Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dressage Schooling Routine #1

I'm trying to do a little bit more dressage schooling this winter - about 2-3 sessions per week.  Sometimes one of those sessions is a lesson, but most of them are on my own.  So, I've come up with two types of routines that I alternate to make sure that I have variety in our rides.  This post is about one of the routines that I use.

A couple of months ago I read an old article, probably from Dressage Today.  I wish I could find it again or even remember which clinician it was about (it might possibly have been Reiner Klimke).  Anyway, there was a suggestion that riders warm up with some leg-yielding at a slow, deliberate walk. I decided to take that concept a little further by incorporating ALL of our lateral work at the walk during our warm-up to see what happened.  And I really liked the results.  Nimo seemed to loosen up better than if I used the old walk, trot, canter on a long/loose rein routine that had been my standby for awhile.

The first thing I do is walk Nimo on a loose rein for about 10 minutes.  This part is to help both of us get our heads together and get into a general get-used-to-being-ridden/riding mentality.  If there is light when I start riding, I walk Nimo around the farm.  If it's dark, I walk around the arena.  Then I get into the good stuff:)  I start with leg-yielding from the quarter line to the rail in both directions.  Then, I may add leg-yielding on a circle or leg-yielding at varying angles along the rail or zig-zagging the leg-yield down the long side of the arena.  Basically, I just want to throw in some kind of leg-yielding other than the basic center-line or quarter-line to the rail work.  My first priority is to make sure Nimo is crossing over behind and then worry about angle and tempo and forward movement.

Next, I'll move on to include shoulder-in, haunches-in, and haunches-out.  Some days I might focus a little more on one of these movements, so I might do the shoulder-in on the quarter-line and switch from shoulder-in to shoulder-out as I go down the long side.  Or I might add haunches-in to a circle.  Other days, particularly if I did a lot with leg-yielding, I'll just go through the three movements once or twice in each direction and call it good.

Then, I'll start work on half-pass.  I typically start at one corner of the arena and go across the long diagonal, but I may only do half-pass part of the way, go straight, and then half-pass again.  It depends a little on Nimo.  If he feels really good, I'll ask for more, but if he's struggling, I'll keep the number of half-pass steps to a minimum and transition in an out of half-pass more frequently.  I have just started doing half-pass to the center at X and then changing direction and half-passing back to the rail, so over the next few weeks, I imagine that I will start adding more of a zig-zag pattern.

Finally, I'll get to turn on the haunches and rein back.  You may have read my post about turn on the haunches from a few days ago, so this is something that I've recently added to the routine and I plan to keep doing the quarter turns for now and hopefully gradually strengthen Nimo so he can do half-turns and full-turns over the next few weeks/months.  Even more recently, I've added the rein back.  The rein back is a Second Level movement and it's one that Nimo really struggles with, but we're going to have to work on it if he's ever going to get better.  Right now, he can just do a few steps and he lacks the diagonal pair movement that is expected in a dressage test, but I'm hoping all the lateral work will help improve it.

After I'm done with all the lateral work (which takes 30-45 minutes including short frequent breaks on a loose rein), I feel like Nimo has done enough serious schooling and I'll do some easy trotting and cantering on a long to loose rein around the arena for maybe 10-15 minutes.  I'll finish up by trotting and cantering over ground poles and very small cross rails (about 12-15" with ground lines on both sides) and then walking for about 10 minutes to cool down.

I like this routine because on days that I feel unmotivated to ride, I tell myself that all I have to do is get on my horse and walk, so it makes the ride feel less intimidating, even though we do end up working on some fairly disciplined exercises.  I also like the ground pole/cross rail work because it mixes things up and is a complete change of pace from the lateral exercises that are really geared toward developing collection and lets Nimo stretch out a bit and focus in a different kind of way.  I think this routine is helping Nimo both strengthen his hind end, but also loosen a bit because everything is done at a walk, so I think there is less pressure.  He tends to do a lot of chewing (even though there is no bit), so I feel like the exercises are helping him release tension.  While I don't like to do the same routine all the time, this one allows for some variability, so I'm planning on keeping it for at least 2-3 months to see how things go.

1 comment:

  1. This is so awesome!! I've always thought walk work gets ignored a bit. This workout sounds perfect! Thanks for sharing. I hope someday Chrome and I will be doing this.

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