BILL— In dressage seat equitation there is mention of the posting diagonal, nowhere else in our discipline. Consequently there is no such thing as an “incorrect diagonal.” In several books of eastern European origin a theory is even espouse that riders should rise on the inside diagonal.
As an instructor have you ever (or should you ever) make a student do something against his or her will?
QOTM: I need flying change exercises. I’m currently doing them sporadically whenever I can just pick up the canter and just go until he’s not thinking about it and then throwing one in. Ideas?
BILL— Flying changes are complicated “until they aren’t!” There are a whole bunch of exercises, but which can be most useful often depend on your horse’s attitude towards the whole project.
Yes, a balanced counter canter is a major steppingstone. You can take advantage of a certain amount of anticipation by doing them a few times in the same place, then changing things up enough that you are sure he will wait for the actual aids and not get too far ahead of you.
I prefer doing them in the beginning at a point where it is clear he should come to the other lead – that is either at a corner or at a turn where you can simultaneously change the direction and the lead. Examples: counter canter on the long side with the change at F before the corner turning towards A; cantering the diagonal and holding the lead through the corner. Changing before the second corner as you turn onto the next long side; turning across the arena on the perpendicular from E to B and asking for the change at the second quarterline before the right turn.
It’s also helpful to be pushing the horse a bit laterally into the direction of the old lead (which will become the new outside after the change). In a space larger than a standard arena, ride counter canter on the 20 meter circle. Ride an expanding half pass pushing the horse onto a larger circle and into what will become the new outside leg. Be sure to change your leg position a stride before you want to give the actual change indicator. That new outside leg behind the girth is the “cue,” but support it with the new inside leg active at the girth.
One thing to remember is that if you don’t get the change, most of the time the solution is NOT to use stronger aids the next time. instead, go back and use other exercises which will sharpen him without making him angry— quick trot/halt/trot transitions, leg yield and counter leg yield a few steps each emphasizing how promptly he will shift his balance and answer your seat; combinations of forward then yield then halt then back then forward then yield the other way. Anything that quickens him to the aids and makes his balance more readily adjustable.
Another good one is to ride counter canter and leg yield him away from the rail to the quarter line. Immediately half pass back out to the track. Do it twice and the third time instead of leg yielding, change the bend, turn onto the beginning of a 10 or 15 meter half circle and immediately ask for the change.
Asking over a ground pole In the beginning can also help him understand and not worry too much.
Try those for starters. Which ever ones you use—and there are plenty more—a critical factor is to be sure that your hips and the horse’s motion are in sync. Even just for a single change, always count down to it. Don’t just count down “intellectually,” but feel the count through yours and your horse’s bodies. “THREE TWO ONE CHANGE!” On the three and the two be making your horse straight and balanced with half halts in the rhythm of the stride. At “one” move your former inside leg back to become the new outside leg. At “change” firmly use that leg behind the girth while your new inside hip slides forward, your new inside leg at the girth activates the inside hind, and the new outside rein half halt makes the old leading foreleg wait.
BILL— The right tempo depends on what you are trying to accomplish at that moment. If you are in the show ring, there will be a tempo – not always the same for each horse – that shows off his gait the best. There are always a bunch of qualities which factor into your choice. While you don’t want your horse to be quick, sometimes one which has a less engaged, expressive trot will track up a bit better if his tempo is slightly faster. If you make it too rapid, however, it just looks tight and unsightly. At the other extreme if he has lift but not much thrust, he may appear to hover. Then a bit more tempo can invite him to cover more ground.
. . . on her walk diagonal– her horse was “looking at the cows so she let her turn across 4 steps beyond the letter.”
I have a past middle-aged novice student with physical insecurities and a passion for over-reading and over-thinking about her riding. She has been progressing nicely – appropriately — but she recently rode in a clinic where both she and her horse were overfaced and overstressed well beyond their abilities. Roweled spurs, a lot of driving and struggling. Two unhappy campers. What should I do or say?
BILL— First, have someone whose knowledge you trust look at what’s going on with your horse and see if your perceptions are correct. There’s butterfly light, chiffon light, and “light truck” light. There’s heavy cream, heavy rain, and a 747 Heavy. If you’re tentative in your riding or new to dressage, it’s not unusual to err on the side of lightness, often to the point of barely taking a passive contact. In training, “lightness” is an ongoing goal, but you’ll run into instances where it can’t be your primary concern. You never lose the thought of it, but solving another issue short term may take precedence.
Do judges at schooling shows not sign their name on the test so you won’t know who to be mad at? Gwendolyn in Odessa
Do judges really care what you wear in the show ring (within guidelines, of course). Like if one wears a red polo on a black horse in summer…
BILL— Everyone from time to time needs a visit from the Geometry Police. We see circles which are flat sided, ones which go into corners, and ones which begin and end at the wrong place. We draw our students elaborate diagrams of “tangent points” replete with eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. We distribute the Cones of Shame in the arena. Sometimes none of it does any good because they have convinced themselves that their circles are already round enough.