Last weekend I attended a clinic with my coach Danielle Keogh. As well as being an incredible dressage rider and coach, Dani is also an experienced physiotherapist. I believe that her deep understanding of anatomy and biomechanics gives her a unique perspective as a trainer. It’s also probably not particularly surprising that she has a keen eye for rider position. While my position is far from perfect (in reality it is probably at a level which could best be described as adequate), it has improved significantly since I started training with Dani. Lessons with Dani are always hard work, but they are also rewarding. She helps me to unlock Nonie’s best work and continue to build upon it. This weekend we focused improving the quality of Nonie’s canter.
The warm up
We started with some relatively simple exercises. My favourite of which is leg yielding off the outside rein and changing the flexion. Nonie has a tendency to load up her outside shoulder particularly in canter right, so leg yeilding off the outside rein really helps with this. This makes riding lateral work and smaller figures a challenge. The key thing for me to keep in mind during this exercise is to make sure Nonie is responsive in moving off my outside leg. Changing the flexion slightly from the inside to the outside helps to keep supple in the neck and prevent her from bracing against me.
The Canter Pirouette’s
The clinic before last we began work on the canter pirouette’s. In our last lot of lessons we had to take a step back and work on getting Nonie more through and lighter in the front end. This remains a work in progress, but we seem to have made enough progress, that we were able to resume work on the piri’s. One of the main exercises that we are using to help develop her ability to sit and increase her strength, is cantering on a 10m circle and asking for quarters in whilst maintaining the inside bend and flexion. These are by no means an easy movement for Nonie, and we are only in the very early stages but when we get it for a few strides it truly feels amazing.
The Flying Changes
Recently I have felt that Nonie has been anticipating the flying changes. During these lessons Dani emphasised the importance of riding through the lines which I use to set Nonie up for the change. BUT to only ride a change when she stays relaxed through the line. We also worked on a new exercise to help get Nonie ‘hotter’ off my outside leg. The goal of this exercise is to have Nonie really responsive to the aids for the change.
The Short Steps
We began a little work on the short steps. The reason for introducing these was again to help Nonie sit more and increase her strength. I’ve done a little work on these before with a coach helping me from the ground. This time it was all down to me, of course with Dani helping me to find the right feel, when to ask for more compression and when to ride out of it. The few steps that we were able to achieve felt pretty incredible. Now I get to work on these at home too!
The Sunday night after my lessons, in addition to rubbing my sore shoulders and relaxing my abs, I made sure to write down some notes about what we had worked on. This is something that over the years I have found helps me to get the most out of my lessons. My first ride since the lessons was on Monday afternoon, and I felt a little awkward. As the week has gone on we have felt less awkward and I can feel the improvements in our work.