Keep It Simple, Stupid.
This is my new mantra. My local dressage instructor asked me after my lesson last night if I had any questions.
"Yeah, how am I supposed to go from riding this advanced horse to my guy who's barely at training level?"
You see, I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly what I should be expecting my boy to be capable of right now. I'm having a hard time figuring out what exercises I can do that will make him work without trying to push him too far out of his capabilities. I'm feeling like I need a therapist instead of an instructor.
Fortunately for me, I have a multitude of riches when it comes to dressage instructors. You may know that in addition to my local trainer, I also do video lessons with Katie. This is an incredible service that she offers to people like me that don't have a horse trailer and live far, far away from her. So far she's been the only "eyes on the ground" to help me with Coriander's training.
I asked her about the exercise I wrote about in my last post- the walking shortening and extensions- and she instantly nixed the shortening, saying the risk of ruining his walk was too high, but that it was safe to try the extensions. Well, they haven't been going that well and I've been getting worried/frustrated. He doesn't understand the concept of extension, he just trots when I add leg (my local instructor thought that was great because it shows that he's responsive to my aids- she also reminded me that it takes a year to teach a horse to use his back correctly). So now I'm concerned that I'm just confusing the hell out of my horse. In other words, I've been freaking out.
What I normally do when I'm freaking out about horse related stuff is turn to Google, so I went looking for proper exercises for training level horses and I found this:
Oh yeah, because I'm learning about impulsion with the friesian right now. It made me realized that there's a huge gap in my education, Katie is busy trying to teach me about rhythm while the local instructor put me on a horse that's four steps up. I'm missing the bits about relaxation and connection. And thus my confusion.
This is good, that knowledge makes me feel a bit better about myself, but it doesn't really help me with where to go with Coriander. And then I remember (another face-palm moment) that Katie already told me exactly what to do, I just had to open up her last lesson and refresh my memory:
- use cavaletti to encourage Coriander to stretch over his topline
- ask from prompter departs and transitions, focusing on rhythm and not letting him peter out
- fine tune the box exercise focusing on turn on the forehand in motion and keeping him straight between the corners
- use circles to get him to pick up the correct canter lead
- use gentle jaw flexions to get him to relax when I feel him brace his neck
- take up stronger contact to help him balance
- work on leg yield at the trot