Dressage lesson with Andrew Fletcher: Easy and sweet

It feels like I haven't done a lesson wrap-up in ages. On Monday we were fortunate enough to have our first session with AF of 2015. I think this is one of those lesson reports that I will be constantly be coming back to, because these exercises were so effective and useful.
Pre-training session scratches #happyhorse
We had a very basic warm up, just trotting on big circles, around the arena and long diagonals. The idea was to just let Vallu be a bit long, but remaining round and soft. He is allowed to be a bit on the forehand, just as long as he is moving forwards and soft, we want to keep it easy for him. Don't ask for anything else, keeping it easy for him to keep him sweet.

AF has on many times highlighted how all of our 'problems' or our weak areas are to do with his back and shoulders. To improve this...

Walk pirouettes - start on a small 15mx15m square, in each corner do a 1/4 pirouette and make this smaller as you go on to end up in a full on walk pirouette -> right is better re his hind legs, left have to focus on making sure his left hid leg is active "ride that hind leg"

Halt and rein back to release the back. All of our halts were super, square and relaxed. SUCCESS.
It's good to alternate between 4, 6 and 10 steps back. In order to improve our rein back since Vallu's quarters tend to come in, do rein back in shoulder fore. I did do a small squeal of "really!?!?!" when AF said this. It sounds impossible and unhelpful, and it did take us a few attempts to figure it out but it worked so well. The rein backs became a lot straighter, and we got control of both the shoulders and the quarters.
Ride day before lesson, just worked on going forwards
And oh my goodness, that trot afterwards was to die for. Knees up, hind legs under and properly through the back. Felt like we were floating.

And a lot of trot work in shoulder-in, alternating between the wall and the 3/4 line changing the tempo. SO EXCITING and we've never done anything quite as hard as this. Whenever I asked Vallu to come to collected trot, he responded to the lightest half halt and was nearly passaging because he was so through and collected. Starting with doing half of the long side shoulder-in in collected trot and the second half in working trot - had to move forwards from collected to working trot is more difficult for Vallu than collecting from working trot. In the end, AF was very quiet, and asked me to come over for a chat and very quietly went, "I have nothing to add to that, it was very good." YAY ♥︎

To improve canter-trot and trot-walk transitions, try to do the transitions in shoulder-in, horse has to be properly through in the shoulder-in which makes the transition so much better.
We did the same exercise in canter next, and struggled a bit. Really had to make sure that it wasn't pirouette canter in the shoulder-in but collected canter, there is a big difference!!!! Again, the first half of the shoulder-in along the long side of the arena in collected canter and then going forwards to working canter in shoulder-in. Make sure we don't 'get stuck' in pirouette-esque canter, and make sure that it is more 'shoulder fore' than shoulder-in, because this more difficult for the horse.

It was just another fantastic lesson, I really cannot thank AF enough for these lessons. I feel like I have learnt SO much and have so many more tricks in my toolkit. Thanks for all the "lovely image" comments, they make my heart sing as I am so proud of Vallu. It felt like Vallu really enjoyed the lesson as well, our constant patting and "good boy"'s gave Vallu the self-confidence and confirmation that he was doing everything correctly - which he was :)

Our next lesson on Feb 9th, and until then we will be working on getting those knees up, hind legs under and control and strength. I love it when it feels like we 'move up' the difficulty level, and focus on new exercises that we never could have been working on before. It's so exciting :D

And to treat him (more like me) we have a new matchy set coming... #sorrynotsorryatall #realmenwearpink ;)

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