Lesson 2 – No leaning, straightness and ninety degree turns
Between our first and second lesson I felt Sidney was becoming far more responsive to my aids. He was moving forward from much smaller leg aids and turning really well. My question for Sue when she returned to us was how do I stop him leaning on my hands?
The answer to this is illustrated in Philippe Karl’s book (twisted truths of modern dressage). When the horse leans you apply upward gentle pressure and if necessary small vibrations through the reins until they raise their heads to stop leaning, then you return to normal position with a light contact.
In principle this sounds very easy, and it is in walk, trot is a little more difficult. Fortunately Sidney seemed to get the idea fairly quickly. After the first week Sid had got the idea and I rarely have to use this. This has really helped to stop the tug of war situation and my neck and back ache have since subsided after riding.
Along with this we also looked at the idea of working in straight lines and making sharp turns; those produced by basically turning ninety degrees of a turn on the haunches. The basic aid for turning is to move the turning side seat bone forwards along with looking in the direction you wish to go as this shifts your weight and encourages the turn. You can hasten the response with a gently tap on the wither at the side you wish to turn away from. I have found that this has also made Sidney more responsive to the rein on his neck and so he is beginning to neck rein and move away from the pressure.
In classical dressage the movement of the front end is controlled only by the hands, and as the hind end follows the shoulders it follows that the hands control direction as well as opposing movement.
To make a ninety degree turn you need to collect through a half halt using your seat and a small touch through the rein then make an exaggerated turn aid, accompanied initially, with a tap on the wither at the side to move away from. Again begin in walk on both reins then work through in trot. We varied the size of square, the direction of turn as well as gait.
In between turns try to keep the horse straight without bend or flexion. Should the horse falter from the wanted path make sure you correct by moving the shoulder and not the haunches, should the horse move out through one or other shoulder correct by moving the whole horse away from the direction of leaning, do not try to move the haunches to follow.
Homework: practice the turns and stop the leaning.