December 4, 2010

1.5 Years + Magical Dressage Trainer = Whole New Solo

This is what our barn looks like right now. promised me light flurries with no accumulation. Me no happy.

We never saw it coming. This morning, we had a wonderful dressage lesson with P in the sunshine. Warmup started with a marching walk, bending and arcing around cones and jump standards, bringing Solo's respiration up slowly in the cold winter air to avoid the lung burning effects of sudden exertion on a chilly day. As his back and neck softened, we moved to a forward trot and it soon became obvious that my horse, already made more sensitive by the weather change, strongly objected to my spur-wearage today and I shed them after he skittered forward on his butt during a canter transition.

Suppled up, we stopped for a contact response check. A year and a half ago, when P asked Solo to give to the bit on the ground, it took some finangling and a full minute of persuasion. Today, it was instantaneous and I couldn't hide my grin.

Then it was time to move to the next step. Forward was good, now we needed to be clear that half-halt meant half-halt NOW, not half-halt in five strides after you express your own opinion and we argue about it. So we worked transitions within the trot -- lengthening and compressing the stride.

Solo made it clear that since we had stopped earlier, we CLEARLY were supposed to be done and expressed his dissatisfactiion by throwing his head about in protest as we trotted. P mollified my laughing reprimands by letting me know that even though he threw tantrums, his ab and back muscles were flexed, engaged, and correct in their work. A year and a half ago, he didn't have ab muscles.

We finished with some transitions between gaits. Walk/trot/walk, trot/canter/trot.

"Well, look at him, he's starting to become quite the little warmblood. Why don't you try some walk/canter transitions?" P suggested.

"I don't know..." I responded, "We've left those alone because he'd just run onto the forehand and fall into it."

"Give it a try, get a nice marching walk, be soft, sit tall, and visualize your canter."

So I did. And in two steps, he was there. Not only was he there, but he came forward through the transition, soft and on the bit, stepping under into a lovely canter that made me feel like I was sitting on my own version of Ravel.

I couldn't help it, I grinned like a fool. A year and a half ago, "on the bit" was not even in my horse's repertoire.

And Solo, my dressage-hating shiny beast, was even enjoying his canters and I think his solace came in finally beginning to understand what I was asking him to do. He finally was comprehending the structure I was asking him to fit into and with his comprehension came security and appreciation of a job description he figured out how to read.

I thought to my red horse, "We've come a long way, baby."

I hope we still get to go a lot further.


  1. Yaaaaay, Solo! Of course, why would His Shiny Red Royal Highness want to spend time doing a sport that is "like watching cement set" when he could be engaging in gallop-y/jomp/gallop-y? But at least he is learning to tolerate the dressage part! Major progress!

    On a totally unrelated topic -- do you think P would work with me? I would very much appreciate the gift of visible ab muscles that she has given Solo.

  2. That sounds like such fantastic progress. Very nice!!! Great job you two!

  3. Good stuff - nice to hear that things are going so well!

  4. Thanks! And Frizz, I think if you focus on lateral work, the ab muscles just appear...

  5. Hhmmm, so now I have to train myself how to leg-yield & side-pass? Maybe I could do that on the treadmill, but the other gym-goers might give me some strange looks. ;-)
    However, I refuse to switch to all all-hay diet!