Beginning Dressage - Run into Problems

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Beginning Dressage - Run into Problems

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    05-17-2012, 03:38 PM
Beginning Dressage - Run into Problems

Enzo and I have been some problems with our dressage. But by dressage, I'm talking very basics. We've been doing dressage for about 2 months and before that he was a race horse... So really neither of us had any background on dressage before. Currently we're working on self-carriage, transitions, and simple lateral movement (spiralling and leg yields mostly).

I will say I have a lovely instructor, who was on the German Young Rider team a couple years back (so she is definitely a wonderful rider) and we work very well together.

I would love to get some feedback and hear some exercises that might help us. Again, we're just working on the basics.

1. Straightness - When I first started to ride him, he was soooo straight. Too straight - and stiff. So we've worked on suppling him and getting him to bend around my inside leg. But now we've run into the problem that he won't move straight. I know this is something I'm doing wrong (as are probably all these problems). What should I do to help him move straight? Oh and its not while he is tracking on the rail and doing figures - its just centerline and quarterlines.

2. Tripping - Okay I think I know the cause for this, but when he's moving in a frame and I ask him for a transition (this happens more often in downward transitions) he ends up tripping. It's not a real trip, more just that he gets his feet tangled up. He is able to hold himself in a frame still, but his feet fall out. And this doesn't worry me very much, as it happens probably once every ride, so not a big deal, but I'd hate to have it happen in the dressage test.

3. Right Lead Canter - His left lead canter has gotten beautiful. He is able to sit back on his hind end and move forward and fluidly. He naturally holds his head well and uses his neck. He lets me sit deep and wrap my legs around him. But right is another story. When I bought him, he was unable to correctly canter on the right lead. So I'm not expecting it to be as good as his left, but I want it to be better than it is right now. He won't let me sit down on his back until I let him do a long and loose (and faster paced) canter in a half-seat. (I always warm him up long and low, stretchy W/T/C with a light seat, but he requires much more of this for the right side.) Even then, I have to have a lighter seat right than left. When he canters right, he feels a little unbalanced. He doesn't move straight (its like his hind is trailing about a foot to the left). Overall, his canter isn't bad. It's far better than a lot of horses I've been working with. But I still feel like it should be better.

4. Dreaded OTTB Camel - It. Has. Returned. And I hate it. When I first got him, we spent tons of time working on stretchy walks and trots, lifting his back to avoid the whole head up-hallowed back-short strided-choppy stuff. It actually pretty much went away! But all of a sudden (now that I've started showing him some) he keeps getting really excited. When he gets excited (usually when we are trotting after a downward transition from the canter - when he wants to keep cantering), he loses his frame for a sec. We're able to get the frame back easily, and as we trot more he realizes that we are trotting and not cantering. Then he is able to stay in his frame.

Thank you guys for any help or feedback you can give! I understand that all these things are probably my fault, so I would love to hear what I can do differently. Please don't reccomend anything too challenging because we are both new to dressage. And on that note, explaining is always good to make sure I understand haha.

Thanks! I'll see if I can dig out a video that shows some of these things. If not, I'll get some on Friday.

Here are some pictures.
First week:
Dressage 1.JPG

After first month:

After second month:
Dressage 4.JPG

And then these are all recent (after 3 months):



Good Canter.jpg

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    05-17-2012, 07:11 PM
I'm of no real help here (sorry!) but I will say that you can see a nice progression with both his movement (reaching and stretching) and muscle tone (nice neck and back) from week one to month three so you're clearly doing something right!

Also - are you quite tall as you look so long and lean to match your horse.
    05-17-2012, 07:20 PM
Thank you! We've been working really hard to build up his topline and in result he's become a much nicer mover and a much happier (and bolder!) horse.
Yeah haha. I'm 5'10" at the moment :)
He's only 15.3hh but I like the little-r guys better myself.
    05-17-2012, 09:44 PM
He looks like a lovely horse that you will enjoy for many years to come :)

Your coach has you on the right track so I won't add much.
The tripping will be because he's on the forehand still, if he's on his front legs and not balanced, he'll trip.
Try to think about riding the shoulders 'up' instead of stretching him forward and down. Its good for them to be able to stretch, but it is actually easier for a green horse to engage it's hind legs and 'sit', if it is carrying the neck a little higher. Only when the hindquarters are appropriately strong, should we have the horse working low - it's actually a very strenuous exercise for the horse, staying engaged while working low at the same time.

