage movement. Obedient, steady, and active horse. Rider reached the end of the diagonal too early, thus full diagonal is never shown. Straight center line, but try to establish your halt for a bit longer immobility.

                              The highest collective score will be for impulsion. Horse has active steps and shows desire to go energetically forward. Be careful to keep the same tempo; do not speed up at times. The gait score will be about the same.

                              The lowest score will be for a rider b/c of the "effect of the aids": ride is not guiding her horse to the corners and not touching letters at the beginning or at the end of most of the movements. Unfortunately, the obedience score will also suffer since horse failed to follow clear movement geometry. Have to lower the obedience score in case that was a horse who didn't listen well enough to her rider to clearly reach/touch all of the letters.

                              Overall, diligent horse trying hard for his rider. Rider might benefit from an additional discipline of touching letters at the beginning and at the end of each movement directing her horse with clear aids. Keep at it!


                              • #16
                                There is no impulsion shown, so the highest score wouldn't be for impulsion; since the activity is insufficient, that would not get the best score. Quick short steps and varying rhythm do not indicate activity - or impulsion.

                                There is no impulsion to score at intro level, either.


                                • #17
                                  Jane would say don't worry about being on the bit quite yet, as the first elements of the training scale are RHYTHM and SUPPLENESS/RELAXATION. Once you're sure you have a rhythmic, supple horse, worry contact.

                                  In fact, in her training level clinics she quite often says "don't worry about what his head is doing."


                                  • #18
                                    I think you did wonderfully. I'd only make a few suggestions at this point.

                                    From a rider standpoint I would really have you focus on strengthening your leg and core. Being able to ride such a big horse with so much mass is not an easy task, and is far more difficult to hold together in 'dressage form' than a lighter, smaller horse would be. Your body is the strong center point and you need to use it to encourage your big horse to be a bit more upright in her movements. She is rather flat and appears "dull." She's lacking that expression and presence in her way of going. Ask her to use more of herself. Come forward, bring the back up, exaggerate the bending. Make her supple and break up the big body of hers. Very simple things make huge differences. Ask her to bend just her neck, ask for her shoulders, ask for her haunches. Learn to manipulate her body and play with it!

                                    Best of luck with her!


                                    • #19
                                      I don't agree that a big horse should require more strength. She's supposed to be carrying herself, not making you muscle her into it.

                                      I am betting the OP will find that getting her horse up off her forehand and carrying her head better is a matter of a) fitness on the horse's part, and b) using the right combination of aids and training a response to those aids.

                                      For what it's worth, OP, my guy will still happily let me carry his head around the arena for him. "What, you're doing the work today? Great! I was hoping for a day off!" But he's perfectly capable of holding it up with that big ol' neck of his, if I just ride correctly and invoke his training


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Ambrey View Post
                                        I don't agree that a big horse should require more strength. She's supposed to be carrying herself, not making you muscle her into it.
                                        No, no. Don't get me wrong, strength to muscle a horse is absurd. The strength is in support. As a rider on big horse its easy for them to toss you around a bit if they choose, pull you into a different position, or even cause your position to suffer just from trying to leg them on . A strong core of a rider allows for stability and therefore more consistent support for the horse.

                                        A horse should carry themselves, but a 4 year old needs support. She needs to be taught where to be and how to be there. As a draft cross she has a lot of body to control. It takes time. You have to show them the way, you wouldn't expect a kindergartner to teach themselves to read if no one took the time to explain the ABC's.