Lesson 1 – the classical seat, changing pace and turning.
It is always a funny feeling when someone new watches you ride for the first time. I was nervous but excited about meeting sue and beginning our journey into classical dressage. She asked me to leave the boy untacked as she wished to see him move without tack and wanted to check its fit before we started.
Thank god for my fabulous saddle fitter 😉
My boy is a typical cob in many ways. Here is a picture for reference.
He is built down hill (the picture was taken with him stood on a slope!). He is strong and he knows it. He loves to please and really tries to look after you. He is not a ploddy cob; previously part of our problems came from rushing along on the forehand. Most of all he is brave, intelligent and willing.
The only thing that was a problem was the crank noseband and flash he was being ridden in. This had to go! Fortunately I had a spare cavesson.
After a quick warm up we were to experience ‘classical dressage in a nutshell’. The first thing I had to do was remove my stirrups. I was then shown how to ‘widen my seat’ and centralise myself. This alone felt very different. I could clearly feel how differently my weight was distributed and how i felt much more balanced. Sue encouraged me to think more as if I was stood around Sid rather than being sat on him.
She then explained the weight aids for turning. Showing me what I should do to encourage movement left and right. “But the proof is to be seen” so off we went into walk; no heels as the aid, instead you use the top of your calf to apply pressure until the horse moves then you remove the aid, no nagging, no constant correction, only if you need to change the momentum do you apply another aid. So following instruction I ask to turn left, no hand aids, no legs, just seat and what happened? He turned, and to the right and in a circle, all from my seat. Neither of us had done this before but as if by magic Sidney knew what was being asked. We discussed how to encourage a quicker or more pronounced response to the aid and worked circles of different sizes, centre lines and serpentines. And to stop? Just think stop! Stop moving with the horse and oppose movement through your body and yep, it works! I was then allowed my stirrups back, adjusted two holes down, and we repeated the same in trot.
I was hooked! How could doing so little produce so much? How did Sidney know what to do so instinctively? Because we are working with his instinct, allowing him to think and react for himself and never being forced or given confusing aids. Everything is simple. One aid at a time. One aid for something, given the same way each time, that works with the horse’s nature not against it.
Our homework – practising the new position and aids, and boy did we practice.