Dressage Lessons

Olivia   August 19, 2016   19 Comments on Dressage Lessons

Despite not posting about them for a month (or more), dressage lessons have continued. My husband has been joining in those lessons so I don’t have any photos. And I have a hard time writing endless scrolls of text without any pictures to break them up.

Nonetheless, we have been progressing. Nilla no longer requires draw reins and she’s not rearing. So we’re basically back to where we were a year ago. Yay! Progress is fun. I did take my helmet camera and point it at one corner of the arena for our most recent lesson. Since it’s a helmet camera, it’s not really designed for that, but at least I can pick a few screenshots out.

I’ve been spending most of my rides working on transitions. We walk and halt and halt and walk for ever. Then we walk to trot and trot to walk. We trot for about 2 strides, which is convenient given how freaking hot it is here. The goal is to get Nilla to do transitions without hurling her head into the air. She’s much like a pony in that she has tons of strength in her under neck and likes to use it to propel herself.



In lessons we actually trot for more than two strides, but the focus is still on transitions. As Nilla was trying to jump into canter instead of trot for upward transitions, my trainer told me to try going into transitions with a bit of leg yield. And it worked. With a little bit of sideways energy, I was able to get her to step up, but stay on the bit.



To continue working on that, we did 4 loop serpentines with halt or walk on the centerline. Our arena is narrow enough that this meant we were going into or going out of bend at every transition. And this made it easier for me to apply the leg yield aids. I liked this exercise as it kept Nilla focused every moment. I suppose I should be able to get her to be focused on me even on the straightaways, but I’m just not that talented.



We used the same serpentines to go into and out of canter. We can’t canter serpentines because we can barely canter a 20 meter circle and, quite honestly, we can barely canter straight. But we would trot the serpentine around until A or C and ask there. Of course we wont have the chance to come in on such a small circle in our test, but it works for practice.


Canter transitions are getting better, but we need to work on canter itself. We’ve spent so much time working on transitions, that Nilla peters out of canter after a few strides. I really have to push her to keep her moving and even then I often miss it and she breaks stride. We didn’t do anything about that in this lesson as we were trying to keep her calm and relaxed, but I should probably start doing more lengthy canter work.

free walk

One of the best parts of the lesson was my trainers comment at the end that at no point could Nilla’s tongue be seen. I checked with the video and there was indeed no tongue. I doubt this is a permanent fix, but I do think the new bit and Chiro are helping.

19 thoughts on “Dressage Lessons

  1. Molly

    I love the ears in the progression of trot photos. So expressive. Canter was a hard gate to develop in my Haflinger and he did the same petering out at first. I found cantering out on trails helped. No idea how Nilla would respond to that though!

    1. Olivia Post author

      She’s much better at cantering on the trails, but I’ve found that our work there doesn’t translate much to the ring. We keep doing it though as I still want to strengthen those muscles even if we need to relearn it mentally in the ring.

  2. jenj

    I second Molly’s suggestion of cantering out on the trails – somewhere that you can go and let Nilla get moving. Maybe with Eugene as a lead? Paddy sucks at cantering too and that definitely helped him.

    1. Olivia Post author

      We do that on the trails a bunch. She’s much better at cantering on trails. It’s a whole different story in the arena.

  3. emma

    lol i am all too familiar with that feeling of “finally we are back to where we were a year ago!!” but… well it is what it is. glad Nilla is doing well tho!

  4. Appydoesdressage

    Have you tried fitness cantering in the arena? So it is forward and open like on the trails? Once she realizes she can canter “normally” in arena, maybe you can start to dial it back and not have the fight. Glad Nilla is doing well though, congrats on the lack of the extra appendage and hope it doesn’t pop right back up!

    1. Olivia Post author

      We do a bit of fitness cantering, but she’s previously been so terribly balanced at canter that we literally could not even make a full lap around the arena at any type of canter. I’m thinking we need to do more of that.

    1. Olivia Post author

      I put the camera on one of the jumps and pointed it towards the empty end of the arena. Because the rest of the arena is filled with our ghetto jumps.

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