Olivia   August 7, 2015   10 Comments on Dressaging

Dressaging is totally a word, right? Blogger says it isn’t, but I think it pretty accurately describes what I’ve been doing lately. Part dressage, part flailing: dressaging.

At last week’s lesson, we started doing some serpentines and leg yielding to get Nilla moving off my leg. She was pretty resistant and it was basically us going around with me alternately pony club kicking and smacking her with the dressage whip until she moved away from my freaking leg. It’s actually a great exercise for us. She figured it out after just a few tries.

On Monday, I practiced the leg yields in the small arena and had my husband take some pictures. She was really good about moving off my leg and really stepping sideways. I wasn’t paying much attention to her head because I was just focused on her moving off my leg, but, in looking at the pictures afterwards, I could see that she was over bent.

Which I recognize is my fault for pulling on the inside rein, but I didn’t notice at the time. This is why I need a trainer. Although, my husband did point out that I was coming into the leg yield from the turn without ever straightening out. Which is partly because the small arena is about the size of a oblong round pen; it’s hard to get a lot done in. By the time you straighten out, you’re almost at the next turn.

So at this week’s lesson, I told the trainer what was happening and she worked with me on it. One of the things she had me do was reach down and pat Nilla with my inside hand so that I couldn’t pull with the inside rein. It did work, though we got less sideways oomph.

You can see she’s still stepping over with that inside hind, which is great, but her head’s not bent sideways over it. Unfortunately, you can see this really twists me around in the saddle and I’m not balanced at all here. But it’s not like this position is an end goal; it’s just a temporary mechanism to get me to stop pulling with the inside rein until I can do so without the trick.

We also did a bunch of canter work. I’d like to be able to do Intro C soon and that requires cantering. And here’s where the real flailing in dressaging comes in. The right lead is our good lead and this is what it looks like.


The left lead is such a huge struggle. There was a lot of leaping, bucking, breaking to trot and generally flailing around. We’re also simultaneously counterbent and leaning to the inside. This level of fail takes some real work. Why I think dragging the inside rein across the neck is going to do anything about it, I don’t know, but I don’t really do these things consciously.

It’s still a drastic improvement over not being able to canter at all, but I’m worried about getting to a non embarrassing canter before our next dressage show. I have until the 20th to send in the entry, so right now I’ve got Intro A, B, and C selected and depending on our improvement before the 20th I’ll drop either A or C.

At least she’s soft and relaxed going to the right. Also, our halt has improved a lot.
I trimmed her mane and I think she looks sort of like a Fjord mule here. I’m loving the mohawk look. 

10 thoughts on “Dressaging

  1. TeresaA

    Dressaging is totally a word. And you are getting there. I do the inside rein thing as well- it was because Irish tends to fall inside on his right canter and I think I thought it would prevent that. What actually worked was more outside rein and a slight tap on the inside shoulder with the whip to tell him to straighten up.

  2. emma

    she looks good! i struggle with all the same things… pulling my inside rein, leaning, and just cantering in general…. just gotta keep on chuggin tho! she'll figure it out eventually 🙂

  3. Stephanie

    Dressaging is DEFINITELY a word. I struggle with dragging the inside rein across the neck too, both during dressage and jumping. Totally inexplicable and annoying!

    Nilla looks SO good in that last picture- that's an awesome halt! (And an awesome mohawk.)

  4. Paola

    There is certainly a lot to think about when riding dressage! Keep working at it! You and Nilla look better than you were when I saw you in April.

  5. Olivia

    I shall try this. I generally keep my whip in the outside hand for cantering because I use it to reinforce that I asked for canter with my outside leg, but I could switch to inside and see if that helps.

  6. Olivia

    Inexplicable is totally the word for it. Thanks. She's a beefy little mule at this point and looks more like a pony than a sleek horse.

  7. Olivia

    It's only taken 1.5 years to get to this point so you know, we can totally canter like a normal horse before the end of the month, right?

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