Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dressage Gains

"What?  You thought Prelim A would be a challenge?"

I've been meaning to write about Klein's dressage progress lately, then we always have some awesome jump school and I end up writing about that first and think I'll save dressage for later.  We had an awesome xc school last weekend...so I'm going to actually put that post on hold and write about dressage FIRST.

Just like how we have been working hard on specific improvements this winter with our jumping, we have been paying the same attention to our dressage skills.  Klein is noticeably building strength and improving her way of going.  She continues to be more adjustable and lighter in the bridle and I'm beyond excited for that.

I have seriously had to refine the way I ride with my seat, making it even more independent.  Before this winter I would say I was lacking the ability to be quick enough to half halt while still driving her on through my seat which was hindering her ability to really collect her canter.  She would get a bit confused and break to the trot sometimes because I was essentially giving her half an aid and that half was to transition.  Now we have it to where I can half halt her into coming back and up with her canter yet drive her on and not be confusing about what I'm asking.  I can feel her strength building with it too.  I am all about progression and whole heartedly believe in taking a few quality steps of whatever we are working on, rewarding her by giving her a break, then getting a few more quality steps.  Through doing that, she is building strength and the number of quality steps steadily increased to where she's strong enough to continue with the quality steps for as long as I ask.

I know what it's like.  If you follow Denny Emerson, from time to time you will see him post about how you need to realize that training your horse is putting a load on them and asking them to build strength that may not be there to begin with.  Therefore, when it is not there to begin with the horse may seem like it is being disobedient or not trying when the reality is, it's hard work and the horse just isn't strong enough yet.  I couldn't agree more.  I know Klein tries, and she never protests, but I always give her new things in small doses because I know exactly what it feels like.  I've been in the gym for years, I actually was a Fitness Specialist before my current careerfield and have several personal training certifications in addition to a degree in Fitness Management.  I'm a former half marathon and triathlon competitor, and a recovered CrossFit Kool-Aid drinker.  Now I just lift heavy five days a week in the gym.  It is my other hobby, I don't do it because I feel obligated, I genuinely enjoy being in the gym and running myself into the ground.  Not to mention the perks it provides in the saddle, but that is for a whole other post.  I come up with some of my best ideas during the beat downs I give myself in the gym.

Current level of conditioning.

 And because I'm a super dork when it comes to data like this, here is MY data from one of our dressage rides recently.

I know horses get DOMS like we do, it's been proven through testing their lactic build up levels after hard workouts.  DOMS sucks, and sometimes you feel like you need a wheelchair or a personal assistant to dress you or wash your hair.  Knowing this, I cannot even imagine what it would feel like for a horse to feel like that in any way shape or form, and be taken out and asked to work hard again.  You better believe I anthropomorphize the hell out of the this aspect of training horses.  Klein is not a horse that would ever protest either, she's not one that would ever consider dumping me because she didn't feel like doing something, or it hurt.  She would just grit her teeth and try until she couldn't anymore and I think that makes it even more important to be mindful with work load and progression.

Anyway, another thing that I have put some focus on this winter has been getting Klein to relax a bit more over her back in our sitting trot.  She's fairly easy to sit the trot on, but she still needed to relax over her back a bit more and be a little more adjustable in that gait as well.  It's not like I never ride the sitting trot, I do a lot, I have no problem with it, I just needed to build on it because we would be a bit hit or miss with her relaxation over her back.  I needed to actually put some focus on that area.  Again, a few steps here and there.  Well, check that one off the list too because we have managed to build up to riding entire tests in the sitting trot with relaxation and adjustability in the sitting trot.  I have been focused a lot on being distinct with my aids within that gait too.  She feels absolutely amazing lately.

Oh, one more noticeable difference, I haven't rode with a dressage whip for about two months now, and there has not been one time in those two months that I have wished it was in my hand.  Klein's self-going has improved that much.  She has never been a slug by any means, but sometimes just having the whip in my hand was all she needed to just give me a llllittle bit more energy.  Not any more.  I attribute that to using my lower leg more effectively.  Also, all this work has been in her french-link boucher.  I haven't changed any tack, aside from removing the dressage whip from the equation.

I'm proud of us, and I'm excited to see our dressage scores this year.


  1. I was just thinking about tapering for horses before shows, so the comment on DOMS resonated with me. What do you do to help Klein (and yourself) with DOMS?

    From my own heavy workouts in the past I know that I have to get up and get moving to be less sore later in the day and in the following days, so that's what I try to do. And ultimately it's what I try to force Murray to do in as relaxed a fashion as possible. It's why I love turnout so much!

  2. I usually will put Klein on the lunge line and trot her just to make sure she looks and feels good. I will put some cavalletti out to trot her over as well so she can stretch. I might take her for a long walk hack too. She also will wear her Back on Track sheet for a day, in addition to being wrapped either with Back on Track no bows or regular standing wraps with poultice under them for the night.

    Ha, myself. Like you said, move. Drink a ton of water and move. It's always worse (for me) if I have been siting for a while at work and get up. I'm instantly like "Oh yeah, fml."