I have three things to talk about. I'll start with the easy one - some things that I have learned from Lee.
During my last lesson on Lee with my trainer, she pointed out that I was riding crooked. That I was up off of my right seatbone, my right shoulder was up and forward, and that I was raising my right hand.
Since then I'm been concentrating on trying to fix this issue. I found that I'm much better at the trot - it's the canter that gets me twisted and not centered. I had to finally get a mental picture in my head of what I wanted to try and accomplish.
Lee is stiff side is to the right, which means he is less apt to bend around my right leg, and he is more likely to blow off my right leg if it's not doing it's job. When he was going to the right, on the right lead, I need to make sure my right leg is down and steady and that my right seatbone and leg are there to help drive him forward on the inside and keep his right hind active. To work on this I just kept thinking "your right seat bone and inside leg are the gas pedal, keep them down so you can use them to keep his impulsion". With some practice this seemed to work very well.
To the left is Lee's hollow side, which means that he wants to curl around my left leg and shove his right shoulder out to the right. This direction I need to make sure my right seatbone and leg are there to control the shoulder and create a barrier for him. If I'm up off my right seatbone and my right leg is not effective, that causes me to work too hard and my right hand comes up. Then I've totally lost control of his entire right side. To fix this, I had to keep repeating to myself "Right seat and leg need to be there to give him someplace to go, be there for him, provide support, and then use that support to keep him from drifting right". This also seems to have worked quite well.
I've also talked before about how I've had to make sure I follow Lee's head/mouth with my hands to keep a constant contact. He's such a big mover, especially at the canter, that if I keep my hands static the reins will go slack-tight-slack-tight and he gets upset about coming against my hand. I really have to let my hands go forward and back, keeping my elbows loose and flexible and the contact the same. This makes him so much happier and keeps the contact much more consistent.
The last few times I've ridden Kaswyn I started to use this following technique. I never realized just how static my hands were on my own horse until I started to let them follow the motion of the horse. This is such a huge piece of the puzzle that I really didn't totally understand until reading an article in Dressage Today. Courtney King-Dye wrote a sidebar about it in a recent issue (April 2011).
I'll try and get a link to the article, since of course I can't find that particular issue anymore so I can't even quote the parts that I'm referring to. It's a great article and I think everyone should read it. Actually, if you don't get Dressage Today you really should subscribe. It's got fantastic information for all dressage riders.
Part 2 - The emotions of last weekend's dressage show