Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Magical Stick.... First level here we come??

So since the Championships I was thinking to myself, would I continue to do some dressage next year? Or was this just a fun thing to do for this year? I really enjoyed the dressage shows, everyone was incredibly friendly and I just had a lot of fun.
The one thing that kept sticking in my mind was that we'd absolutely have to move up a level if we continued next year because... that's how it works. So I began reading through the 1st level tests and realized that the main difference between training and 1st is the addition of lengthened gaits and leg yielding. The lengthening didn't seem to be too much of an issue, we could do that and a leg yield to the right we could do, but what about the leg yield to the left.... Nah we'd never be able to do 1st level. I had tried it a few times with a dressage whip but it just didn't work, it wasn't stiff enough to actually ask her to move over.

There's a schooling show coming up this weekend that was I planning to take some of my lesson kids to and I was mulling over the idea of trying a 1st level test to see if we could somewhat get ourselves through it.

Now I must have the most supportive family when it comes to showing and this whole sidesaddle business because my mom gave me an early Christmas present the other day. She gave me an absolutely gorgeous sidesaddle whip. It's MUCH longer than than the hunt whips I've got and perfect for dressage.
I tried it out last night and I swear, this stick is magical!! I played around at the walk and trot to start with, so I could get used to riding with it and so Brigit could get used to it being there and then we tried a leg yield to the left and I swear, that horse has never leg yielded so well in all the time I've had her!! Down the quarter line we came, opened the left rein a bit and laid the stick against her belly and we had this amazing lateral feeling. Normally her hind end lags a little bit but with this whip in just the right spot you could feel everything engage and almost swing over underneath you. What a neat, lightbulb moment!

Now don't get me wrong, I know I'm in for a lot more work if we want to do 1st level and do it well but this is definitely a promising start!! I think the biggest challenge is going to be getting Brigit to relax when I'm riding with a whip.... she really doesn't like them and is so sensitive that if she even sees it move out of the corner of her eye she thinks it's time to move....Which could make that stretchy trot circle even more tricky to get.. I found the most difficult part was keeping it still at the canter; normally I'd rest it on my leg if I was astride but aside, it's really got nowhere to go. It'll probably just take a bunch of riding to get both of us used to it and desensitized a bit.

Not only is it magical.... but it's awfully pretty too!

One of these days I'll get a video of the infamous leg yielding to share too!

And I guess if I didn't officially have a collection of antique whips before.... I sure do now! I guess if I'm down to *only* 2 sidesaddles then it's ok to collect something else... hehe


  1. Be sure to measure that stick to make sure it falls within the legal length for dressage.

    But congragulations on your light bulb. A couple of things about the left lateral work...make sure she's good and forward when you ask for the leg yield; if she's sticky and you ask her to go sideways she just won't have the energy to make it look effortless. You can also use a slight rein aid, bearing in mind that her hind quarters must not precede her shoulders; because of this you need to be judicious about where you apply your stick. There's absolutely nothing wrong with applying it in front of the girth...when you get to the half pass and pirouettes you'll find you need to occasionally.
    Finally, a good exercise for schooling the leg yield is to ride obliquely down the long side with her head towards the rail. This allows you to condition her to the stick while releasing the hold on the reins so she can focus on stepping underneath herself without restricting her stride. The idea is to ride a few good strides and then straighten her and send her forward in a lengthened energetic trot before repeating it.
    Also keep in mind that once a horse learns lateral work it can make riding that down center line and halt movement rather difficult aside. Owen's usually all over the place when we first try it. You may also find that as you attempt more difficult and challenging moves that teaching them and polishing them astride before attempting them in the sidesaddle is much easier on both of you.

  2. Yup no worries Robin, I already did that. From end to end it measures 39". We're allowed up to 120 cm or 47". Though I can't imagine riding with a 47" whip!!! Kinda mind boggling.

    I think we're a long ways off of half pass & pirouettes but one day I would just love to be able to do that! Thank you for all the great advice though, I will definitely use it! I like the sound of that exercise. And I can definitely see riding a straight line becoming difficult when you're learning lateral stuff.
    I think the biggest thing we're going to need to do right now is just ride with the whip regularly until she gets used to it and isn't quite so sensitive about it. It'll be fun to give a new level a try this weekend.

  3. Ahh - I see you have discovered your "wooden leg" as I call mine. Oliver likes to throw his behind off the rail sometimes and if it were not for my wooden leg, I would not be able to keep him in line!

    I do not know the regulation length for dressage, but mine is just at 3 feet long and does the job quite well. When I started I had to use this to cue the canter lead as well.. now Oliver has figured that one out.

  4. haha I like that Julie! My "Wooden Leg"! LOL

    This one is legal, though it still seems quite long! The maximum legal length allowed is 47", this one is 39".