My dressage trainer makes flatwork… fun. (Please don’t tell anyone I said that). Besides the fact that she’s a fantastic amazing rider herself, she is also a phenomenal coach. One of my favorite things about riding with her is that she has a plethora of exercises to practice on the flat. We’ve found a few key exercises that we use frequently, but every single lesson she throws something new in the mix.
Is Justin getting pissy while doing transitions in shoulder in? Since we’re trying to engage the inside hind, let’s try the same thing except in a leg yield, she suggests. I so appreciate her creative approach to training. This combined with her forgiving yet no nonsense attitude can really bring out the best in me and Justin.
We learned that lateral work is Justin’s friend. Not just his friend really, his best friend. The powder puff pony can start a ride pretty tight, and encouraging fluidity through his body helps unlock all those tight joints especially in his shoulders. A bonus feature I found from this is that when he finally gives in his back (his SI), he gives in the base of his neck! This was a huge breakthrough, so warmup is usually a hodgepodge of moving his body in, out, around, etc.
Another hallmark of our flatwork is a spiral in/out. Seems simple, because it is. Justin doesn’t have the most naturally uphill canter, so she would have us canter a 20 meter circle and then spiral it in, all while keeping my noodle of a pony straight. She would have us come down to about a 7-ish meter circle before we could slowly push it back out. This showed my how amazing Justin’s canter could be – it was a night and day transformation just going through this once. I finally had that feeling of a powerful canter that seems to climb higher with every stride. The bonus is that it also forced me to give with my inside rein!
The list of helpful exercises goes on and on, but I want to know, what’s in your arsenal? What are your go-to movements or techniques? I’m not riding currently, but I need to build up my repertoire so I can be ready to finally be good at dressage (ha!).