Yes, an Etch-A-Sketch, well not literally, but “THINK” Etch-A-Sketch.
As you all know, I attended a clinic, sponsored by the Ohio Dressage Society, with Dolly Hannon last month had the opportunity to audit some of the other rides. One ride in particular really spoke to me. The horse was a lovely Thoroughbred who had beautiful gates but wasn’t able to quite show them off as he was just a bit anxious. He was very obedient, but tense being in a new place and having an audience. As we know, tension is not a friend to the dressage rider. It causes tightening of the horses back, lack of thoroughness, lack of bend, etc.
A friend of mine shares her TB jumper with me and he tends to get tense and overly anxious which causes the afore mentioned problems. He just wants to jump, he isn’t much interested in the flat work. But – jumping, put simply is dressage between fences. So when this lovely TB stepped out at the clinic, I was all ears to learn what I could do to ride my borrowed steed better!
As Dolly turned to begin working with the horse and rider – she imparted the following wisdom she had learned long ago. “TURN YOUR ARENA IN TO AN ETCH-A-SKETCH!” She told the rider, “use the whole arena,” don’t stay on a circle too long, utilize the entire space. Don’t just change directions only through the diagonal. Continually check the bend, is it there? Continually challenged the inside hind, is he stepping up and into your outside hand? Forward, forward in front of the leg with a steady quiet hand!
Does it work? Yes. It does. The lovely TB at the clinic began to settle and stretch more in to the bridle. Have I tried it? Yes, I have and have had good results. How long do you do this exercise? For as long as it takes! It may be the only thing you work on that day and that’s okay. Because with out relaxation in the horses body, neck and back we can’t achieve suppleness, thoroughness or correct contact.
SO, next time your horse is experiencing some tension – try this out. Let me know how it goes as I would love to hear your feedback.