Dressage Lesson with Phil Parkes

Today, Phil came up to Hearthstone Farm to do a lesson with me. He does an excellent job of explaining things in a way that my non-dressage mind can understand. He reviewed my test — both the marks and the video — and we set to work on getting improvements in the various elements. Here are the main take-aways:

1. Trot down the centre line: Make it very forward. Sit up — tall and proud — in such a way that if Gamble was taken out from under me, I’d still be able to stand up in the position I’m sitting on him. So not leaning forward, not leaning back. (We shortened my stirrups one hole — my feet should not be dangling.)

2. Halt at I: Don’t rush it. Keep leg on into the halt and don’t use reins to stop him – use your seat. You don’t want it too abrupt. Once he stops, take a deep breath. Then salute. Then take another deep breath. Then onto the next movement.

3. Working trot to S: Work on getting him to go from halt to trot smoothly — no walk steps.

4. Change rein from S to F in Medium Trot: Assume it is 100% effort — extended trot.

5. Collected trot: Bring him back and get him balanced for the next movement, the shoulder-in.

6. Shoulder In from K to E: Very little neck bend. Make sure it is 3 tracks, which is a fairly significant angle (15%-ish?). Keep him moving forward. Remember that it is a “shoulder-in” not a “haunches-out”.

7. 10 m. half-circle E to X: Keep it collected. Keep pressure on the outside rein and outside leg to make the turn. Again, very little neck bend.

8. 10 m. half-circle X to B: Now we want a bit of neck bend to get ready for the travers.

9. Travers – B to M: Keep a bit of bend. Keep him moving forward. 3 tracks. For some reason, it doesn’t feel like the angle is as much as the Shoulder-In, but in fact it should be the same.

10. Collected trot M to H: Remember to keep the energy up but his stride more compressed.

11. Shoulder In, 10m half-circle, 10m half-circle, travers: See 6 to 9 above.

12. Halt at A: Again, use your seat to get the halt. Not too abrupt. Stand still for 3 “steamboats”.

13. Backup 4-5 paces: Keep contact on reins, apply leg while leaning forward. We want 4 or 5 _big_ strides back, not little rushed strides.

14. Collected walk: Play with his mouth to keep him listening. Keep the energy up.

15. Extended walk: Lots of forward motion, arms way out in front, playing with his mouth to get him reaching. Maybe let the reins out an inch.

16. Canter from walk: Have him collected first and get him ready.

17. Remember in all canter movements to not have much, if any, bend. Keep him balanced.

18. During lead changes at E, don’t rush it.

19. Medium Canter: Make it very apparent that he is speeding up and slowing down back to the collected canter.

20. 10 m. half circle at F, halt at G: Keep that balance around the curve. No motorcycle-turns. Ease into halt. Remember the deep breaths before and after the salute.

Gotta work on keeping the collection: More energy down below, head a bit higher but, therefore, more bent. Also practice cantering in a “diamond” shape and especially using the _outside_ rein and leg (not the inside) to make the turns at the corners. In fact, move your inside hand forward so you aren’t tempted to steer with the inside rein.

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