Dressage lesson with Claire McCormick @ CMC Equines – Session 1

I have decided to use my JLR Employee Learning Scheme vouchers (£200) on riding lessons this year – last year it was trailer towing…….  There were several equestrian centres in the ELS list, I phoned a few and settled with Claire McCormick at CMC Equine, she sounded very down to earth and trains to PSG level.  Claire was Head Girl and Chief Instructor at Windmill Riding Academy for 15 years, so I should be able to learn a lot; I hope her teaching methods suit me and we can get on.

Claire had me work Finn in while she assessed us, she said she really liked two things in particular:
1. We have a great partnership and we ‘get’ each other (although I do stage-manage too much and prop her up – especially on the left rein)
2. I am prepared to give the rein away in a loop (apparently many riders can’t or won’t – even when asked to).

Claire said that she wanted to change things drastically (yikes), but as we have a competition tomorrow she wouldn’t be too radical tonight!!  She said we have good basics, but the assessment threw out issues with submission and connection from back to front. These are the main things we worked on today.

She was pleased with the bit (Neue Schule Team-Up with a central lozenge) and impressed that I had removed the flash/drop noseband in favour of a plain cavesson.  She loosened the noseband and dropped it (although she said it was fitted correctly) so that Finn could not lean on it at all.

She said that Finn was very good and obedient off the leg.
Finn is straight – in fact too straight!  I need to get her more flexible through the body, around the inside leg.
Inside leg to outside hand – better on the left rein as I maintain a better contact with the outside (right) rein.  Not so good on the right rein as I give the left (outside) rein away too readily.
I DO have feel!! And we have a good half halt.
Finn is very trainable – but due to her age we need to get moving quickly.
Finn clever – but a liar!  She goes ‘prettily’ but I don’t really have her properly connected from back to front.

Work to do:
Finn’s lower jaw is stiff and needs to give: I must make the bit MINE.
Need more bend around the inside leg and to hold the outside rein so she gets confidence from this, this will give more uniform bend through the body.
Give the inside rein once she gives and softens as a reward.
Finn’s neck needs to be lllooonnngggeeerrr – make her stretch the trapezius. She has ‘con’ lines on her crest across the trapezius muscle.
Finn is (very slightly) croup high when she works; she uses this to control me, and used it to her advantage – this can be improved by correct training.
Finn needs to be stronger behind the saddle.
Her front legs need to go slower, the back legs need to catch up.
She doesn’t consistently over track but she clearly can – she has clever evasions which results in lack of submission and true connection.

I must pay careful attention to the rhythm and tempo, once or twice Finn crept faster, she doesn’t surge – she does this in a sneaky way, catching me out as before I know it we’re going like the clappers – I need to use the half halt to better effect. Timing is everything!
I need to feel like my saddle has had a re-flock – this comes from Finns back lifting under the saddle.
I need to get Finns inside hind (on both reins) to abduct: to move through and underneath her more.

Claire said that she doesn’t like coloured horses as a rule, but really liked Finn. She wasn’t ‘offended’ by her markings as she has four white legs and her back is white; giving the judge a better picture. Some markings can make a horse appear unsound if they’re too uneven.

White lipstick the aim in the mouth…. We got this.

We rode simple circles and rode leg-yield to a larger circle – using the outside rein to straighten from time to time – this worked really well and Finn responded immediately.

We did lots of changes of rein on the diagonal incline, but keeping the ‘old’ flexion until reaching the quarter marker. I must decide what happens and when!

Canter needs to be up-hill.  Think seat-leg-neck, seat-leg-neck as I’m riding each step.  I also need to be more definite with my outside leg asking for the canter transition.

Lunge work with BASE REINS (Side reins from the centre of the girth up through the bit – lunge line attached to the base rein.  This configuration does not allow the horse to lean on the rein, but does teach it to stretch forward.  Will give these a go!

I’m feeling really confident for the dressage competition at Allens Hill tomorrow – although I hope we both still have something left in the tank.  Today’s session was mega – but we’re both a bit tired (physically and mentally)!!