Let’s be honest, I have not been riding a ton lately. In fact, yesterday’s lesson was our 4th ride in 3 weeks. My rides have been short and light, and to be honest, May seems to be benefiting from a bit of a break. You know what hasn’t been benefiting though? My riding.
After Megan’s post regarding leaving points on the table by not maxing out your rider score (read it here), I started taking a much more critical view of my own rider scores. You know what my rider position got last year? a 6.5… both times out. Ouch. My rider effectiveness was… also not super strong. That’s…. a good amount of points that I am leaving on the table that has 0 to do with the quality of horse I am riding. (Submission is a work in progress and requires times where May does not just flip me the hoof and try to take over…)
So let’s fix that! I started thinking really critically about my riding. This process is hampered by two things:
- I get almost no media of myself in a Dressage saddle. Easy enough to fix, I actually have a stand for my cambox and it would be easy enough to set up and record myself.
- While we have mirrors in the indoor, I don’t ride with my glasses and my vision is not good enough to actually see myself in them. Mayyyybe I should try riding in my glasses every once in a while.
Both of these are fairly easy fixes and something I really do want to concentrate on… also… any rider position/dressage specific books out there that anyone recommends? The truth is, I don’t know the subtleties of Dressage position like I know equitation… since it’s just not my background. Suggestions appreciated!
So before my lesson last night, I got May warmed up, on the contact, and pushing well from behind. Then when my lesson started, Mandy asked me, as she always does, “what do you want to work on today?”
My response? “I am doing… something… at the canter. I don’t know what it is but it is bad.” How did I know this? because my canter TRANSITIONS have been improving, but the quality of canter I get AFTER the transition isn’t holding the quality of the transition. Typically, you have a crap canter because you have a crap transition. I knew this wasn’t the case, so I was doing something AFTER the transition to screw things up.
So Mandy had us start on a 20M circle and set up a transition exercise. She would count to 8 and on every 8 count I could do a transition between trot and canter. The objective was to get good transitions and then carry the canter just long enough to spot the issue. Transition down. Reestablish balance, connection, bend, rhythm, etc etc etc, back to the canter with the “fix” in place. Rinse and repeat.
Luckily, the transitions were a lot better. The connection was a touch funky (I might switch her back to a plain KK loose ring instead of the baucher for a bit). Buuuuuut I was totally the problem. Instead of staying square through my body and moving May off my right leg with my calf and weighting my right seat bone… I was COMPLETELY COLLAPSING on my right side. Like, actively engaging my obliques to bring my rib cage to my hip… Fun fact, this is not how you encourage your horse to bend… or step under with their hind end. ugh. So we fixed that and… things improved IMMEDIATELY. The left was better than the right (since I was collapsing to the right in both directions… like a genius).
So them we moved to the same exercise but on the quarter lines vs. on a circle. Interestingly, the transitions to the right were better (yay not collapsing), but to the left, when she got a bit tired, she started swinging her haunches out on the transition. The first time I corrected this, the correction was met with a bit of dramatics, and a 5 paragraph essay on why we can’t do down transitions both straight and on the contact. The try AFTER that correction? Much better.
Moral of the story? Be definitive with your position, your line, and your aids. New goals: get more feedback on my position (video, mirrors, etc), be more definitive in my dressage rides, and start legging the horse up again.