Sunday, December 29, 2013

Riding the Square

There's a phrase in dressage and anyone who uses dressage techniques regularly called "riding the square."  It refers to riding a 90-degree turn rather than riding in a circle or oval shape.  I introduced Soon to it today in order to help reinforce some of the turn on the haunch exercises I've been doing with him recently.  Squaring turns helps loosen the horse up, increase control over the horse's shoulders, balances the horse, and in the case of horses that are heavy in the front, can get them to lighten up their front end (that does not describe good old Soonie Boy though).

The idea is that you ride a straight line, then execute a quarter turn on the haunch and complete the 90-degree turn into the next straight line.  I tried this with Soon today because I felt it was a good next step, and felt like my connection with him could have been better last week (wasn't bad, but could be more consistent).  We warmed up slowly with some serpentines, leg yields, and some turns on the haunches all at the walk before I started riding the square at the walk.  He got it just fine, and once I got him moving well up into the bridle at the trot, we executed a few square turns at the trot as well.  This exercise also makes me have a much better connection and feel of the outside rein and leg in order to move his shoulder over, as opposed to too much inside aids and him ending up over bent and drifting through the outside rein.

Let me just say it was very cool to feel him "get it" and have a few steps in both directions where he really lifted up and moved his shoulders over at the trot!  Little moments like that are extremely fun for me.  We also worked on stretchy canter (after once again getting that right lead on the first try, good boy!).  Overall the goal for this ride was not just the trot square, but also how Soon was working up into the bridle.  I focused on keeping my hands up and steady as I think the last couple rides I was slightly busy with them, which is not normal, but also prevents the horse from consistently seeking the contact.  Bubba really felt like he was pushing well off his hind end and working well over his back.  Any outline or softness issues before were gone, as he was a dressage pro today.  Moved well off my leg, was round, and was very soft in my hand.  Proof that 98% of the issues (however large or small) are caused by the rider.

Overall, a really fantastic feeling flat school.  I'm hoping some of the trot square will come in handy tomorrow when we have a jumping lesson.  I believe it will involve short turns off the rail, which requires more control over the horse's shoulders. I guess we'll see!

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