A Breakthrough In Dressage!


Did you read that headline right??? Dressage????!!!!

Ok so for anyone who has read a few of my blogs know mine and Cash’s strong suit is most assuredly NOT dressage.  We both seem to have this “oh god not another circle” mentality when we go into the ring and we would both avoid it if we could. But sadly jumping ability improves with better flatwork!  *sigh* So every once in a while (ok ok several times a week) I buckle down and do dressage.

Now like I stated earlier Cash see’s theres nothing in the arena and immediately goes to the gate and requests to leave. (I’m not joking) If there is a jump all is fine and dandy but no jumps or ground poles? Nope not happening.

Today I did have ground poles set up but nothing along the rail like I usually do. ( a post soon to follow for the exercise that helped out today) Cash was not impressed with the display and we started our normal warm up.

This is when “spaced out” Cash enters the equation. Cash listens but he’s not paying attention. By this I mean he will do the transitions I ask but his ears and typically eyes are looking outside the arena. Something so simple changed all that.

Before I go on to explain what changed let me say what I usually work on…..his attention span. So I usually walk about 2 laps in the arena if he’s not feeling a bit froggy. If I feel just a tad to much energy then I move him up into the trot. It’s here that I usually try to keep his attention by changing direction, doing serpentines and once he’s warmed up I ask for some canter-trot transitions and such. Usually we are both a little frustrated by the end. Me with him for not truly paying attention or worse making it “intersting” by suddnly not liking a corner of the arena, the bench is suddenly terrifying ect…, and he usually gets frustrated with me for making him go in circles when there is an exciting world to explore outside the arena.

Well I decided to change up and ride an ancient dressage test that I still remember. It was here that the whole scenario change.

I did a few circles of trot and then aimed Cash down the center line. At the approximation of X I asked for Halt and Cash said “Whaaaaaa?” and suddenly his brain was engaged as I never ask for trot to halt. I could literally see the wheels in his brain begin turning. As we continued and I asked for (seemingly random to him) trot and canter circles. Walk and halt and changes of diagonal it was like we were FINALLY in tune. I could feel him go on the bit, engage his back muscles and by the end of the test we were in such balance that I barely had to move to signal to him what I wanted. It was a moment where I felt like Valero and Charlotte and we suddenly completed the olympic test!

It was like we were working as one in a way we never have in the arena.  And I suddenly realized my error with him. I had been keeping things to stagnate and too “boring” I haven’t asked anything to challenge him and I should know better.  With jumps the more challenging the more he loves them so why wouldn’t that translate to dressage?  Instead of working on his attention I needed to ask something hard to engage his brain.

Warming up and transitions is like folding laundry. You can go through the motions and be thinking of a million other things, talking, reading a blog…but when you do something new suddenly it requires all your attention. When he was truely engaged he was in such balance that for once I felt truely balanced on him and I think it was such a needed “light bulb” moment for both of us that I ended it on that wonderfully positive not!

And with all the changes going on right now it was a much needed and fantastic ride!

*Update* To check out the exercise I mentioned above feel free to read “Ground Poles Galore: Centerline Poles

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