Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dressage Lesson 8

I took my last Texas-based Dressage Lesson today. It was both exhilarating and very sad. It was my first lesson with my new saddle, and my trainer showed me how to sit and ride in it properly, including the always elusive sitting trot. It was also the last time I might train with my very wonderful and challenging instructor, and so a lot of things were left unsaid.

But to stay focused for a moment, Brego and I had a serious case of the lazies. It was a warm, sunny day and neither one of us had gotten much riding done the previous couple of weeks. So the ever-present "go when I say go" battle was in full swing. We also spent some time working on me using my abs properly in my saddle to let my legs hand loose and "breathing". It's quite a different sensation than the huntseat I have been riding in for, say, 25 years. In huntseat, I learned to hold with my thighs and inner calves and let my hip angle close by letting my belly fall forward with each stride. Today, I learned to hold myself with a tight stomach and let my thighs and legs fall relaxed. It took quite a bit of effort, but I was just starting to see what my trainer was trying to show me. I even attempted a couple of circles of sitting trot, which was not quite right, until I learned how to "bicycle" my thighs to keep my abs engaged. Whew! That shamed me quite a bit... got to get to those pilates classes!

We also worked with Brego on his keeping his hind end animated and engaged, even while moving at a slower pace. He tends to let his motor die out and drift onto his forehand when he shuffles around. Or more accurately, I let him do those things by dropping my gut. So we worked on me driving with my seat and playing with my hands to ask him to come up to me while my trainer worked to my side with a long whip and asked him to pick up his rear legs "faster" to keep the tempo. I must say, Brego is one smart cookie. He figured out how to respond properly to the whip cues from my trainer with very little fuss and repetition.

The work we did today with the whip cues will lay the foundation for more advanced moves such as a proper collected walk and piaffe, all of which, according to my trainer, will help strengthen Brego so he can perform the lower level movements, such as a simple canter, lightly and with great impulsion.

My trainer is so taken with Brego and with his great mind, that she has offered to take him into full time training while I am in New Hampshire, until I can bring him up in May. It's a great idea, and one I am seriously considering. It would be wonderful to have someone I trust work with Brego and teach him all the things I don't even know I don't know, while I am getting settled in New Hampshire for the next two months. The only drawback is that I started this journey with Brego to see what I could do with him. I am an adult amateur with very little formalized training. I mean, this is my eighth dressage lesson ever. It seems almost cheating to have a super pro work with Brego for a month. But in my heart, I know I am being selfish. I have already proven that I can bring Brego along, albeit slowly and with great patience on his part.

It would be unfair of me to let him sit in a field, getting very out of shape, for two months, when he can get some clear lessons with consistent aids to keep his brain and body active. I can tell he gets frustrated sometimes when my cues are muddled or come too late. It's a great opportunity, I just need to swallow my pride. Plus, I still have jumping training to mess with. :)


Anita said...

wow....good for you, excellent! I am also the new and proud owner of a 2 yr old percheron gelding, and our backgraounds are very similar, I still own a 17 yr old Arab gelding I've had since he was a weanling. You love the opportunity to discuss your trials and challenges with working with percherons, as I am new to them as well and would like as much info, tips and help as I can get! I find educational resources are really hard to find....mostly dealing with hitch...Would be fantasic to hear from you. Keep it up!

Daun said...

Thanks for your wonderful comments! I am always happy to talk about the work I have done with Brego, both good and bad. I have found the best way to approach riding work is to treat him like a normal horse, like an oversized, lazy warmblood, and expect him to mind his manners, etc. He is treated exactly the same as my thoroughbred. When I first got started, I read of a lot of driving/working information because that was all I could find on Percherons. It had a lot of weird information in it, like drafts shouldn't be expected to pick up their feet, etc. So I decided that his breed wasn't as important as what I wanted to do with him and I started looking to more discipline specific information.

So, what do you want to do with your handsome young boy?

You can feel free to comment on the blog for others to see or you can email me at
eventingpercheron at gmail dot com.

If we get a good discussion going, I might post about it, otherwise we can just chat back and forth. I love hearing from all the smart horsepeople out there.

Wiola said...

I love your pictures from this lesson! I also sympathise with your beginning of dressage training! I went through this stage too when re-learning how to go from show-jumping seat into dressage seat. It took a while but I think I am getting there :)
The decision for trainer to ride Brego sounds very good to me. One of clients, a lady in her late 50-ties have a very similar attitude to you. She used to love me train her horse but in the same time hated the fact that it wasn't her doing it. I think it's just a question of realising that in the end of the day it is for the good of the horse and for the good of the communication in between you two. Like you said, you will still have the jumping to mess about with :)
I am looking forward to seeing the Ne Hampshire base :)

Pony Tail Club said...

I just found you blog and I have to say that your horse is gorgeous!

Daun said...

Pony Tail Club,
Thank you and welcome! Let me know if there is particular topic you would like me to address.

Simply Marvelous said...

Great photos! Love Percherons, so will be checking up on this beautiful boy!

Daun said...

Simply Marvelous,
Thanks so much for your kind words! I really enjoyed reading through your blog this evening so I added it to the list of blogs Brego loves. Keep up the good work and stop by anytime!

vanessa said...

I just happened upon your blog. I to have a percheron. Ms Mollie. We will be learning dressage together. Most people think I am crazy for buying a 16hh horse to do dressage. Sometimes I think she learnes faster than me:) My Lord told me when I got her that He thought of me when He made her!! How cool is that? It's like He made her specifically for me! My husband says she is just like me. and we were made for each other. Thanks for giving me the chance to share my excitement with you and to be encouraged. I am not crazy and it is possible to dressage with a draft!!

Daun said...

Thanks for your wonderful compliments! Drafts *can* do dressage. Remember, dressage is for the horse, not the other way around. Have fun and keep us all posted on your progress with your special girl.

Winter Baker said...

What saddle do you use? My friend is having trouble finding a saddle that fits her half-draft well.