You all know that one of the many reasons I love my trainer so much is her willingness to talk about all different aspects of the horse world- the pros and cons of the pony jumper division, farrier billing mechanisms, educational programs offered through USHJA, etc. A little while ago we were having one of those conversations that included a ton of different topics, and one thing that she started laughing about was how she will regularly have a client ask if they can have “a dressage lesson.”
Quick context: yes, her focus is in the hunter/jumper/equitation world and she is the bomb dot com at that. But she did spend several years over in Germany with a dressage barn as well, so asking her for a dressage lesson isn’t as random as it sounds.
So I started opening my mouth to say something like, “Ooh yeah I’d like a dressage lesson too!” but before I could, she continued, “What do they think they’d be doing differently in a dressage lesson that I don’t have them doing in our flatwork? They’re not going to move right into half-passes just because we aren’t jumping that day.”
And I realized that was kinda why I wanted a dressage lesson. I wanted to do the super exciting fancy dressage-y stuff like tempi changes and canter pirouettes and all that jazz! We can ignore the fact that getting a left-to-right change depends on many things, but my cues are not usually one of them. It would most certainly happen effortlessly in a Real Dressage Lesson.
I also realized that we do, in fact, incorporate a ton of awesome stuff into our flatwork already. Our canter circles have gotten smaller and smaller, and we’ve gotten pretty good at doing haunches-in at the same time. It’s not even close to a pirouette, but several of the building blocks are there that weren’t there before. We have started playing around with half-passes as we’ve built strength and nuance. We’re not very good at it, but that’s the first step to being good at something, right? We’re not going to go win any gold medals in the sandbox, but I think we could go do a lower level test without embarrassing ourselves (after I learn some basic geometry, you know, minor things like that).
I’ve been working with Frankie in his elevator bit for a few months which has been super excellent for him- but I was also pretty sure that a large part of our newfound ability to actually push up into the bridle and werk was due to having that type of leverage. So the other day I popped his plain snaffle back in for a leisurely ride, and then tested the waters. And lo and behold, I got some lovely work out of him in that snaffle. It was a real breath of relief to know that he is stronger and more educated to that contact, I am stronger and more educated to that contact, and we are not reliant on the stronger bit to maintain it. We can be straight and manipulate the bend and work over our back and extend and collect without hanging on my hand. In short- we can kinda dressage!
I certainly don’t plan to switch back to a snaffle for jumping since it gives me a lot more tools when we’re both fired up to bigger fences, but I’m happy to know that our dressaging is paying off so handsomely.
Looks like we’ll be continuing our unintentional dressage lessons!