Tuesday, March 6, 2012


As you may have seen in earlier posts, I once upon a time took dressage lessons, and it's certainly something I want to incorporate into Starbuck's training once we have a good solid walk-trot-canter-halt going on.  So when the folks at my stable announced that we were going to start having monthly dressage clinics with my friend Virginia's dressage teacher Daniela (yeah, the girl who sold me my saddle), I was really excited.  But I had a little problem - Starbuck and I are still working on walking in a straight line and turning more or less on my cues and the clinic was going to be dedicated to making the perfect circle.

So I asked Marina if I could borrow a grown up horse for the clinic and we decided on Compay, the gelding I used to ride in my lessons before I acquired Starbuck.  I have a real soft spot for this horse although he can certainly be challenging to ride - he was ridden far too hard with double reins and a heavy hand at some point in his training before Marina bought him and he can be extremely nervous about contact with the bit.  He also falls a bit out of balance when he canters which often leads to him swinging his head around and trying to run away.  But he tries really hard, has a sweet disposition and is lovely to ride when he's not freaking out.

We started the clinic sitting indian-style in the arena talking about circles and Daniela gave us a little booklet with some visual aids to get us thinking about straightness, impulsion and "curvature" (not sure if this is a real word- whatever the horse does when he curves his neck slightly to look to the interior of the circle).  Then we were split into groups of four or five where we worked on 20, 15 and 10 meter circles as well as a couple of figures of eight, with Dani coaching us the whole time.

It was much harder than I thought it would be- I'm really out of shape after so many months without riding regularly- and Compay and I had a little bit of a trainwreck when we first tried to canter to the left.  But after seeing the video I don't think I did TOO badly and we had a lovely little canter to the right with even a little collection.  It was funny, Daniela said afterward that she could see the moment about 10 minutes into the class when I changed from "filly-seat" to regular seat.  Anyway here's the video of some of the most instructive moments of the class (it really lasted about 30 minutes but I figure I need to start making these shorter).

And here are Daniela's notes (she was good enough to write them down for us in our little booklet):

  • Seat: Be careful, don't stick your butt out or you'll hurt your back.
  • Hands: Keep about a 90º angle to your elbows, if you stretch your arms out the contact will be harsh.
  • Very good attitude and curvature of your horse.

No comments: