Dressage Lesson with Claire McCormick @ CMC Equines (ELS #1)

We’re back in Jaguar Land Rover ELS season again, so I’m using my allowance towards the next few lessons. This is ELS session #1

I was really keen for Claire to assess me in the Albion revelation dressage saddle – Claire agreed that it fitted Finn beautifully, but was concerned about the knee roll for my long legs – however, she adjusted my stirrups (down) and was happy – Yippee!  I have a new saddle!

So – on to work…..  I gave a review of the last couple of competitions, judge’s comments etc.  And as we were working in we came up with a plan for the lesson: “Submission with Active Hind Quarters” and “Adjusting with Confidence”.

Submission with Active Hind Quarters

The next stage of our progression is to ensure that I can have Finn active behind and working through her back – maintaining the balance, rhythm and submission in the jaw – WITHOUT THE CONCERTINA IN HER NECK.  Lifting from the shoulders – not just her head/poll.  Claire says she is a very good con artist: when she’s working behind she often draws her neck back (denoted by the wrinkles in the first 1/3 of her neck from the withers forward).  Or, we can go long and submissive in front – but often lose the activity coming truly ‘through’ from behind.  So, I’ve never really got her!  The next stage in our development is to get it all going on at the same time – longer and softer in front, with activity coming up and through from behind, lifting through the shoulders and maintaining her own balance……  So we now need to put a bit more pressure on to move onto the next stage to achieve the front and the back end connection!

After warming up, we worked on a circle – obtaining the submission in front first – being careful to stretch out the first 1/3 of her neck and adjusting her deep from time to time to get her elastic and flowing.  Controlling the wither and the front legs – making sure that the bend is uniform.  I need to stretch her deep to iron out the wrinkles and then ride her into it – so she must be attentive to the leg aid.  I did lose her behind and the engine switched off – I used the dressage whip just behind my leg to prevent me kicking – a reaction to the leg is very important.  As expected, as I got the back end working, I lost the front…..  She lifted her poll – not her shoulders, therefore the wrinkles came back.  We did lots of half halts to get her to sit on her hocks more – revving the engine and taking a ‘pro-active’ contact.  She was much better with a stronger, more pro-active contact through the hand and rein (maybe she’s a bit like Valegro – hahaha)!!!  I need to think “knees up Mother Brown” as when she is working through properly, she lifts her wither, shoulder and the knees work a bit higher. We worked again on pushing the rhythm and the tempo – but without me completely abandoning her in front!!!  I was able feel her lighten and I could lift my hands, she automatically lightened in the hand and lifted her poll without getting the dreaded wrinkles – RESULT!  This is what I need to be working on as my homework.  Finn’s trot was better to the left at first today, but this work vastly improved the canter on both reins.

Adjusting with Confidence

I tend to get a bit ‘stuck’ when Finn is going well and I don’t shorten the reins or put my leg on etc. as it will ‘upset’ her.  I NEED TO STOP THIS BEHAVIOUR in myself!  At Whitfield BE on Wednesday Finn had a bit of a hoppy section and an unrequired canter step because I shortened my rein and put my leg on the prepare for the next movement.  She has a knack of “telling the world” exactly what I’m doing!!  I must do more of this at home – when she’s going well I need to shorten and lengthen the rein, adjust the rhythm and tempo and put my leg on and expect her to accept it!  So – this should be a fairly easy fix – I just need to make all the mistakes at home and get her used to me making changes without getting uptight about it.

We walked around on a long rein and relaxed and talked about the lesson for 5 mins.  Claire then asked me to pick her up and ride a Novice style test to ensure she responded well to working in a more competition outline.  I made up a test which included 10m loops, serpentines and counter canter inclines. The plan is I do this in at the end of every schooling session.

I felt much more able to sit up straight, thus helping Finn to move the weight from front to back – it will probably take a little time to re-train my body and my balance, but having a saddle which helps rather than hinders will make all the difference!