Today was lesson day, so I took 600 mg ibuprofen about an hour before my ride. I try not to take ibuprofen too often because if I take it regularly it starts to hurt my tummy. But once in awhile seems to be okay, and I really needed to be able to not only get through the lesson but be able to work to my full potential.
By the time I got to the barn my abs were feeling better. I tacked up and headed to the arena. It was hot, hot, hot today, but for the most part heat doesn't bother me. I'm not saying that I wasn't sweaty, because I was damp even before the real work started. However I deal with heat much better than I deal with cold. I seem to be able to cool off pretty effectively, but once I get cold in the winter it's really hard for me to warm up. So while I was hot I really wasn't miserable.
I started walking to warm up and asked how Kaswyn did on turnout. Again, even though he was right next to another horse, he was screaming. He did a little better today, but still had to come in early. Tomorrow they are putting him in a different turnout to see if he does any better. It's so frustrating that he has to be this way. But it's only for a few more days and then we'll be home, so he'll just have to deal.
We started today's lessons checking on the things we worked on the last lesson. Since I had done my homework my trainer was able to say almost immediately that Kaswyn was straighter today. She checked our rhythm and straightening exercises at the trot, then watched as we did the shoulder fore counter flexion exercise at the canter. She was really pleased at how much he had improved in just a few days, and I was happy that she could see the results.
The rest of this post is kind of technical boring dressage talk. There are some videos at the end, so if you want to skip the boring parts and just watch my horse I fully understand.
The main thing we seem to need work on is a better connection and more throughness over his back. I realize that this is a very common problem for many dressage riders, but I have to say that now, finally, at this point in my riding I'm able to feel the difference. And I really believe with all my heart that it's because of my saddle. I wish I had this saddle and level of feel ten years ago. I can't imagine how Kaswyn would be going now had I been able to ride correctly back then.
Anyway, now that I've started actually riding my horse and not treating him like he were a delicate snowflake, I can feel when he's not as connected to my hand as I'd like. He seems to want to break the connection more when going to the left at the trot. I don't notice it much at the canter. He is certainly more comfortable trotting to the right and that might be part of the reason that he's hesitant to connect, or just can't maintain it. I think as he gets stronger that it will be less of an issue, so we'll just keep working at it.
After the warm up and checking my homework, my trainer wanted to work on connection and getting the hind legs more active. We worked on shoulder in at the trot and she had me think passage with the hind legs. Below is a video of the shoulder in right. Kaswyn is stepping quite nicely with the hind legs and he looks pretty good.
Then we worked on the half pass at the trot. For non-dressage people, half pass is a movement where the horse is traveling both forwards and sideways. The body of the horse is kept in a straight line and the horse moves diagonally. The horse's body should be bent in the direction that he's going, so that his head is turned towards his path. The shoulders should be slightly in front of the haunches, which means that the horse should not lead with the rear end, but with the shoulders. Also, the haunches should not trail too far behind the shoulders and should be almost in line with them.
Here is half pass left, which also turned out pretty decent.
Here are two videos of half pass right. They are taken from different angles, and the first one looks fairly good.
In this second one you can see my hands and yikes! What am I doing with my right hand? It's all curled and I'm carrying my right shoulder high and tight. My trainer mentioned it early in the lesson and now I see how bad it is even though I tried to concentrate on relaxing it and letting it fall down from my neck. You can also see me lose the connection and Kaswyn get uneven right before I cluck to him. This is why I love to video a lesson! I need to see these issues so that I can have a mental picture of what I need to work on when I'm alone.
We then worked on the half pass zig zag. A zig zag is when you half pass one way, then change the bend and half pass the other direction. Our big challenge with this movement is to keep the connection during and after the change of bend. Also sometimes Kaswyn will let the haunches trail and just as I'm fixing it it's time to change directions.
Here is out first zig zag. He loses impulsion a bit right before the end when returning to the wall, but all in all it's not terrible. Just average.
Zig zag #2 is not as good. He loses connection after the change and then loses impulsion to boot. And you can see my right hand acting dumb again. Yuck.
Now for the worst one. Our last zig zag is a mess pretty much from start to finish. He is not connected at all during the whole movement, except right after I say "Good boy." I had to cluck to him and say "Come! Come!" towards the end because he was really dying on me and wasn't using himself at all. If you care to compare it to the first zig zag, you'll see that in the first one he is stepping nicely under his body with his hind legs, and has a nice bounce and suspension. This last one shows his rear legs out behind instead of reaching under the body. He's also flat behind and not pushing off the ground like he should be, and is even dragging his toes a bit. Certainly not our best effort.
I have tomorrow to work on my own, and then it's another lesson on Wednesday. I'm going to get serious about this right shoulder/arm/hand thing. It's just incorrect and it's got to stop! I'm sure it's effecting my horse. Also we are going to continue to work on connection and rhythm.
Now I'm tired, and I'm going to bed!