Dressage lesson with Karita: creating impulsion, lightness and forwardness

I had another great lesson once again with Karita Kotikulma! On Thursday morning I had the lesson with Rama, and we worked on creating more forwardness and impulsion as well as lightness in the mouth and contact. The last time that I rode Rama during Karita's lesson was over month ago, and it was good to hear from Karita how Rama has improved (built up muscles, is more straight esp on the left rein and has the strength + stamina to stay in a higher and more collected outline)
Unfortunately there was a jumping lesson going on at the same time in the indoor, so we didn't get to practise anything else apart from working on a 20m circle since they took up the other half of the indoor arena! And I apologize for the bad quality of the photos, they're blurry and horrible but Rama still looks good. There is a good quality video at the end of the blog.

We began the lesson working on riding a square in both trot and canter in both directions. Here I had to focus on turning from the front, making sure that Rama's shoulders turn as well. At the beginning I have make sure to help Rama have more self-carriage, because he tends to be a little low in the poll and slightly pulling at the reins. The main idea was to make the hind legs be more underneath him and to get the front to come more upwards which gives me a much lighter and softer contact. 
"Have the courage to influence him" Karita 
During the canter, Rama decided to practice lots of flying changes, and some two tempi and one-time changes in an attempt to get out doing the straightening work because it is difficult for him. Having Karita help me ride Rama through this was invaluable because I know how to deal with him when he becomes difficult (he wasn't really being difficult, he was just having so much fun at my expense - little bugger!) Karita pointed out that I have to focus on keeping my legs relaxed and still so that Rama has no reason to start playing around, and to make sure that I am sitting properly on my seat bones. 
"You have the right to use all of your aids, and he has to accept that" Karita
When using my leg aids, Karita reminded me that Rama has to respond. This ensures that he listens to me and uses his hind legs, and is not just ignoring my leg. When does respond and moves forwards, focus on him still so that he doesn't have the chance to escape from under me, and use half halts quickly and often. Another good pointer is to make sure that there is a good contact with the outside rein → make sure he doesn't lift his head up and avoid contact. When riding a square in canter, your horse can't use his inside hind leg if you let his shoulder escape to the outside, thus make sure you have a good outside rein.

After a break, we carried on with the canter work. Karita wanted to check our canter walk transitions, which I knew were pretty good. The transitions to walk are good, collected and soft but Rama must continue to walk well after the transition, so practicing transitions with a longer walk period will help with this so we now have to focus on our walk work. During the right rein, the right hind leg must be active and underneath him so that he takes an equal amount of weight on it and use it as well as his left hind leg. From these we moved onto a smaller circle, making sure that Rama turns well from my outside leg and stays straight. As we turned onto the smaller circle, Rama immediately started to collect the canter which was great. It was a fantastic feeling to get Rama to collect even more so that as the circle became smaller, we got a big pirouette!

In the video you can see the last bit of the lesson, during which we worked on getting Rama's trot to become just that little bit bigger and better, and so we got more impulsion and more forwardness. Getting Rama to move more in front required me to constantly remind him to keep his nose up so that his shoulders had the space to move up and forwards, which meant that the energy from the hind legs moved to his front legs. The hind legs also had to be activated just that little bit more since sometimes Rama likes to drag his hind legs behind him even though he feels and looks good otherwise. During the left trot, Rama wants to push his inside hind leg towards the inside i.e. away from himself, but by ensuring that this doesn't happen, we have a straighter horse and a horse that moves better.

"Feel that his hind legs come underneath him, and then feel how his front legs move much more" Karita

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