24.6.17

Dressage training with Jenny Eriksson: waiting hands

On Friday I was super fortunate to have another training session within a week, this time with Jenny Eriksson! Vallu had been having a very easy week since we had a lesson last Sunday with Ville  and I didn't want him too tired for this one. It is very rare for me to have two lessons within a week as I am very picky with who I train with and those who I would like to train with tend to either live in Germany or then are travelling around the world judging at international competitions. So I can't even describe how happy I was to be training twice within a week!

At the start of the lesson I told Jenny how fantastic Vallu had been at our previous lesson and how good he had felt to ride. In hindsight I probably shouldn't have said this because Vallu decided to throw me a new curveball today and be impossibly light in his contact... 🙄 Like there was nothing there for me to try to create a contact with!! In the last five years that I've ridden him I believe he has only been like this less than ten times so as I was warming up Vallu I said to Jenny that I don't really know how to ride him when he's like this. If I just shorten my reins all I achieve is getting him terribly behind the vertical and opening his mouth but if I leave him alone I have absolutely no contact with him and he'll still curve BTV. I think those previous times I just gave up after warming up and went for a hack but this time there was no option but to learn how to ride him when he's like this!
What he looked like after the lesson... #sweatypone
What Jenny constantly said to me during this lesson was to have "waiting hands" and by this it meant to have flexible, soft but very quiet and still hands. I needed to move my hands with him so that he had no excuse to go BVT but my hands needed to be there and still so that Vallu had something to go towards whenever he was willing to give the normal contact. This was SO difficult! I've never spent an entire training session mainly focusing on my hands before (they've never really been an issue). Whenever I picked up my reins Vallu instantly went really really round, up and light so much so that any extra movement from my hands made him overreact. So my hands had to go with his movement but otherwise just be there 'waiting'.  Every circle, corner and lateral movement that I rode today was done basically just from my seat and leg aids!

To try and get him to relax a bit and improve his rideability I had to ride lots of circles of different sizes, tiny shoulder in (more like shoulder fore) and a little bit of leg yield. It was really interesting to see on the circles that if I moved my hands in the wrong way at all and even dared to try and turn him a bit more with the outside rein I would get an over bent neck and the quality of his trot would deteriorate. He was just SO sensitive!! Therefore to get a good circle I had to do everything with my seat and legs and leave my hands very quiet. The lateral work was to get his outside shoulder under control to get him to bend through his ribs - essentially just very easy exercises to get him to let me ride him. 
He did settle down and relax after about 30 minutes and I had a horse who did everything asked of him purely from my seat and leg aids, which was actually a really cool experience to have a horse so sensitive that the shoulder ins and leg yield just needed the smallest of shifts in my seat and leg aids!  But I didn't even dare to try and do sitting trot because I knew if I didn't have 100% control of my hands, he would throw a fit. But according to mother he looked fantastic because he was so up and collected and round in his neck, even though I can't remember the last time that I have struggled so much to ride him. But hey, even more tools in my toolbox for whenever I ride a horse that is like this, so thank you Vallu 👍🏻 This is what schoolmasters are for, to keep you grounded and to make you learn more especially when you start to dare to think that you might finally have a grasp on everything after nearly 5 years of riding him and training... 

6 comments:

  1. Sounds like it was a very worthwhile lesson! Whoooo!!

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    1. It was really good, just my brain hurt so much afterwards from trying to ride in such a different way!

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  2. I like that concept of "waiting hands" - in a way it reminds me of my last Arab mare (tho obvi at a much different place in the training scale). I had to remind myself to ride her where I wanted her to be, vs getting baited into fussing with her all over the place. As it is tho lol I have like no clue how to ride the new guy into contact haha

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    1. I don't know how you managed to always ride Isabel like that, it was such hard work!! I'm sure you'll figure out Charlie soon enough! 👍🏻

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  3. Sensitive horses certainly have their pitfalls but they can teach us so much! It sounds like you and Vallu are making amazing progress.

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    1. I think sensitive horses are THE best to learn from, it just sometimes catches me out and I find myself being annoyed at my lack of ability to ride!

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