Thursday, June 2, 2011

David O'Connor Clinic-Dressage

Dana and I set off for Holly Hill on Thursday morning. It was a 6 hour drive, but it was uneventful and fun. And we enjoyed telling everyone about the Middle Eastern man we met at the gas station who told his grandfather bred horses and killed anyone who wouldn't give away or sell their horse to him. He was serious. After he said that and walked around to the other side of the trailer, Dana made me leap into the truck so we could drive away real fast. She said we looked like lot lizards (i.e. prostitutes). I was the navigator and got us kind of lost at one point as were trying to find AR-29. Dana just kept driving. I was kind of freaking out, and her words were "We're going south which is the direction we needed to be going. If we hit the ocean, we know we went too far". 

I had a 45 minute semiprivate dressage lesson in the afternoon on Friday. After watching 3-4 groups before me, I definitely noticed some common themes. David wanted to see the ability to transition within the gait, and he especially wanted to see the forward part in the lower level groups. I saw at least 2 other people from my jumping group ride, and they did the same transitions within the gait but also added changes of direction and lateral work at the end. I was very excited to see David using leg yield against the rail as a exercise. I had done it before but recently read an older Jimmy Wofford article where he talked about it, and I schooled it at home during the days leading up the clinic. 

David asked me about my past experience, and I told him about how I had competed a couple of times at Training, and Tiamo went Prelim with Allison. And I also mentioned that we had gone Novice five times because of some setbacks, mainly the EPM. He asked me if he had any vices or problems, and I wasn't very prepared with an answer and couldn't think of much. I'm honestly not sure what my biggest issue is, but I ended up telling him I needed to get Ti more on my aids and in front of my leg so he isn't either being lazy or carting me around.

Tiamo was excellent, and he was super responsive from the beginning. After watching us warm up, David had us do transitions within the trot on a 20m circle. He had set up cones for everyone to go through to really guide us to make perfectly round circles. One of the first things he asked me to do was really put some effort into posting higher and slower when we collected the trot. We then did the same at the canter, and he pointed out that I allowing Ti to fall in on my right leg. He also asked me to put my weight in the outside stirrup, push my inside hip forward, and bring my inside shoulder back. When we moved onto to some lateral work, it became more apparent why he had been asking me do that. 

I have always had problems with my left shoulder wanting me to more forward, and my right shoulder back. It's not that I don't work on it because I think about it every day, but I realized today how awkward it feels to me when my shoulders are truly even and straight.

Anyway, we started doing the leg yield against the rail, and Tiamo and I were doing pretty great to begin with. David stopped me twice, and it got even better after both. First he stopped me to talk to me about moving my hips from side to side. Leg yielding on the rail off my left leg, I would put my weight left to right, left to right on my seat bones. When my weight went into my right seat bone, my left leg naturally pressed against his side. Then I naturally released my leg when I moved my weight back left. It was something I had never heard before, and Ti really started moving off my leg even better afterward! 

He had me halt again after I started leg yielding on the diagonal to talk about my shoulders. He told me it was much easier for me going to the right because my shoulders naturally turn to the right, but when I was going to the left and thinking about bringing my left shoulder back, I was finally just straight! I had to really concentrate on it to make my left shoulder come back. Fixing my shoulders and using the left-right weight shift helped me get Ti really crossing over and moving over off my leg beautifully. I was barely using my reins as an aid at all. He was very light and just going off my seat and legs. 

My homework is to do some thinking about my left shoulder and ride bareback, if possible, to get a better idea of how his back moves underneath. He said it can help a lot with understanding how to use to my seat better as well as my hip placement and weighting.

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