Tag Archives: contact

Successful Schooling at Bluegate

Wandered over to Bluegate on Saturday (well, an hour’s wander!) to hire their gorgeous arena. It really is a treat to have a go on it, but the main reason for our visit was to get some nice, relaxed work from Saf away from her home environment. We’ve not been here since September last year but Saf felt at home at once. A little tense at first, but got down to work pretty quickly. Had a quick walk, trot and canter to warm up, concentrating on keeping Saf focused on me. It’s a very quiet place, but Saf used the horses being brought in as an excuse to have a gawp.

Once the tension settled, I felt I could get my leg on her a little more, without the feeling that she would wizz off. Got some lovely work towards the end where we had both lateral and topline flexion, but Saf would respond with the third evasion, namely speed. She insists that she can bend correctly and flex her neck at the same time, but she has to slow down, so I then have to ask for forwardness, which she responds to but shortens her topline, and so it goes on!

The thing is, we could do all this and really knuckle down and got the same kind of work we get at home, so absolutely over the moon with her today!

 

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Loads more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/dragondressage14/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1043119889136157

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Back to Bluegate!

After a 2 month competition break, we dragged the bog pony from her mud pit, brushed her off, gave her a haircut and hacked to Bluegate. I think Saf might have forgotten all about being a dressage pony, and we’d also hardly done any hacking, so she was a bit surprised when we arrived. A lot of tension from both horse and rider, but with Claire’s brilliant help in the warm up, we managed to calm down. Even though I felt calm myself, when we got to the long arena for the test, the tension came back in Saf.

She managed to keep it under wraps, it felt the best in ages, plus it was my beloved Prelim 17 test! I was enjoying the feeling of having time to think, and was confident about the next movement so could actually plan ahead – a first for me! We seem to have well and truly slain our ‘incorrect bend gremlin’. I was really pleased with both trot circles, and even enjoyed the canters, actually managing a single half halt during the canter to slow Saf (it worked – just need to work a few more in now!) Loved the final centre line and halt (got a lovely 7 for that).

I did have a bit of a ninja grip on the reins, before the bell rang and asked for a trot transition and Saf decided to sod off at high speed, so wasn’t too keen on giving too much rein after that. Things to work on: longer rein for next time and remember my elbows!

Finished with 61.53%, really pleased with that, so nice to claw our way into the 60’s. We’re going verrry slowly but it’s so nice to see a bit of progress. We’re now more consistently getting 6.5’s for our trot work and 6’s for our canter work, as opposed to 5’s and 5.5’s previously. Canter feels a million times more controllable now. Not entirely sure whether we’ll do any more this year, it really depends on how the weather goes, but if it is our last one this year, a really nice test to finish on.

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Getting somewhere…

Back to work for Saf this morning, we went through the usual arena excitement that happens when we haven’t ridden for a week (the fact that Saf was grazing in that very arena not 15 minutes earlier is neither here nor there!) Once we’d had a little canter to relieve any silliness we got some really nice work in walk on a 20m circle on a slightly longer rein (but not ‘free walk’ long) with me concentrating on keeping my elbows weighted and under control and keeping a close eye on what Saf’s shoulders are doing.

I’m also now focusing on the quality of the transitions (this is dead basic but something that never occurred to me until recently) so into trot and we managed to keep the soft, roundness without tensing up and had a lovely 20m circle trot, again without me creeping up the reins. A beautiful swinging, round, softly bent trot on each rein. So pleased, just wish I had a video camera running! I’m convinced that controlling the Saf’s shoulders is another one of these lightbulb moments, that never came on my radar before, but will unlock new doors. So exciting!

Contact = is it just me?

My current mystery is that of contact. It baffles me. 10 years of hacking ensured I have long-rein-itis and a very casual attitude to contact. Coupled with the constant bombardment of Rollkur and low, wide, sawing hands on social media, I naturally scurry back to the comfort of my default position.

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Saffron is more than happy to go along like this all day, indeed it wasn’t until 2013, at the grand age of 18 that she started schooling. Now don’t get me wrong, I realise this sounds like I am focusing on the front end and the hand. I appreciate I need to get her forwards and tracking up before anything else, however contact is the topic for this blog. I’m not worrying about the position of Saf’s head, just the amount of feel I have on the reins.

I’ve always used plain leather reins and really liked the feel, but without realising they would slip, millimeter by millimeter through my fingers. I bought some continental reins, the ones with the leather notches spaced every few inches – they are fab! They ensure my reins are even, and really highlight any unintended lengthening of the reins.

So in terms of contact, what is correct? I have heard it described as holding the hand of a loved one, snug, but not overpowering. I wouldn’t describe my usual contact as ‘snug’, so maybe I’m way off. When we transition from walk to trot, I often feel I have to shorten my reins a lot as once we start trotting, they’re too long. At a recent lesson with my non-regular instructor, I ended up on the second notch from the big on the continental reins. At the time this felt very short, but I have since ridden at home at this length after a longer warm up, and they felt about right if we’re after the ‘snug’ feeling. I was also told that if the reins were ‘twanged’ they shouldn’t wobble.

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Lots of snippets of information to go on, but it’s such a learning curve. When do you reward the horse? Non-regular instructor said I kept getting a nice ‘contact’ but then throwing it away. My brain is telling my hands that when Saf softens, to reward her by giving the rein a little.

Is it just me who’s mystified? Contact, the black art. Most of the time I’m getting it wrong, but when it’s right, things seem to fall into place.

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