I usually think of the warmup as being a physical warmup for me and for my horse. But this week I took a different view. Yes we are both “warming up” and getting our muscles and joints moving. But this past week I started to use my time in the warm up to ascertain what Biasini is like on the day. Is he willing to go forward easily? Is he light in the contact? How are the transitions? Is he sharp when asked to do an upward transition? How are the downward transitions?
I am sure most riders have always done this and to some extent I have done it too but now I have decided the warmup has real value as time to test where my horse is. I ask myself “what have I got today?”
The first day I did this I found Biasini was a bit lackadaisical. A bit ‘ho hum’ about the upward transitions. So I got after him about that and he responded well right away. Then I started some walk-trot-walk transitions. The upward were very good and he kept his frame well with a light contact. But the downward were not good. He dipped down with his head and neck and pulled.
When my coach came into the arena, to start our lesson, I told her what I felt I had that day. She had some exercises to help. Pick up the trot and then come back to a very small trot. Do not allow him to dive down. Stay in the small trot till he was light and then slowly, gradually move the trot out to a working trot. It is a simple exercise but it worked remarkably well.
We moved on to a collected trot and asking for more suspension. If he dived down or started to get heavy in my hands I went back to the very small trot. No matter what we were doing: shoulder in, travers , half pass, I would bring him back to the small trot if things did not go well.
It was not as easy as it might sound and there was a lot of back and forth but then Biasini began to get the idea and tried his best. I had to be very quick in recognizing when I needed that small trot; just in a blink of an eye. By the end of the lesson Belinda was very happy with our progress. We had a lovely trot. Here is a video of the end of our lesson.
From now on I am going to focus on “what have I got today?” in the warmup. I know that my coach will always have exercises to help me.
by Anne Leueen
Based in Ontario, Canada, Leueen calls herself a "vintage" dressage rider. Initially she rode in the jumper and eventing world, but stopped while at university. She did not ride for thirty years, other than occasional trail riding, when she was living in England and took up dressage at age 50. Anne is coached by Belinda Trussell and her current equine partner is Biasini, a Hanoverian gelding who is a dressage expert and often wonders why Anne doesn’t just let him make all the decisions about what to do and where to go.
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