Dressage Lesson with Claire McCormick @ CMC Equines (ELS #2)

A New Aid – “Using The Knee and Thigh”

Feisty today! Finn took a while to settle, I found it quite difficult to work her through it, as she was reluctant to relax in the neck and jaw – which meant she was not able to really work ‘through’.  We got there eventually, which got me to thinking – I wouldn’t probably have kept going at home….. Or would have got it completely wrong!  Claire’s advice was to give myself a time limit, keep going for 5 minutes and then do something different – in walk, perhaps some lateral work or counter flexion etc. then go back to it and try again.  We also must bring things right back under control – using the ‘trotty-on-the-spotty’ exercise.

I mentioned to Claire that I had been disappointed with our progress, I’m feeling that we should be improving more, given how well we perform during lessons – I’m clearly not riding the same at home.  Claire suggested that this was the difference between schooling and exercising – we school during the lesson, but I just exercise at home.  I need to ride 3 schooling sessions at home where Finn and I work much harder and really tackle the issues!

Once she did relax, I found that Finn was objecting to the leg aid, (she’s in season so v sensitive) so we tried something completely different and use the knee and thigh as an aid.  Twisting the leg inward from the hip, to almost flick the knee inwards.  Apparently a lot of top dressage riders use this, and wow, what a difference!!!!  I can get her really responsive to this aid by backing up with the stick when I apply the aid.  She was much more forward off the leg aid using this method – so much so that she actually left me behind a couple of times – so, when I apply, it I must be ready for it.

We are still working o having her deep and long in front for the majority of the schooling session, concentrating on stretching forward from the withers, working over her back and maintaining rhythm and tempo.  Getting much better at this – she’s less able to ‘con’ me these days!

We produced some fantastic work today. Using 10m loops with a switch back 10m circle at X. Serpentine with 10m circles in the loop touching the track, then Claire introduced me to a new exercise called The Butterfly (her own creation): Right rein – shoulder-in K to E, right incline to G then half 10m circle to H. Left rein- Shoulder-in H to E, left incline to D then half 10m circle to K. Start again….

We were much more correct in the shoulder-in element off the right rein than the left, so I must remember to move both hands to the left in the shoulder in left and to allow the left (inside) hind to come through. But we loved this exercise, I felt Finn was much lighter and more connected back to front.  When we worked in canter following this exercise she felt absolutely awesome: light and much more up in her shoulder, using the back end.  I was able to completely give the rein
away and she stayed soft and round and in the same rhythm. Love, love, love!!! Will work on perfecting this at home.

We finished off the lesson by going through a Novice type test – practicing the competition outline and riding some Medium trot across the long diagonal and down the long sides. Top tip here was to think shoulder-in through the turn as you ride onto the diagonal incline.  Really helped me to collect her and keep her between the leg and hand.

This was a real break through day today! I think we’ve moved another step forward…..