Sunday, January 29, 2017

Texted wisdom from Suzanne

Every so often Suzanne drops a dressage theory bomb on me via text. I love it! I love theory and truly believe that there is no "dressage mystique": if you know your theory and apply it correctly, you and your horse will improve.

I wanted to save the last two theory bombs both so I don't lose them and so others can benefit from her wisdom. Here they are:

I am home. Therefore, you may be subjected to random thoughts, such as the following: Due to all my lessons of late on lengthening and extensions, I've been thinking a lot about what is logical to us humans is often the antithesis of what it means to the horses. It is so true! We see it in bending them away (shoulder-in past the "monster") from what scares them rather than facing it. We see it in using legs (driving) into collection and downward transitions rather than pulling. Also, holding into upward transitions AND EXTENSIONS! More leg for less forward (but more activity) and less leg (but more seat) for more forward and extensions. Yes, there are half-halts, and softening has it's place. However, to think about all these things simply as the opposite of what might be expected could be an effective rule of thumb. I didn't connect those things sufficiently in lessons, I don't think.

Suzanne May

I've been thinking about hands a lot. I was pretty easy going about it before, but the more I think about it, the more I'm coming to the conclusion that the hands need to stay close together. Maybe it's because everyone's getting their horses past the "baby stage", or maybe it's because logic dictates it. Also, I have noticed a distinct lack of success with wide - and often low - hands. It really came home to me when someone asked me at a show why she couldn't keep her horse "on the bit". She proceeded to show me how he came down in halt with her hands wide and low. As soon as they moved, he was gone. It was a "trick". He was not accepting her hand. I realized that the horse could "bounce" between the reins. I have also seen a lot of "one-rein arguments", usually (exclusively?) on the stiff rein. What do they accomplish? Not much! It becomes like "resistance training" for both you and the horse! Both get stronger! The neck bends, but the poll never gives, the half-halt goes out the bulging side of the neck, and throughness never improves. It also is usually the result of temper. Instead, if we keep our hands together AND keep contact on both reins AND use them together - either to the right or to the left - the neck stays stabilized between the shoulders. The only place left for the horse to give is in the poll. As I've said before, these rein aids can be strong, but not long. This will help prevent the horse from opening its mouth, too. Goes without saying that the rider must support all rein aids with seat and legs. If the horse gives in the stiff side of the poll, it also has to take a little more contact on the soft side of the poll. Voila! Two birds with one stone!

Suzanne May