(This post is super duper late, but with essay deadlines, then Christmas and New Years and then masters' applications it has fallen to the bottom of the to do list! Sorry!)
I was so excited to be able to have the opportunity to train with Charlie from Charlie & Abi Hutton Dressage since Lili had organised a clinic at our yard. These clinics are now happening every month, and having watched some of the lessons the month before I was really looking forward to my lesson in December, and it did not disappoint!
Vallu was in a great mood, and he warmed up beautifully. We had no spooking, he was forward going, soft etc. Everything that you would want when having a first lesson with someone new! There was obviously some chat with Charlie about Vallu's age/temperament/history which I really appreciated, because there's nothing worse than a new trainer trying to start teaching you with no knowledge about you or your horse. No great surprise here, but Charlie was very quick to pick up on all of mine and Vallu's quirks and faults, as well as our strengths and abilities. One of the problems of only having ridden one horse for a very long time is that you both get used to each other, and as a rider you become slightly complacent about pushing both yourself and the horse further onwards. I've been riding Vallu for so long now that I easily 'give up' when I get a 'good' feeling and I don't bother asking for something again to try to get a 'great' feeling! (This is eerily similar to what Lili said to me in one of my first lessons with her!)
Because of this, and each of us knowing each other so well Charlie pointed out that Vallu knows all the tricks and that I know how to ride the tricks well (woop!) so what we should now be focussing on is the quality of all the movements. Everything you do can be improved, e.g. the trot can be more bouncy, the hind legs can track more underneath, the neck can be a bit softer, your hands can be quieter, your aids and reflexes quicker... You get my point! What I really loved about the lesson was the attention paid to detail - it really made my inner perfectionist happy! Charlie wanted me to ride a trot shoulder in down the long side. Simple enough, I thought. Off I went and I got about three strides down before Charlie told me to go back to walk, explain why I rode and how I rode before he gave me three or four changes to improve it. Before the corner, check that the trot is of a good enough quality and that Vallu is properly working through his back. In the corner, set up flexion to the inside and prepare the horse for the shoulder in and once you reach the long side look where you are going and try to be as quiet as possible with all your aids. Such small things to work on that improved the work massively!
Another case where Charlie was able to highlight how I needed to pay more attention to detail was in the canter half passes. Vallu and I were quite happy to plod along and do an alright-ish half pass, whereas because it such an easy movement for us that would be guaranteed to score us good points in a test, I should ride it as best as I can and the quality of the half pass should be great. To improve the quality of the half pass, Charlie made me ride the half pass from the centre line, and not a full diagonal so that I would be limited in the amount of steps we had therefore more focused on better quality half pass steps instead of making it in half pass across the diagonal! Charlie also made me play around with changing every few steps between shoulder in on the diagonal, going straight and then doing half pass. It's all about making Vallu more flexible and softer and more reactive and all about me riding to improve the quality, not just riding the movement for the sake of it!
If anyone ever has the chance to train with CH I would highly recommend it!