Looking back at my lesson video, I have some things that are on my mind.
First, I don’t like where my leg is. I think it’s too far forward. I used to ride Phil with my body very tilted forward to protect myself in case he bolted, and that made my leg slide too far back. Looking back at old videos of Phil really shows how far back I was letting my leg go just by leaning forward and tilting my pelvis. A few months ago when I was finally able to sit down on him and use my seat and really ride, my leg came naturally forward as I lost the tilt in my pelvis. However, now I think it’s too far forward. I didn’t notice this when I was just looking in the mirror and riding. It took the video of the lesson for me to really see what was going on there.
Second, what’s the deal with my left hand? I had such a bad issue with my whole right side before, with it scrunching up, lifting my hand and shoulder, and being tight. I finally worked on that enough to fix it, but now I’ve left the left side go. Damn if that little booger didn’t teach me to let go of the left rein. I think he prefers if I just hang on to the right rein and leave the left side to him.
Lastly, my trainer brought up the point that I should be riding him with a whip. Not to punish him, but to use it as an aide (like it’s meant to be used) when my leg just isn’t enough. I had avoided the whip because it made him so anxious due to his past experiences with whips, but looking at the video I see that my trainer is right. He is very lazy with the haunches in the leg yields and if I was able to tap him on the haunches it would get him to move off my leg much easier.
Of course, now that I’ve identified these three issues, I can think about nothing else but fixing them. I’m trying to pull my lower leg back, but I also need to be aware that my seat doesn’t get tense and tight at the same time. That’s really hard to do! Just the effort of pulling my lower leg back automatically makes me tense up to try and work HARDER, and that’s not going to get me anywhere.
Also I’m making Phil accept the contact on the left rein. I noticed after the lesson that every time I asked for the trot from the walk, I was dropping my left rein and grabbing the right. Exactly like Phil wants me to. When I hold onto that left rein he gets really fussy, and that why I probably started releasing it to begin with. So now I hold onto it, and when he fusses I keep a hold of it and continue to push him into my hand. It’s easier going to the right, because then I can bend him right and use my inside leg to push him to the left rein that I’m now holding on to. But going to the left is harder, since I don’t want to grab the left rein too much and overbend him.
To make things even more interesting, I’ve gone and added the whip. I’ve been riding with the whip every day since my lesson. Phil is really handling it well, but sometimes I feel like I have that horse back that I had two years ago. If I accidentally tap him, or if he swishes his tail and the tail makes the whip tap him, he gets SO anxious all over again.
So, if you take into consideration me changing my seat and my left rein contact, and then you add in a nervous horse, my rides have been pretty challenging. I get the feeling though that Phil will get over this fairly quickly. Well, quickly in relation to the two years it took him to finally be really a rideable dressage horse. I suspect in a month or so he will be much more used to the whip, which will make it much easier for me to change my seat and hand(s) like I need to.
Oh, did I mention that I took him off of the SmartCalm Ultra? Yeah, I did that a few weeks ago. He was actually feeling a little lazy at times so I decided he didn’t need it anymore. Depending on how well he handles the whole whip thing I may decide to put him back on it for a week or two. I have a tub of it, so I don’t need to change up my SmartPaks. I can just have the feeders add it in for the short-term. They are pretty good at that sort of thing, which is great.
The good news? I think I’m getting better with my legs and left hand, and I think that just having the whip available makes the leg yields a hundred times better. I know that it’s hard for Phil too, so I’m being very patient and giving him lots of reassurance. But as a dressage horse he’s going to have to accept the whip as an aide. I guess we’d better start working on that now before the first winter schooling show.
Which, by the way, I’m SO excited to show this horse again! He’s so much better now than he was last year, I just can’t wait!