This past Thursday/Friday, at Pineland Farms’ Equestrian Center, I attended and rode in my first (of hopefully many) EDAP clinic with Lendon Gray. It was a fantastic experience to bring Atara somewhere new and to see how we did with a fresh pair of eyes.
We started out our ride on Thursday a bit earlier than I had planned, which turned out to be perfect. Atara was very insistent on looking at EVERYTHING, every nook and cranny in the arena. Pineland’s indoor also has two great big sliding doors that open to the two barn hallways, which was very interesting. Once she figured out where she was (and did complete background checks on the other two horses in the ring), we could get started on our warm up. We stayed at the walk for a bit, which I like to do at home anyway when the walk is good. We did lots of bending, circles, serpentines, leg yields, half-pass, shoulder-in, halt, rein back (both from a halt and straight from the walk), etc. When we did go to trot, we stayed in the scary side of the ring to get her used to it. We did the same thing in the trot as we did in the walk.
Once Lendon came out and by lesson began, we did a bit more trot work, then asked for a bit of canter. If you have read almost any of my other post, you know how the canter goes. Well, it wasn’t too bad, however, the downward transition and the second canter set was not very good (she ran off). Lendon then had me go to extended walk as she explained what was happening.
“On a hot horse, you need to whisper the canter aid, like this: ‘canter’. Instead, you say ‘CAAAAANTEEEEERRR!!!!!’.”
She explained how I get as tense as Atara gets in the canter, and that my tension causes her tension and vice versa. She also said that I tend to clamp on with my knees and jam my heels down, which is launching me out of the saddle. Atara also tends to run through my half-halts, which also makes her heavy, pulling me out of the saddle. Basically, I needed to calm down and make my seat way deeper. She added that I squeeze my fists, making my lower arm and wrist stiff. A good visual she gave me was to imagine I’m holding baby birds. You don’t want their heads to pop off, but you also don’t want them to squirm out of your hands and fall. This went with an article I have read in Dressage Today, which suggested to maintain a correct arm position, imagine you are taking a toddler along for their first ride in your lap, and that your arms act like a seat belt. Your shoulders stay by your sides, but your lower arms and hands come together at the withers.
Overall, I was very pleased with my ride. Atara was super, we tackled a lot of stuff I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to, and I got some homework to work on.