In my last post, I alluded to some great Jane Savoie tips. I listen to her CDs and got a lot of my inspiration there, but she also writes an incredibly informative blog. I love Ms. Savoie because she speaks to the average rider, even though she is an Olympian.
I am a mere mortal, but even playing around with some of her tips have really helped Brego and I. The emphasis being "play" and experimenting. I am always trying to find the key to my particular horse who is quite unlike the "average" dressage-oriented sporthorse. He requires that I think outside of the box, and not push leg into hand (a method enjoyed by my TB). So the main themes that drive my riding with Brego are 1) Balance and 2) Flexibility.
If Brego is not balanced, weight off his forehand, we cannot be successful. He is too big and clumsy. For a year, I have focused on balance and his hind end and it really helps. He will never be "catty" with huge suspension, but he does push well from behind and is much more coordinated.
Brego has a thick throatlatch and can get heavily muscled through the neck. So keeping him supple and flexible through his body is key. I spend time "in hand" and under saddle, asking for him to unlock his neck. I even overbend him to the side, allowing him to pop his shoulder if necessary, sometimes just to make the point. Not every movement we make is perfect or beautiful, but it all should be following the themes. I can cram his head in a perfect frame or never let his hind legs cross or never pop his shoulders, but he will not learn to loosen his neck. A lot of time, from the ground, our rides looks pretty weird. But he *feels* great!
This is just what works for me. After doing all the exercises, I spend the last week before a show putting him back together in a consistent way, to ride the test in a flowing manner. I don't ride the test to train, I train to ride the test. Well, actually, I train to have the most rideable horse I can. But the point is that riding countless 20 m circles does not improve Brego. I have to go beyond to strengthen him and then we can put together a nice 20 m circle. Nothing revolutionary here, just my thoughts on the matter.