Yep :) The key is to have energetic forward with impulsion, rhythm, engagement and straightness. With my gelding, I have to warm him up on a long, very light contact [can't loop the reins, he is an idiot haha] and adjust his rhythm with my seat a few times, establish the rhythm I want, then KEEP that rhythm and shorten and lengthen his stride a few times, both on circles/serpentines and down the long side of the arena. THEN bring him back to a halt, take up a shorter contact and get him off my hands... and finally we can settle in to work.
Quite often he gets stiff and bracey [he's kind of unfit and as I said very long in the back so it's hard for him] and to get him soft I have to demand more flexion and a few steps of a lateral movement, any lateral movement [our most common is leg yield, because I'm a dressage noob! hahahaha]. Sometimes that doesn't work, so I have to halt him again and get him off my hands.
...and all of THAT is for a headset. I'm not sure how I get the actual engagement, it only ever happens for a few strides at a time but omg he feels amazing when I get it right.
With an educated horse that has the musculature to be able to hold itself, yep, it is as simple as getting them forward and energetic, riding straight, and collecting that energy with your seat and hands. You should be riding predominantly off your seat and legs - the bit is there for decoration and extra refinement in the dressage horse, not for control or for getting the headset - but that takes a HUGE amount of core strength and a very well educated horse. My gelding simply refuses to engage unless I have my core engaged, lots of leg on, back supple, and energy high and excited. Oh and bum tucked under in a "driving seat". He's better when I'm sitting the trot, but that's hard to do on him!
Sitting the trot, by the way, is much easier when you're on a horse that's working correctly and swinging through the back! I discovered, riding the FEI horse, that I actually CAN sit the trot, and on Ben, it's the easiest thing in the world. On the FEI horse it was exhausting, because his movement was SO big, but nowhere near as challenging as it is on Monty. Monty's upright shoulder and pasterns make it hard to begin with and the fact that he's so difficult to get to engage does not help!
Last edited by blue eyed pony; 12-16-2012 at 01:13 PM.