Originally Posted by saddlesandskis View Post
Is the "staying out of her way at a canter" a good thing? And as for contact - would you mean bending my elbows more? I'm new to dressage, and in fact, this is my first year taking riding lessons in 6-ish years. I did, then stopped because of marching band, and started back up now that I'm in college, so excuse my ignorance :P
I could see a little of that being in her, very pretty girl!
Well it can be a great thing, and I'm still learning too but since Dressage is all about connecting with the horse with a deep seat, and through the bit and having the horse carry himself appropriately so he's on his hind, etc. etc. (I am just a beginner so I won't talk about it too much since I'd be getting into shady waters.)
Anyway see how your reins are kind of looped loose so you technically aren't connected through the bit. You're reaching forward a lot. Your hands should be a little closer to your body and the reins should be like elastic to her mouth. Right now if you bring your hands back, then you would have contact. Bit contact is when every action that you do is physically felt in the horse's mouth via the bit.
Now since you're cantering your horse will have a head bob most likely so you want to move your arms in time with that head bob. When your horse's head bobs down, arms go forward, to follow the movement. When it bobs back up, your arms go close to your body again. So you're essentially opening and closing your elbows. Now when you are riding your horse forwards, you need to push them into the bridle so that the contact stays the same and doesn't jarr the horse in the mouth. No it doesn't hurt them but you want the horse to use all of the muscles along its spine and all of the top of the neck muscles. Right now your pony girl seems to be doing great by working her back, but see how her neck is in a straight line up instead of nice and relaxed low?
Since you asked for some help, I hope you don't mind me explaining it a little bit :)
But that's what I meant by keeping out of her way. You aren't impeding her movement (which is great!) but you aren't using all that energy from the hind; it's essentially just going out the window. Anebel made a really good analogy. She said
"Collection is like a tube of toothpaste. You want to squish all the toothpaste into the front of the tube so it's easy to use, but if you leave the cap off you squish out all the toothpaste. Right now there is toothpaste all over your bathroom, you need to get that cap on."
Right now you are riding a flat canter. Once she's alll put together, you'll be riding a powerful rounded canter.
Hope I helped :)