Dressage lesson with Karita: straightening a horse

It had been way too long since I had been to a proper dressage training session! Today I had my lesson with Karita Kotikulma with Rama. I had one of the best experiences in my life whilst riding Rama during my lesson, when at the end of the lesson we attempted some extended trot!
Ramazzotti's sire: Flemmingh
After warming up in trot and canter in a very relaxed way with a long and low neck, we worked on getting Rama to straighten and to become more active from behind. At first, we started on a 20m circle on the left rein in trot with a round neck and very soft contact, asking for Rama to bring his left hind leg more underneath him. To help him, Karita told me to try to imagine as if I was doing shoulder-in on a circle, so that the neck is set slightly inwards, and the left side is activated. I used my whip near his hind leg to gently as Rama to really step under with the leg. Although this made Rama much better from behind, he still felt like he wasn't properly straight. Because of Rama's slightly crooked hip, he needs some help getting his body to really even out and straighten. Using the whip on Rama's shoulder whilst still asking him to put his inside hindleg underneath him, Rama became a different horse! Since he was able to become even and straight, Rama was able to lift his front legs up high!! Amazing. We then repeated the same on the right side, but I kept my whip on the left side, where I was able to use it on his shoulder whenever it felt like Rama was falling against it and not lifting it as much as the other leg.

After a short walk break, the same idea was repeated on both reins but this time in canter. During the canter, Karita asked for me to shorten my reins because Rama was naturally collecting so much that my reins were far too long! With the same exercise, Rama suddenly became much lighter and his gait became bigger and even more expressive. Even though Rama already has a big canter, with this exercise he just felt so much better! It felt really really good, and I cannot remember the last time that I have had such a great time riding.

Again after a short break, we went back to trot, asking for shoulder-in on both reins along the long sides. Once again, we focussed more on getting Rama to step under with his hind leg instead of getting a perfect shoulder-in, as that will come with time once Rama is stronger. Although the right rein is easier for both of us, I was very pleased with the left rein as well. Rama was going so well at this point that Karita decided that we should try some extended trot along the diagonals. Our first attempt wasn't very good, because I didn't straighten Rama enough and I was concentrating too much on getting him to go forwards and extend his stride. But oh my goodness, the next three extensions were  mind-blowing! After getting Rama to lift his left shoulder and straighten his whole body, he was able to lift his front legs really high in front of him, with his hind legs active as well! These will be the highlight of my week!

The main homework for riding Rama is to continue stretching and practicing lateral movements to work on his back, to get him to become more flexible (and 'bendy') Hopefully, the lateral movements, such as shoulder-in and leg yields, will become a little bit easier. We should also work on small circles, as this will bring us more flexibility and quicker turning ability. Karita was impressed with how easy it is for Rama to collect and shorten so easily, when considering that Rama is still building up his muscles and is not yet at his full strength. Karita is coming again next Thursday, and next time mum will come take some photos and video of Rama if the lesson goes as well as it went today!

Rama and I have another lesson on Saturday morning with Ville Vaurio at 8.30am(!!) I have no idea how either of us will be awake enough to be able to actually do anything, and it's also supposed to be incredibly cold again, -16℃! Hopefully the camera will work!
Henri is competing this week and next week in Vidauban, France at the Spring Tour Dressage 2013 with no less than five horses! Today he competed with three of his horses, and did quite well. In the FEI Preliminary 6 y/o class, with Rosamunde Henri placed 2nd with 74%. In the St. Georges class (for 7-9 year olds) he was 7th with Amador with 68.5%. Unfortunately with Antonello in the Inter II class, the pair only got 63%. Hopefully the rest of the competition goes well!

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