Dressage lesson with Ville Vaurio: strength and softness

On Monday we had another training session with Ville, but this time instead of just teaching me, Ville  rode Rama at the same time as teaching. It was so good to be able to have Ville show me what he wanted me to do when I was struggling with something, instead of him having to explain it lots of times. I'm also a firm believer in that you can learn a lot about riding just by watching others (better riders) riding, and to be able to ride at the same time as others is even more of a learning experience. It was like being back in Nottingham in the warm up at Vale View, where both Michael and Maria Eilberg were warming up for their tests. That is the moment when you just stand there going wow... and your brain tries to absorb everything about the way these people are riding.
Because I haven't really trained these properly in Nottingham, Ville has decided that we need to carry on focusing on the canter pirouette work in order to make them really secure. With last lesson's exercise (which you can read about here) safely in my 'dressage rider's toolbox' we started on a new exercise. This one started with riding a 20 meter circle at the end of the arena, with half of it being in collected/ pirouette canter, and then other half being ridden in a BIG working canter. The idea was not to get a fast or long strided canter, but a quick and sharp canter because you need quickness in the hind legs in order to produce a good pirouette. 

Once the transition between the working canter and collected canter is good every time, we then proceeded into doing a working canter pirouette. I never knew that a working canter pirouette could be so much harder than attempting a proper pirouette. I've been fortunate enough to ride a horse that already knows how to do these, so I haven't had to go through the teaching/learning process of getting a proper pirouette e.g. never had to ride a working canter piruoette which is much bigger than a proper tight one. Number one rule is to make sure Vallu doesn't fall in to a very small and tight pirouette. If so then back to walk, shoulder in away from inside leg to get his inside hind leg under and respect for your leg. To help with this, half halting with the outside hand, and asking to turn round with outside leg → LEAVE THE INSIDE ALONE (I will learn this one day, I promise)

Afterwards I realised how important it was for me to learn to ride this, because if I get a new horse after Vallu that does not know how to do canter pirouettes, then I will need to teach them to the horse, and so I need to know how to teach them.

In the trot work the thing to focus on is finding that right balance between Vallu pushing to go forwards, without becoming long and strong in the mouth. The trot we have now is much better than last year, as Vallu is much more powerful from behind, and happily pushes to go forwards. But he also wants to become long in the neck, which leads to him leaning on my hand. Thus, with lots and lots of small half halts to encourage him to shorten his neck and to stay soft, but not slow him down at all, we managed to get close to what we wanted. I must must must remember to relax my hands so that they are not slowing him down, and let 'the power flow through you' during those times when he is soft in the mouth and has a shorter neck. And finally, remember to use the corners to do a slight flex to the inside, and with your inside leg to get his inside hind leg underneath him. Then on the long side just let him go forwards softly and just sit there ;)

I love these lessons! 

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