Lesson 4 – from the ground upwards.
To begin with we looked at our progress on the groundwork. I then mounted and Sue used the same commands with me giving the ridden aids for the rein back and the yielding of the quarters. I was really impressed as to how quickly Sidney had picked up these movements and also how quickly he was able to transfer these to ridden work. We continued to practice these without Sue having any contact and at different points in the school. We mixed these movements with the ninety degree turns and I could really feel Sidney becoming super tuned to my slightest aid. He loves this kind of work and was obviously really pleased with himself.
Next we moved onto to the exercise where I have to feel the hind leg footfalls in walk and then trot. This exercise helps me to think about my seat and sit correctly as it is impossible to do so when not sitting correctly. Sue explained how it is essential to be able to do this to make good transitions especially into canter.
You have to be able feel the footfall sequence and then be able to accompany the horses movements with your seat /hips. Once this is achieved you can begin to influence them.
When walking or trotting, the horse advances his hind legs equally. Although you can feel as each hind leg moves as the horses back dips and rises; like a table with a leg buckling then rising up to progress forwards.
In canter, this changes to an asymmetrical stride pattern, whereby the inside legs advance more than the outside ones. This means that the horse’s shoulders are not even and so to ask for this change in motion we need to place ourselves to encourage this change in movement.
The following helps to explain how we need to change our position to prepare for the transition.
Leave your horse in the stable and do these dismounted exercises to give you the ‘feel’ of cantering.
Canter yourself. Do you remember when you were a child, how you used to pretend to be a pony? Now’s the time to refresh your ‘pony’ memory. Go for a canter on your own two legs. Examine what happens when you are cantering. Do you feel how you are pushing off with your ‘hind’ leg? Can you feel how your ‘leading’ leg is in advance of your body? Can you feel that your ‘inside’ or ‘leading’ leg is encouraging the whole of that side of the body to be in advance of the ‘outside’?
The reason you feel like this is because the canter is not a bi-lateral, or symmetrical pace like trot or walk. Horses advance the insides of their bodies forward from the outside of their bodies when they canter.
Practice trotting on your own two feet and then striking off into canter. What happens to your body when you do this? Do you notice how you push your leading shoulder forward as you strike off into canter?
It might feel ridiculous to be cantering around, but we can learn an enormous amount about how the canter works and how our bodies need to work by doing this.
Taken from: http://www.themodernhorse.co.uk/canteron.htm
So what does this mean mounted?
We need to mirror this movement by placing our inside seat bone forward to out outside one. This puts our outside leg back so as we apply pressure to ask for a change of gait we are encouraging this asymmetric movement.
For the first time Sidney and I achieved right canter (previously a mythical creature we had read about in books) as well as left. This has given me real hope for our future in dressage. We don’t always get it right yet but that is usually my fault – old habits are hard to break! So we keep practising although we don’t canter all that often as I worry about the strain on my boy’s knees.