(first things first: it is a triumph of will that I even got to this lesson, after my car died 40 miles away and I had it pushed in neutral to the gas station next door and the mechanic called me mid-day and I had a conversation with him that went something like, him: “Did the air conditioning work on this car before?” Me: “It did until it caught fire last summer. I haven’t used it since.” Him: “Wait, what?” All’s well that ends well and I had a working car again by the end of the day. Whew.)
Anyway! Lesson. Good lesson. Ass-kicking lesson for both of us. A solid hour of work, some of it very high-quality, and with stretches that tested both of us equally and separately. I felt some strain in my core & thigh muscles after I got off! Dressage: not for wimps.
The overall theme of the lesson was straightness, and each piece of the lesson addressed a different way in which we were not straight and helped put us straight. First up: leg-yields. Worked on getting the whole body straight: first the neck, then the ribcage, then the hind end. No evasions, just good clean crossover. We also worked hard on getting just the right step: come down the quarter line straight, take one or two good steps, then go straight, then take one or two steps. We moved from quarter-line-to-wall to broken lines, off the wall to the quarter line and back. Walk and trot both.
Then we moved on to transitions: clear, sharp, straight transitions. Here, the challenge was more for me: not to corkscrew my body and drop my inside hand to my thigh. For him, though, less bend, more lift, and more alertness to my aids. We worked on fitting as many good crisp transitions as we could into a twenty meter circle.
Then, changes of direction, on diagonals both short and long. Go deep into the corners, get quality straightness on the short side, go deep into the corner again, and come off the diagonal – off the wall – with shoulders even, reins even, pushing from the hind end. I don’t know that I’ve ever schooled diagonals like that in my life, but it was a hugely useful exercise to have someone really drill me on them rather than just use them as a way to change direction.
Back to the twenty meter circle, and this time, work really really hard on controlling the shoulders around it. We did this by starting with a diamond exercise within the twenty meter circle, as outlined below.