When he gets excited, tightens and wants to run around like a camel, I suggest that you try leg yielding him, with overbend to the inside, on a circle. Keep your outside rein (hold the saddle cloth with your outside hand if needed) and quietly ask for the head to come around a little more to the inside, while bending him around your inside leg and pushing him off it. Leg yielding with bend is great for re-establishing a connection and getting their brain back together for a green horse. If the horse has been taught shoulder in, I will use shoulder in on a circle instead of leg yield. But for now, leg yield will work just fine ;)

Straight lines are REALLY hard. I don't ride straight lines on green horses at all, bar the occassional short diagonal or short side of the arena. I do all of my training on a curved line, then test my work on a straight line. Straight lines test the training, curves DO the training.
Remember that when the horse goes crooked, you need to move the shoulders in line with the hips, rather than riding the hips to match the shoulders. So if he swings he quarters to the left (like my new horse -it drives me crazy!) ride slight shoulder fore on the left rein to bring the shoulders in line with the quarters, and strengthen the quarters on that rein.
Forward also goes hand in hand with straight. If the horse will not travel forward into a steady contact while on a circle figure, you won't get a straight horse riding a CL or QL. Work on keeping a steady and even contact in walk, trot and canter while on curved lines, getting the horse evenly balanced on both left and right reins, before trying to ride straight lines.

For his canter - does he lunge? I'd be getting him on the lunge a couple of times a week, in side reins, and building up his balance without a rider on his back. Drive him forward and allow him to find his own balance on the lunge, and in doing this his back and hind quarters will become stronger and more able to carry you.
Under saddle, make sure you only canter him on a circle at this stage - as I said above, straight lines are very difficult if you need to train something. Keep off his back as you are doing, and ride him forward. Keep an elastic contact with his mouth, and allow him to go forward. Avoid cantering more than one 20m circle at a time - in canter once a horse loses balance and lands on the forehand, its very difficult to correct. So putting in a lot of transitions to trot will help the horse to maintain his balance. You can also try a light leg yielding exercise as I suggested above for the trot. Push him off your outside leg until you're on an approx. 15-17m circle. Then gradually yield him back off your inside leg into your outside hand. This exercise has helped my horse immensely in his canter balance. When I got him only 5 weeks ago he'd been out of work for 12 months and cantered around on his front legs, balancing on his neck. Spiralling on the circle with multiple trot-canter-trot transitions has enabled him to develop a huge amount of jump in the canter, and he is now confident and getting stronger in taking weight behind. His canter has become quite uphill, in only a few weeks of this type of work.
    05-17-2012, 09:50 PM
Thank you so much! That helped a lot! I'll be sure to try some of these things when I go riding tomorrow. And thank you for taking the time to write that :) I've been trying to read up and learn about dressage, but a lot went right over my head haha. You explained it really well!
    05-17-2012, 10:11 PM
Glad I could help :)
And let us know how he goes, he seems like a really lovely horse.
    05-18-2012, 11:38 AM
I can't claim to be any professional, but it seems to me like you may be carrying your hands a bit lower, wider, and flatter than might be ideal, and this may contribute to some of your challenges.

If you look up successful dressage riders, it may give you an idea for the ideal hand position (a bit higher, a bit closer together, and vertical). I could be completely off base though... maybe you're supposed to start off that way and only progress to the higher hand set later in dressage work?

Your seat and your leg look very nice overall though.

Here's a couple pictures I looked up just to try to find examples of what I'm trying to say...

    05-18-2012, 01:55 PM
That make sense! I suppose a wider flatter hand is more like pulling him down than pushing him up into the contact? My instructor always tells me to bring my hands closer together, and I guess it's just a bad habbit I need to fix. When we first started working with him, we used a wide hand to get him to stretch down. I'll work on it. Thank you for the help!
Eolith likes this.
    05-18-2012, 07:04 PM
Exactly... the wider/flatter hand may be pulling him down. I'd try to think of it as lifting him up and allowing his shoulders and front end to free up a bit.
    05-27-2012, 04:16 AM
Originally Posted by Eolith    
Exactly... the wider/flatter hand may be pulling him down. I'd try to think of it as lifting him up and allowing his shoulders and front end to free up a bit.
That seems like great advice :)

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