Monday, April 27, 2015

The devil is in the lateral work

Yes, it has been too long since I've done a Scottie update!  It is so much easier just to upload pictures on facebook, but I do want to try and keep this going.

Scottie and I have have continued to take dressage lessons with Sue Bruns.  The biggest challenge for me at this point is lateral work.  I never mastered lateral work, although my trainer in high school (Laura Windmiller, Diamond W Ranch, Dodge, Wisconsin did incorporate a lot of dressage work into hunter-jumper training.  I have been introduced to the concepts, and have a basic understanding of the techniques, but have never had to teach a young horse how to do it.  Previous horses always, at some point or another, had someone else teach them the commands, and then they just kind of figured out what I wanted based on my crappy aids.

With a totally green horse, it is different though, because they tell on you.  If you do not ask correctly, they simply do not do it.  If you ask to aggressively, they overreact.  If you don't ask enough, nothing happens!  

My biggest challenge right now is re-learning how to be soft - the whole concept behind "asking" the horse first, and then getting after them with progressively stronger aids until you get a response.  This has been difficult for me because my first thought is if the horse doesn't move off my leg, I want to give a kick as a "punishment", but with a green horse, they haven't gotten the understanding of an older, more trained horse, so all you are doing by asking "harder" is making the horse more dull to your aids.

Lately, I have been playing a game with myself in my head... how little can I do to get a response out of the horse, especially with transitions and turning.  Turns out, Scottie is actually very, very responsive and reactive...  I just have to give her the time to react to my aid, instead of forcing it on her.

Sue worked with Scottie a bit on the ground, and then I got on.  I now carry a dressage whip ONLY for lateral work, and I can get her to leg yield  both directions by myself.  Lots of work for one simply movement, but it makes for a much softer, responsive horse!

A website that I have found particularly useful is

The language used is similar to the philosophy Sue Bruns has, and it is worded in a way that makes sense to me.  I suggest everyone check it out.  I also ordered the books, which can be found on amazon.  However, several of the articles in the first book are included in the second, so I suggest buying one or the other.

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