I have to admit, the day kind of got away from me. I’d think about what I might write in the blog and never came up with a topic I liked, so I’m turning to the past. After I stopped riding my horses over fences, I switched to dressage and loved it. I used to smile to myself when acquaintances, generally non-horsey folks, would ask me why I was “still” taking riding lessons when I had horses and knew how to ride. What I love about riding, and dressage in particular, is that you never stop learning.
I had the privilege of watching Michael Barisone give a dressage clinic near my home many years ago and thought you might find my notes interesting, especially those of you who ride dressage.
Michael and Neruda
Chronicle of the Horse
On the Bit . . . Basic Softening
Keep the inside leg on, steady outside rein, sponge the inside rein. If sponging the inside rein is not effective, flex to the inside and give, flex to the inside and give, flex to the inside and give, all the while keeping the inside leg on and a steady outside rein.
If they are leaning 10 pounds in the mouth, you have to use at least 10 pounds of pressure in the leg to get over the resistance in the jaw. If they think you’ll hold them, they’ll lean on you. If they lean, sit, use the inside leg, and vibrate the inside rein. Or sit, use inside leg, flex a little to inside, then give. You can also try moving the bit left, right, left, right, with inside leg on. If they get behind the bit, take the contact the push with leg. When the horse is soft, it is his bit. When the horse leans, say “Hey, it’s my bit.” and get it back with a steady outside rein and a vibrating inside rein, or a left, right, left, right movement of the bit (not the head). The minute they get heavy, use your inside leg and slide the bit, or flex left, then right. The outside rein helps control the shoulder. Keep a straight line from the elbow to the bit. As soon as the head comes up, correct immediately. Don’t be slow to correct. Let your shoulders be soft and keep elbows close to the body.
Do the diagonal. At X, start half pass by aiming at the letter. Aim front of the horse at the letter and push haunches to the outside (like haunches in), always keeping the front of the horse straight.
To be straight in the canter, always ride a slight shoulder fore, then the horse will be straight. Canter depart--count down to the canter, 10, 9, 8, 7, . . . 1, canter, all the while building the trot but keeping on-the-bit frame with the horse soft in his mouth with as much self carriage as possible. At canter depart, put inside leg on at the girth, sponge inside rein, steady outside rein, deep seat, slide outside leg back, squeeze with inner leg at the girth also. If the canter is too fast, hold with both reins, then give, hold with both reins, then give, hold with both reins, then give until you get the pace you want, always keeping the inner leg on. When cantering, don’t let him quit. He must know that he has to canter until you ask him to change gaits. “You should be able to get off and get a cup of coffee and come back, and he will still be cantering.” If he breaks, push him into the canter immediately. Don’t worry about how nice the transition is because you are teaching him not to change gaits unless you ask. In the canter, sit heavier on the outside seat bone. To slow the canter, as you feel your seat drop with each stride, close outside rein.
Always ride deep into the corners. Look ahead, not down. When you take with the reins, always give, even if you don’t get what you want, then repeat. Do not hold the mouth with pressure. They can’t lean if you don’t give them anything to lean against. Always think soft. When riding a circle, corner, or figure, both reins should be slightly to the inside, guiding the horse’s forehand around the circle. The inside leg keeps the horse out on the circle. The inside rein is a slight open rein. Do a little flexion, then give, little, flexion, then give . . . Keep the outer rein against the neck. The inside rein points towards your inside hip. Teach the horse to go from release, not from the push. If you ask him to go forward, and he doesn’t, use the spur. If he still doesn’t go forward, remove leg and boot him with it. Eventually he will respond to the release because he knows what’s coming. Ask nice, if you don’t get a result, ask again. If he still doesn’t go forward, clobber him with the aid--but let him go forward by softening the reins.
Here's a 2008 ride by Michael. The horse is Pasop, and it's his first Grand Prix:
to be continued . . .
Happy riding and reading,