Dressage Lesson with Harry Payne @ Silsworth Lodge

We should have moved house by now and be settled in Warwickshire, but since I booked this lesson the house sale had fallen through, so I was in two minds as to whether to go ahead or not.

I’m really glad I decided not to cancel and to make the drive over to Crick – had a breakthrough lesson with Harry today!

Harry told me to do just the opposite of what I’ve been doing to date: to slow the tempo right down and re-balance. I had been told that I needed to get Finn much more forward.  But Harry broke it down for me, he said that I must get Finn steadier to help her confidence into the contact, and to balance from back to front rather than chasing her forward.  I need to build the foundations again – she has lost confidence in the contact since she had the problem with the split mouth and now she resists the hand a little and tightens against the leg.  She is a little stressy and tight – but once she gets into the work she can be lazy, so I really need to be flexible with my instructions to her…..  Harry said that during the warming up phase he didn’t mind her being a little behind the bit – this can be corrected later – but she must be straight.


I need to work on her straightness – to the right especially – where she curls round like a banana and gives me a false contact.  On the right rein, he asked me to put the reins into the left hand for a few strides and feel how much straighter she was.  We worked on a circle spiralling in and then leg-yielding out – correcting with half-halts as necessary – but without over-thinking things!  Then onto leg-yield from the 3/4 line.  Harry said that the leg-yield was nice.  Throughout the lesson Harry periodically asked me to give and re-take the reins to check self carriage, I should do this in my regular schooling sessions.  We did a lot of work in trot on a circle in the centre of the arena – to prevent Finn hanging to the fence.  Working on slowing the tempo and keeping my hands more up and in front of me – “shortening the reins but lengthening the arms” and then encouraging her to take the contact using the inside leg (you can see the idea behind the shortened reins but longer arms in the first photo – I look like a sack of spuds and my hands are low and close into my body, my elbows are bent too much and the reins are too long – if I can sit up more and carry my hands out in front of me with a shorter rein it will be a more balanced picture altogether, and Finn will be able to seek the contact more effectively).

Canter work – keeping to the same principles and the same exercises.  To the right – he made me close my eyes in the canter to help me feel how straight (or not) Finn was – this really helped.  I also rode for a few strides with the reins in the left hand again to put her straight.  Some mild counter-flexion work in both trot and canter is a good exercise for us.  Ride more transitions: canter-trot-canter.

Finn kept dropping out of the canter – Harry said to just kick her forward  – doesn’t matter if it’s ugly, she must respect the leg aid and not just drop behind me.


I need to ensure that I give Finn an instruction and then listen to her response – make a correction if necessary, but if the response is correct then stop asking.  Allow her to find the contact by ensuring I keep the hands up and in front of me – not wide and low as I have been…..  We did some more trot work = going in and out of sitting trot, and then riding trot-walk-trot transitions.  Then moving her more forward in the trot – towards medium, but maintaining the slower tempo and keeping the established rhythm, then back to the steady tempo working trot.

We finished off with some stretchy trot – ensuring I maintained a contact and didn’t just throw it away.

At the end of the lesson I asked Harry about her tack, especially the bit and noseband; he liked the bit but said that sometimes he thought that some of the resistance could have been against the noseband (she was in the drop), Harry suggested that I ride her in a plain cavesson to see how she responds.

Finn gave me some really lovely work today – a number of times I felt her lift under the saddle and in front of the whither – which felt awesome.

We finished about 4.30 and then Lynsey and I had a tour of the yard and a cup of tea in the kitchen, where we met Craig, who casually took an Albion Platinum ultima apart on the kitchen table…….

A good day!