Friday, January 18, 2013

Dressage Lesson (or - oh yeah, I bought a dressage horse..)

After the hospital pickup I zoomed back to the barn, cleaned up the Big Mare, and then was off with a fellow boarder to a much needed Dressage lesson at the same barn where Denali's Mom spent some of her happier horse days.
blurry still from our outing
I had visited the Farm with DM once before to peek in on a passage/piaffe clinic and to pat some pony noses but I hadn't had the pleasure of a lesson with her trainer up there before.  Lucky for me a new boarder at our barn used to board at DM's barn with her previous horse so she organized an afternoon of lessons for us and I happily hauled our beasts up there.

Everything that DM said about this facility is true.  The horses are big (and pretty), the riders are great and the primary trainer (aside from being OBSCENELY preggers) is lovely, supportive and kind.  She's also bad ass.

In my experience a lot of DQ's have egos to match their horses giant, lofty stride and there tends to be a division between those-who-ride-in-the-hallowed-double and those-who-do-not.

Thankfully, neither of those plagues seem to have much of a hold at this facility and I was welcomed warmly into the ring in my snaffle even with some serious horse power zooming around in their doubles finishing up lessons.  Dare I say two of those riders even stuck around to watch us warm up and had praise for my, less than collected, slightly distracted, a bit on her forehand mare.   Nothing puts me more at ease in a new facility that pleasant, complimentary natives... but I digress.

Prairie was actually a pretty good girl.  Our first victory of the day was loading (and unloading!) without a second set of hands.  I've been trying to get more practiced at not needing a second person to help shut the butt bar, and yesterday was the first time we managed all on our own.  We had support if we needed it, but we didn't! It was great.

The second success was Prairie's total willingness to munch her hay tied to the trailer with absolutely no drama about looking around.

The third success was a fabulous lesson, which is really the only one worth talking about - so here goes.

Since lessons were a little late I had the luxury was walking around the indoor for about 20 minutes before we got to work.  Prairie had plenty of time to scope things out, eyeball scary corners and relax.  She was calm and swinging in about 5 minutes.  When we did go to work, she was focused and obedient, but a bit tense in her neck and back.

Working on that tension and trying to unlock it were the focus of the rest of the lesson (along with straightness, esp in the canter). 

We warmed up at the trot spiraling in, then focusing on exaggerating the inside bend and leg yielding the haunches out.  Prairie likes to cheat her haunches in (unloading the inside hind) and for the most part I let her get away with it.  Maintaining the bend then scooting the haunches out (but not switching to counter bend) really got her to step under and drop her hip.  We could only maintain it for a stride or two but it was MAGICAL.

It was also confusing for poor Prairie because we've schooled the tweedle out of her canter transitions so bending her, half halting for balance then adding leg was bit fat punch on the canter button as far as she was concerned.  It took a while for her to accept an "over" button and to yield her haunch, but we got it.  We also don't really have video of that part but we do have the "before."

It was an effective exercise for us.  Easier to the left than right in both the trot and canter, but we made progress both directions.

Our canter work was also productive.  Prairie showed off our new "contained" canter but didn't really want to full relax and step up.  It is light years better than our old canter (which was tricky to take down a long side).  And the fact that I could manage her in a new location without a martingale and without any big spooks was spectacular.

Here's a longer clip of our canter work. Moments of nice-ness, but lots to work on (SHORTEN MY $@#%  &@$ REINS!).  We were working on trying to maintain the bend through my transitions.  Prairie likes to tense, straighten (in the not actually "straight" relative to our track way) and then lurch into the transition.  The theme of the day was that I need to increase my demands with regard to her transitions.  Just getting them done without freaking out is no longer good enough.  Time to engage the abs (hers, not mine, although I should work on mine too).


  1. Prarie is so dreamy to watch, you are so lucky!

  2. I know I've said this before: But I just LOVE reading this blog! You write in just the perfect, yet boring-less detail that I crave when it comes to horse-blogging. I'm learning so much from just reading about you and your girls; and you make me that much more excited to get back into English riding come fall semester! Thanks so much. ^.^

  3. Awe shucks- thank you! Glad my stream-of-consciousness jives with yours too! The girls certainly provide plenty of material!!

  4. Glad you had a nice lesson- and loved the post about the featherlite family - if only all of us could be so lucky! :)


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