This article includes a few edits from my teacher. The assignment was an article of any kind on any topic. I received a 95/100 on this project. Special thanks to Leah Tenney for answering my questions, and Lendon Gray for offering this amazing program!
On Day Two of the Emerging Dressage Athlete Program (EDAP) clinic, I was able to find Atara’s “special trot” in our warm-up. The “special trot” is the trot I call that I can easily sit, stop, walk, and canter from, adjust within, and perform any lateral movement. Because I found it so quickly, we were able to work on more stuff in my lesson.
During the warm-up (before my lesson started), I walked her around and let her look at anything she wanted to. My only say was to not run off and to avoid the other horses; the rest was up to her. Once she settled, I took up a contact and asked her to be a little deep, keeping my hands quiet. This helped her pay more attention to my seat, and I made sure I could stop, slow down or speed up from it alone. I also asked her to yield off each of my legs on a medium-sized circle (about 15 meters, maybe a bit smaller). Once she was loose, licking the bit and bending easily off my legs, we went to trot. I looked for the same thing in the trot as I asked for in the walk, with more straight lines. We did lots of bending exercises: leg yield from the track in and to the track, serpentines, and also some halt/rein-back. As Sue Williams once told me in a clinic, I looked for the feeling that the bit was a piece of gum in the horse’s mouth, creating the feeling that she gently chews the bit. I found that this image really helps find a supple connection. Another image I kept in my head was from Tanya, who says to loosen your wrists as if you were ringing a tea bell.
Once Lendon came out, and I had found out special trot, we asked for the canter a couple of times. We were more successful than the first day but decided to leave it at a good place. She said she felt content that I have some new tools to try out, and that practice will mainly help find a good canter. Instead of further pursuing it, we continued various trot lateral work.
We kept Atara’s trot active and attentive while keeping forwardness and control. We did lots of shoulder-in to volte to half-pass, as well as renvers, travers, and transitions within each (while in shoulder-in, trot to walk back to trot). We also performed my first half-pass zig-zag, which went pretty well. Lendon talked about the importance of setting up the changes of bend to the audience. She also explained how a half-pass is simply a diagonal line in travers, or a shoulder-in on a diagonal line (which was funny, because when I first learned how to do a half-pass, Tanya told me to go on a diagonal line, then asked me to do a haunches-in. “Congratulations, you’ve just done your first half-pass,”, she’d said). Lendon also emphasized not to allow the haunches to lead in the half-pass. She said that it was a very sloppy rider mistake, and can easily be avoided.
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.
This has been, hands-down, the most difficult, drawn-out, confusing, and physically-demanding lesson I have had to learn yet in my riding career. Finding my seat. I have been visiting Natural Fitness to help with flexibility, strength, and balance training (and have noticed a big difference!!). I had between 2 and 3 months of lunge lessons on Atara this winter, and I am now starting to get what this “seat finding” means…. Because this is such a complicated thing to understand (for me, at least), I decided it would be much easier for both me and you to read it in other people’s words, so here are some sources that I found particularly helpful….
– Your Riding Success TV (via YouTube)
– Stabilize Your Pelvis (via Dressage Today)