Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dressage Lessons with Christine Traurig, or, How 4-H prepared me for the Big Time

Today Lana and I hauled Victor and Majek over to Albert Court for a couple of lessons with Christine Traurig.  Albert Court is an unbelievably gorgeous facility near Rancho Santa Fe, with huge expansive beautifully manicured pastures and polo fields, and a palm tree-lined driveway that reminds me of Palm Drive at Stanford University.  The whole facility looks like Club Med for horses.
The facility, however, is extremely full and therefore no place to put one horse while riding the other.  Neither of my horses are particularly used to the "tack-up out of the trailer" routine, and even less so when one horse has to stand in the trailer while the other gets ridden.  Of course it is not a difficult thing to teach a horse, after all if you can teach a horse to flying changes on command learning to stand by a horse trailer shouldn't be all that hard.  But when you never do it, you shouldn't be surprised if it is difficult!  Luckily Lana was with me, and could take care of the one horse while I rode the other. 
My lessons themselves were both very good.  Christine focused very much on improving the engagement and longitudinal roundness in both horses, particularly with Majek.  She started by improving my basic walk-canter-walk transitions with Majek, by making sure he stayed in front of the leg and rounded into the outside rein all the way through the transitions.  She also noted how his right hind is weaker than the left, and how he tries to unload it in the transitions.  She also wanted me to think about keeping the impulsion in the collection (ie, keep him active and in front of the leg) and the collection in the impulsion (ie, when riding forward keep thinking about keeping him on his hind legs).  Thinking about that, and the roundness, helped to get him more solid in the connection to the bit.  She also wanted more jump in the canter and wanted me to ride the changes with more impulsion and jump.  Also in preparation for the pirouettes I was to keep him more active behind, so he doesn't unload his hind legs.
With Victor we worked on the basic adjustability of the canter.  Victor tends to be a little lazy behind, so she wanted me to ride a lot of tempo changes in the canter to improve the overall collection and jump.  She had me ride a lot of small variations in the canter, forward and back, but really focusing on keeping the impulsion in collection and collection in the impulsion. We also rode some haunches-in and shoulder-in in the canter, to help with the lateral control for the pirouettes.  Also with Victor she was a stickler for the basic transitions, particularly that he kept marching forward and engaged into the walk (he loves to "splat" in the transitions). 
Tomorrow I have another couple of lessons, which will likely build on what we did today.  The boys were pretty tired, partly from the work and partly from the stress of being at (yet another) new place.  They seemed pretty happy to be back in their "hotel rooms" for the night.

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