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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Monday, December 1, 2008

Letting Go

Don't let that title scare you! We're not talking like anyone died... we're talking dressage! (Although I think I know some people who equate dressage shows with the same sort of sober boredom that comes with a third-cousin-twice-removed-that-you-never-even-met's funeral...)

Back on Gogo today for the first time in 11 days (her mini-vacation). The indoor arena here is quite lovely for its size (a bit bigger than a standard-size dressage arena... but hey, if you're doing dressage that's all you really need I guess), and it has a nice rubber synthetic mix footing, but I'm not sure what it's mixed with. I'll have to ask. She was really quite good, I was very pleased with the work she gave me. Here's the ongoing lesson I have to remember in my head though, my new mantra: Let go, let go, let go. Dressage is about harmony and balance and the flow of energy, and if I'm blocking her anywhere in my body, I have to let that tension go in myself before it goes in her. Case in point: my hands. I have a hard time with this sometimes, because I have this natural desire to hold onto her face, but the more I do this, the more blocked she gets in her withers (the point where she holds her most tension - she tends to lock the base of her neck which disengages her entire back). So what ALWAYS works? Letting her face go, and encouraging her energy to flow freely over her back. When I let go, she reaches OUT towards my hands instead of my hands bringing her back. It transforms from this feeling of pulling her in to her taking me out.

"If you take a flat piece of wood, close your fingers around it and put it in a running stream of water, you will feel a gentle and steady tug on your hand from the current. That is the feel you should strive to have when you ride: a live but comfortable link with the horse's mouth and the sensation that he wants to take you forward while staying in constant communication."

Colonol Bengt Ljungquist, former coach of the US Dressage Team:

If that doesn't sum up the feeling of correct contact, I don't know what does. But it took awhile to get to that point, and it still does sometimes with Gogo. You can't just hop on her and expect her to be instantly awesome. She still will come above the contact briefly, as I think every horse in the world does, and she still takes awhile to warm up. But she's come leaps and bounds in the past year in terms of warming up, she really really has. Before, you would get on and give her a long-ish rein and she would drag around inverted for awhile before she DECIDED to come on the bit herself, which did work and we always scored well at shows with this method, but it took a good 45 minutes for her to get there. And I just didn't want it to be completely her decision... I want her creative input, but I want it within boundaries, not completely on her own terms! Now, she knows where to go when you first get on and how to stretch out, I think in large part because of the chambon, and it's a world of difference. I'm setting up a new training schedule for this winter tonight, so I'll post that when I figure it out.

It's my new mantra whenever I feel her getting stuck, whenever I feel myself inhibiting her forward motion, whenever I want to hold on to her front end. Let go... and let the energy flow over her topline and back to her mouth. Then, she is a sight to behold.


jacksonsgrrl said...

Do you ride with the chambon, use it while longeing or both? I have used one once as my horse is green and really needs to get his head out of the clouds and build up his neck muscles (he has none!). I want to start using it more but really need to learn more about it as I understand incorrect usage can make them go onto their forehand which is another one of our problems! Mine was given to me by a friend and is about to fall apart. Any recommendations on where to get one reasonably? Thanks!

Andrea said...

No, I don't ride in the chambon. It's a piece of equipment specifically meant for lunging, not for riding. Here's a great website outlining all sort of tack:
Totally read it, it goes over the actions of the chambon (and all the other stuff too). I got mine at Smartpak for under $30; everywhere else is more expensive, I think. And a green horse is going to be on his forehand until he develops some impulsion... so don't fret about that too much :) A chambon can make them go on their forehand in the same way any piece of lunging equipment can make them go on their forehand - if they're not forward enough. That's the one thing to remember with all those lunging piece of equipment... they don't work unless the horse is REALLY going forward! :D Good luck!

jacksonsgrrl said...

Thanks for the advice Andrea!