Dressage Lesson with Phil Parkes: Working on Collection and Transitions

After reviewing my marks and the video of my dressage test at Grandview, Phil felt we had addressed the glaring issues from my first dressage test at Woodwind 3 weeks prior. So, in today’s lesson, we worked on getting us better collection and on downward transitions. Lots of work — and I wasn’t totally getting the downward transitions until at the very end of the lesson, but Gamble and I finally started to get the feel of it.

After a brief warm-up, Phil worked on Gamble for about 15 minutes to get a handle on what Gamble is capable of. See video below:

For collection, my hands have to be prepared for quite a bit of resistance and I need to drive Gamble with my legs into that resistance. He may pop his head into the air, but most of the time now he is figuring it out. We want to harness that energy out of his hind end and get him more powerful with each stride. Not faster — more powerful, which means a bit more hang time with each stride.

I need to work on keeping my hands lower — down at my knees if I have to — and driving with consistent leg (reinforced with a tap of the whip, if necessary) to keep Gamble engaged. For collection, we want to “compress” his stride — but that doesn’t mean slower. Again, the energy needs to be in his legs, and his back needs to support me (i.e. not hollow). His poll, for now, can be lower than we would have in a competition because he won’t have built the muscle, yet, to do full collection.

For downward transitions, we need to keep the hind end engaged throughout _and for several strides after_ the transition. Conceptually, I need to hold constant resistance in my hands, keep driving with my legs, but tell him to go down in transition with my core. BUT, he must work his hind-end into the lower transition and keep engaged and moving forward — even into the halt. For the halt, his front end should stop and the hind end should catch up and be square _after_ the front has stopped. With the downward transition, his head should not rise but should stay in a constant position. See video example of the wrong way and the right way, below.

I should be working on these elements daily. Before jumping or speed work, do some dressage and work on these elements.

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