Getting the chance to take a dressage lesson has been on my goals list for a while and I can finally say that last weekend I finally made it happen.
A while back I had happened upon the blog of Elise Rich who has a training business as Pearl Classical Dressage. It turns out that Elise doesn’t live far from me. After reading her blog and following her on facebook I started thinking that she would be a good person for me to try a dressage lesson with. Well of course I got this idea right before she left to go on her epic trip to Vienna so that held things up followed by show season. I figured there was no way Stamp could handle the work he was doing over fences once a week and attempt to work on dressage so I waited until after we were done and ready to take a break from jumping for the year.
So a week ago today Elise came out to the barn and got to meet this big weirdo (and Mr P) and give us a lesson. I will say that it’s been a long time since I’ve had a lesson where not only did I take lots of notes after but I ended up with lots of new homework. Love that!
We started off by working on an exercise of forming a triangle at the walk where the corners are a moving turn on the forehand. I found that I really wanted to bring that outside hand over the neck but if I kept my hand low as Elisa suggested I was much more effective at keeping his outside shoulder from escaping. This exercise was great for getting Stamp responding to my aids, focusing, and helped get him loosened up.
Next we started working at the trot, thinking about keeping the hind end active and my hands forward (I really just want to hold his face sometimes, argh). We then did several exercises at the trot, including doing just a few collected steps while continuing to post the trot then going back to a forward trot again. I struggle a bit sometimes getting a collect response off my seat, mostly because I like to slouch and roll my shoulders forward when I’m being soft so I’m not sitting enough on him to really make a difference.
Next we worked on a spiral in and out exercise. This is something I would have thought I had done before, but Elise had me doing it with a counter bed and essentially a leg yield going in then correct bend and leg yield back out. I felt like Stampede was actually pretty good at this from the start and he really got nice and soft. Lastly, we worked on sending him forward and really getting him to stretch down. It’s funny because I would feel like my hands were forward then Elise would tell me to give an inch more and his whole body would change. It is amazing how much such a small change can make a huge difference!
We did do some canter work as well but Stamp really struggled, I think we wore him out at the trot! We pretty much ended up just trying to get me to sit more so he would get under himself more and using a quick left right left on the reins to try to stop him from laying on my hands. There were a few good moments here and there but certainly not what he is capable of.
A few other notes on items that I learned in this lesson that I haven’t mentioned elsewhere:
- Give with hands for upward transition to canter – transition was much more crisp
- 10 meter circle to get his brain back when he starts considering spooking or rushing
- To help get heels down, particularly on the right, bring leg back slightly to help lengthen the leg vs just pushing on the stirrup
The following photo series is actually from my lesson today, but I wanted to share it (even though I’m slouching, argh) just to show how much little changes effect the movement.
I’m really looking forward to getting more dressage lessons in over the next few months!